May 17, 2021

Liz Wilson: Building a Community of Environmental Stewardship

Liz Wilson: Building a Community of Environmental Stewardship

"We are fighting climate change and building a community of environmental stewardship." That according to Liz Wilson, the President & CEO of Fort Whyte Alive is what drives her and her teams vision when asked about the importance of International Day of BioDiversity on May 22. Liz started out as an entrepreneur who successfully ran a 4th generation family business before moving into the non-profit conservation area for 14 years. Her management experience in both the private and not-for-profit sectors, her leadership roles in programming, fundraising and volunteer support are skills Liz brings to Winnipeg's urban nature oasis. We talk about the importance of education when it comes to climate change and how Fort Whyte Alive has programs to engage ages from 4 to 94 on the importance of looking after our planet. From biodiversity to bees, to beavers to barrels of rain there is a lot to talk about when it comes to environmental stewardship. She demonstrates the ethos of Fort Whyte in her own lifestyle and has been at Fort Whyte since November 2018. Liz holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from Asper School of Business.
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"We are fighting climate change and building a community of environmental stewardship." That according to Liz Wilson, the President & CEO of Fort Whyte Alive is what drives her and her teams vision when asked about the importance of International Day of BioDiversity on May 22. Liz started out as an entrepreneur who successfully ran a 4th generation family business before moving into the non-profit conservation area for 14 years. Her management experience in both the private and not-for-profit sectors, her leadership roles in programming, fundraising and volunteer support are skills Liz brings to Winnipeg's urban nature oasis. We talk about the importance of education when it comes to climate change and how Fort Whyte Alive has programs to engage ages from 4 to 94 on the importance of looking after our planet. From biodiversity to bees, to beavers to barrels of rain there is a lot to talk about when it comes to environmental stewardship. She demonstrates the ethos of Fort Whyte in her own lifestyle and has been at Fort Whyte since November 2018. Liz holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from Asper School of Business. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information. See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Transcript

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights.

Here's your host Stuart Murray.

International Day of Biodiversity is every calendar year May 22nd, if you Google what happens that day?

There is a conversation that starts out that our solutions are in nature.

Well, I started to do my research and I came across this incredible website and on the website, it says, connecting humans with nature.

Well, this is humans on rights and I thought, What a great thing.

And if I read further, it said, through our 660 acre reclaimed urban green space, Fort Whyte alive brings people together to share unforgettable experiences and build sustainable relationships with nature and each other.

So I am delighted today to welcome to humans on rights the president and CEO of Fort Whyte alive Liz Wilson.

Welcome.

Thank you so much, Stuart.

I appreciate it.

I'm glad to be here.

So, Lizz, let's start a little bit with you before we start unpacking all the great stuff at Fort Whyte alive.

How does somebody with I would say a well known background in furniture find themselves being the president CEO of this incredible opportunity that we're going to talk about today called Fort Whyte alive?

Very fortuitous timing, a lot of good luck and some perseverance, but yeah, it's kind of a winding path, I guess that I've started along and ended up here at Fort White now and absolutely blessed and thrilled to be here.

I grew up in a family that has strong roots in Winnipeg, both on my father's side on my mother's side, four or five generations back.

And I grew up in a an environment where being part of a community was absolutely crucial.

And it helped, I think, identify who I was growing up being part of a the Wilson family, and we had was fourth generation to come into our family business that my great grandfather started in the 18 eighties, called Wilson Furniture, obviously very close to my heart that history, and not just the business but being part of Winnipeg being part of seeing the city change and grow through the times for better, for worse.

And that really, that really helped, I think shaped who I was to feel really grounded in this community and a sense of responsibility, really, to give back to what I grew up in a very privileged life.

I first to admit that, and I don't take that for granted.

So how do I, as an individual who grew up here with strong family roots, how how can I give back to the city that's been so good to my family over the generations?

So you obviously have.

You're an entrepreneur, you have a business background and you find yourself moving from literally downtown Winnipeg to the extremes.

And I don't mean that in a bad way.

I'm just saying, when you look at, you know, when I when you walk me around of some of the area of Fort Whyte alive and reminded me 660 acres and you and I both shared the fact that we're both kind of rural folks, that we understand that that's a section of land which is, uh, in in our acknowledgement as a square mile.

That's a lot of space How did you find the transition from the skill set of being a business entrepreneur to looking at this incredible opportunity that we have in the city of Winnipeg called Fort Whyte alive?

And while it was an interesting path, as you say, the business I didn't start off in our family business.

I went through, uh, commerce at the U of M here and wanted to sort of do my own thing first.

I think that's a thing that's probably prevalent in a lot of family businesses.

Is that you feel like you want to prove yourself to yourself and to your family, Probably that it's that you've earned the spot to come into a family business.

So I worked for mental lotteries right out of university for a few years marketing and really enjoyed that experience, then went into the family business for a number of years and made the decision to close the business for a number of different reasons and then really said, Okay, now what do you want to do when I grow up and hope?

I never actually really grew up, but I decided I wanted to go into the non profit and the things, and I think that's again just the way I was brought up in terms of giving back and wanting to to contribute to communities.

So I ended up working for ducks, unlimited out at a comic marsh for over 13 years, an incredible experience.

But that was my first foray into non profit.

So it's, you know, people always talk about being a business, and is it really for profit or not?

Depends on the year.

But it was an interesting change for me and just a really different way of thinking, a new mindset and what's important.

And I stepped back and said, Family and time and the outdoors and nature, wildlife Those are all things that are are really key to who I am and what I enjoy and what actually, um, sort of sustains me and boosts me.

So my husband's partner night.

He's from Stonewall area.

So I moved out there just for closer proximity to his business, worked at Oak Hammock Marsh.

So I started to get a real feel for the rural lifestyle.

I think I always should have been maybe a farm kid at heart, but that's sort of my life now.

is living rural.

And when I came to the opportunity with Fort White, it was something that just really, really struck, struck home with me right to the core.

It's just such an incredible place, as you say, like just a gem for the city.

So I did have a bit of a foray into rural Manitoba from downtown, So I had a bit of that bridge, I guess.

And, you know, you asked earlier.

So how did I How did I end up here?

And I said it was fortuitous timing are past President CEO Bill Elliott, an incredible visionary.

And you want to talk about someone that that has a view of sustainability and climate change and and wanting to teach our next generation all about these important things.

Bill was the impetus for everything that you see it for white right now.

And we weren't 660 acres years ago.

You know, we're on a reclaimed cement factory site.

So this is industrial land that has been changed back to this incredible green space with, you know, prairie grassland and aspen Parkland and and we've got lakes here.

Yes, but they're not natural lakes.

They were clay pits.

So it's it's really an unbelievable ecosystem that's been developed here and brought back to what you see now.

So it's because of that timing, with Bill Elliott deciding that he was going to retire after 35 years here and building Fort Wayne into what it is today.

It was just an incredible opportunity that it's a right timing and, you know, if Bill hadn't decided that he was at the retirement stage or made that decision in his life, you know who knows what would have happened.

But I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to be in this position here and be steward of the land that we've got here.

And I know you mentioned the land acknowledgment earlier, but we are so proud and recognise that we are in Treaty one territory here, and that's a responsibility we take seriously well.

And I want to just to come back to explore something because again, for anybody lives that has had the opportunity to visit Fort White.

I think there's a little bit of a moment where you realise that you just said that it is reclaimed clay mine and a cement factory.

It never used to be the way you look at it.

So you talk about the opportunity of how you can change the landscape in favour of supporting our climate and our environment.

That is a story that I'm sure is lost on a lot of people when they arrived.

They probably think that, well, this is just a natural part of Winnipeg, and so you just sort of taken it upon yourself to sort of Stewart it from where it was not from what it used to be.

Absolutely.

It's one of my colleagues here, you know, he often likes to say that you can find a little piece of nature anywhere.

You can see a dandelion growing through the cracks in the sidewalk, but that's that's really what we were here.

And, you know, you talk about Bill's vision that he had to turn this into something amazing.

And between he and two of our founding fathers, Alan Scarfe and Sam Fabbro, they were talking climate change decades ago when it wasn't cool to talk about or it wasn't a crisis that we needed to address.

So luckily, they had the ability to have the vision and see further than what was clay pits?

So Canada Cement and Lafarge.

I mean, they donated some of the land for use to, you know, what was going to be a recreation and wildlife club, and that has turned into what has become for White.

So it's possible if we if we see some potential and the right people have the right resources, it's possible to turn, you know something into something that's maybe not as beautiful or a scar on the landscape.

You know what was into something incredible, and that's that's what we've got here and every tree that's here.

Bill Elliott and our site manager, Ken Cudmore, who's been here over 35 years.

They planted most of these trees.

History that's here.

Is this phenomenal?

Yeah, yeah, no.

And I think you know the notion that we have this incredible jam and and it's local, it's ours.

I love the fact that you brought forward the issue about visionaries.

You know, the fact that we have these visionaries who at the time probably people didn't spend much or pay much attention to.

Now they look at it and I mean, there's a little bit like Duff problem, you know, having this vision about, you know, what do we need to do?

And of course, they call it does Duff's ditch.

But what a change of need, but at the time, not an easy decision.

So you know, when you look at the fact that you have now taken on the helm of of Fort White, when you are driving through the gates and you get a sense of what this incredible landscape is in front of you that's unfolding, give us a sense of how you looked at that from day one.

And how are you looking at it today?

Because, you know, you get a sense once you get a little bit more comfortable and maybe share some of the things that you are building on the legacy of what Bill and others have left to sort of advance this relationship with humans and with nature.

Sure, well, I think anyone who's responsible for either building or people or or land you look at things differently.

So the first time I was driving and I was stunned by everything that we offer here, Fort Whyte Farms and our forest school and the kids camps and the recreation programmes from paddling to birding, just amazing variety.

And we are actually incredibly lucky for that because we are so diverse and the different things that we offer to the different demographic groups that we've through covid.

We've actually been able to adapt and keep our head above the water because we have diverse funding sources.

We have so many different partners and groups of the community that support for White for their own specific reason.

That's really helped us through the last year and a half, especially.

But you see, it's funny because you ask what you see when you drive through.

It's like, Well, I notice the roads dusty or there's potholes or there's, you know, so you have to you have to step back a little bit because you see things like, Oh, there's trash and the dead So there's things that you need to fix, and I think that's just the critical eye, and the because you want to look at it is how is a visitor gonna gonna look at Fort White when they first drive in.

So it's funny you ask that because I thought it might drive in this morning and I was like Oh, the roads really dusty.

We're going to have to do something about that, right?

So it's interesting to say What do you see when you drive in?

But you step back and you think about the number of people that come here on an annual basis, the Children that come here, the marginalised youth that we welcome here through some of our social enterprise programmes and the volunteers that help us deliver all of our programmes.

We have hundreds to over 300 active volunteers that give of their time to help us do what we do and deliver programmes, and we're a nonprofit.

We couldn't do that on our budget and with our staff complement our staff are amazing.

We have an incredible, dedicated, passionate group of people that we are so fortunate to have because I think most people know that in a nonprofit you don't do it for the salaries and the titles, and you do it because you care.

And that's what I feel when I drive in is that the people that are here are here for a reason, whether it be people that are paid to be here, people that volunteer here or visitors and members that just come and want to be here and experience everything we have to offer.

So I I know that's a long winded answer to what do you see when you drive in?

But it's a whole bunch of different levels, but overall, it's We're so lucky that we've had so much community support and people enjoy coming here and they get so much benefit out of being here.

Yeah, and you know, Liz, the fact of life is that was your view today.

When you drive in tomorrow, it'll be something different again, I'm sure, but that's that's fantastic.

And thank you for sharing.

I just want to pick up on a couple of things that you said, because when you talk about programming, I mean there is programming for all ages for various levels.

You talk about the Forest School as an example and, you know, you sort of think about a forest school in Winnipeg.

What happens at a forest school tell us a little bit about who's that for?

What's the object and what's the sort of the opportunity?

I guess from a teaching moment before school is absolutely incredible.

It's one of my favourite.

They have lots of favourite things here, but for school is an outdoor preschool basically for kids, sort of age three and four, roughly so.

It's preschool age.

It's all outdoors.

So we have families that sign up to enrol their child in for school and all year round all through the winter.

You want to talk about nature and resilience, and you see these kids that are dropped off at nine o'clock in the morning.

They're here for half a day, and they are with two of our incredible for school instructors, Kim in Victoria, who lead these kids through their half day here with us again.

It's like a preschool, but it's outside.

So it's self directed play, and kids learn to adapt to what is right in front of them.

They explore, they learn, they problem, solve with each other, and they just have fun outside and they learn about nature.

They learn about wildlife, and what we very strongly believe is that when you are brought up to understand nature and appreciate it, you then want to protect it and look after when you're older and that's that's what we're trying to do here these are These are going to be the stewards of our planet for the next, however many years, and we'll obviously, hopefully forever.

But these next generations of youth are who we need to rely on to help fix some of the problems we've created.

Yeah, And I think that, you know, when you and I had a chance to chat, and again thank you for spending some time with me at your home away from home for quite, um, Liz, we talked a lot about education and human rights and the environment and the importance of introducing that into all ages.

I mean, you just mentioned one being the forest school.

What other elements do you have that you're working on or you're introducing to ensure that that are this generation next generation and the generation after that, etcetera has a real sense of understanding how we are responsible, as you say, stewards of the land of which we live.

I mean, you and I shared some stories about some powerful indigenous language, some powerful indigenous elders who are very much on that path, maybe share some of the stories or some of the programming that is happening at Fort White alive that deals with sort of that education element.

Sure, we are considered a destination for environmental education and recreation, and we are absolutely, deeply committed to protecting the environment.

So we have a variety of unique programmes and events that are trying to foster sustainability in the community.

So our environmental education programmes focused on connecting Manitoba students to understanding how essential the environment is and my comment about once you've you understand when you're younger and you grew up with it, you want to you learn to love it and then you want to protect it.

So both we want to teach them the benefits that it provides and in our responsibility to protect it.

So our education programmes will reach over 35,000 students in a normal typical year.

And we're really teaching this next generation topics like biodiversity, freshwater ecology, climate change.

We've got some great hands on science programmes that our staff and volunteers run with all school level ages up to high school.

We do some work with educational institutions, universities and colleges to bring experts in to help us deliver some of those programmes.

Basically, we're letting students observe nature take inspiration from it and how nature will continually adopt to changing circumstances and how they can then apply that to their own life in terms of resilience and adapting to change.

So there's a lot of different things that we're doing.

But I think the foundational outdoor experiences, whether it be a school field trip or a family visit here to Fort White, is trying.

We're trying to build a life long relationship with nature, really.

I mean, it's a huge mandate when you think about it, but yet it's extremely important.

And when you look at the level, I mean the fact that, as you said, a forest school that starts for kids at that very young age, there's nothing better than having the ability to be outside.

And we talked a little bit about Covid because we're dealing with this global pandemic, and one of the elements I think it's tried intrude is the the impact that the outdoors has on mental wellness.

Share your thoughts about how you see Fort White playing a role in that area, and what opportunities does that provide to the citizens?

Are the people that that visit for Dwight?

Absolutely.

We have seen that so much this year.

Stewart.

It's just even hearing some anecdotal stories from my colleagues that are at the front desk right when you first come into Fort White.

We have obviously a lot of covid protocols we've had to put in place with extra staff.

We've had to add.

We have a new a new role called Covid Rover, which doesnt obviously sound very exciting but is one of the most integral roles we have here right now, which is to try to keep visitors here safe.

Obviously, my first priority was our staff are community are found for white families or staff and volunteers to make them feel safe being here on site.

And then how do we then make everyone who comes here as a visitor feel safe in the environment that they're in?

So we are open and welcome to all as a safe space, and that's very important to us as well.

But in terms of what we've done here to try to let people know about the mental health benefits of the outdoors, we almost don't have to tell them you see it on people's faces.

You see it in their body language from when they arrive to when they leave.

And one of the stories I really taken to heart is one of our front desk ambassadors Had a customer, a visitor come in one day and couldn't find their membership card and was really, they could tell was just not a great frame of mind getting very frustrated.

And our staff person had the wherewithal to say, You know, why don't you go for your walk?

Just get outside.

Enjoy.

Enjoy the trails.

Why don't when you come back, why don't you come back and talk to me and and we'll figure this out because the person was getting quite agitated and person.

Yeah.

Okay, fine.

You know, a little short tempered right walked out and about half an hour later came back in, and my colleague said that the body language on this individual was 100% reverse of what it was.

When they first arrived, shoulders had relaxed the tension in the neck and just the way they were holding themselves was gone.

And the person came up to our front desk and said, I just want to apologise to you.

I had a bad day You know, I've been dealing with a few things.

I'm a little stressed, and when I came in, I just couldn't handle dealing with my membership card.

And you, thankfully, just let me go because that's exactly what I needed.

And I feel so much better.

And I just want to thank you for having the patience.

And so it's just It's one of those situations where we see it every single day.

And the number of parents with strollers that come that we would see throughout the winter, you know, a couple of times a week, the same people that would show up and just go for a walk.

And this was a safe place.

They could come and they just needed to de stress and not have noise around them.

And I don't mean just traffic noise or people talking just quiet and stillness, and that that time to just step back and breathe fresh air and take a breath, sit on one of our benches that are bird feeding stations and just just be and just calm the body feel grounded and smell.

You know, the if it's, you know, in the spring you're smelling trees.

You're smelling the earth, coming back to life in the spring, right, and that's that's hope.

And we see that in people, on their faces and in their body language every day.

And we have people tell us that as well that this is this was their haven, that this was their salvation, even during the winter and during covid.

So it just it's the mental health benefits of being outside.

I can't even begin to to detail, but it's just being able to take that time for yourself just a few minutes to get outside and breathe and just let yourself be gentle on yourself.

I guess during these times, yeah, and you know that you have in your staff and your team have created that environment, obviously a very safe place in a safe space.

The one question that popped into my mind and I remember when you showed me a map of, you know, the whole sort of Fort White area and and there was one.

I think it was often the Gilvary.

It looked like there is an entrance way, but it's really for hiking if I've got that right.

One of the questions I was going to ask you, Liz, is when you close up at the end of day.

Whenever that may be, do you ever wonder if somebody still might be out Just kind of lost in nature in their own way?

I don't mean that in a bad way.

I mean, that just so engaged where they were.

And they're still up in in in Fort White.

Yes.

And we do.

We do come across people on the trails and part of our rover role.

We call it, sweep the trails.

So before we close, you know, an hour and a half an hour before we close, we go up and down the trails because we do.

We are private property.

And we do have to, unfortunately, lock our property gates at night for a number of different reasons.

But it's hard to do because you don't want to ask people to leave.

But you know, our staff Do you want to get home to their own families as well?

But we do have people that get locked in sometimes and forget the time.

I mean, you get lost, right?

And did you say you're enjoying it?

You lose track of time.

I'm I'm famous for it.

But, you know, I I end up being here later, past closing.

And I would say at least once a week, I run into somebody on the property that has come against up to a locked gate or has has found their way in other ways.

But you know what?

We're here for people to enjoy it.

And my only hope is that they respect it as we do and look after the property.

That's that's, you know, obviously our biggest hope.

But, yeah, it happens.

It happens Quite fit.

I mean, I just have this this image which I know will never happen, Liz.

And I'm happy that this will never happen.

But this notion of you know, somebody on the microphone saying for why you just closing in 30 minutes?

You know?

I mean, you know, that's one of those one of those?

Yeah.

Exactly.

Yeah, for sure.

So there is one of the things that I when I drove in, I noticed a big section of solar panels.

Is there something that is changing or something?

When you talk about sustainability and how you use power and energy, etcetera, is there something some things there that you're doing that you're looking at experimenting with or just share a little bit about how you use some of those elements on a sustainable basis.

Sure.

Well, I guess the things we always want to be we don't want to just talk the talk.

We want to walk the walk.

And the nice thing is that because we do have so many visitors on an annual basis, we have an excellent opportunity to educate our visitors.

So the solar installation that you see was done a number of years ago, and that actually helps power Fort Whyte Farms.

So we have a pollinator garden that's planted around the solar panels as well, because, you know, we talk about biodiversity in the different parts of our property that are different elements or different experiences.

But the solar panels there are definitely something that we felt strongly about to try to look at.

Sustainable power sources and less reliance on fossil fuels is something that we absolutely are continually looking at.

And part of our sustainability plan that we have as an organisation is to look for those solutions and other ways of doing things.

So another some things that we're working on here are projects, So when you drive in past Fort Whyte Farms, you'll see there's a building that's being built.

The Ben Rose pushed Jack Woodworking Studio is going to be the newest addition to our social enterprise programme, and that building is being built with very high green building or sustainable building options.

And the thing that we want to educate people on is that, yes, it sometimes does cost more to build in a specific, sustainable way.

But the benefits to that building long term will outweigh some of those initial upfront costs.

And that's what we're trying to show people that it's possible to do things better, and that's what is really a challenge for all of us.

The woodworking studio is going to be an incredibly efficient building, so it cuts down on your operating costs over time.

Even though it's a percentage or a few percentage more than a traditional build, there are things we can be doing that will have benefits to our environment.

Another building we're working on in the future is going to be actually at that my gilvary entrance that you spoke about a brand new building called Buffalo Crossing, that our goal for that building is to be the very first commercial, passive house constructed building in Manitoba, and passive house is a building method that is incredibly sustainable and energy efficient.

So there's things like that that we are trying to do to show that it's possible and that there are other options that we can do.

And if we are doing things with the future in mind that it can only benefit everyone.

That's amazing.

So let me just come back to that passive house for a second.

Liz, what is when I think a passive being?

That's something that's, you know, fairly kind of laid back, if you will.

When what is it that is that makes it a passive house?

What are the key elements that would go into a passive house?

It's basically the building envelope, so how that building is constructed and sealed to be for airflow through it is incredibly important.

So the walls are kind of almost double thickness to a traditional wall.

The insulation factor, the number of air changes through the building, all these technical things that I'm not an expert on by any means but the building envelope is the key.

And then it's basically to build a climate resilient building that doesn't need active heating and cooling.

So technically passive house construction building our house would not need much for heating and cooling.

So in our climate here in Wednesday, that's why there's not a lot of passive hosts.

There's a couple of residences here in Manitoba, but not a commercial building yet because people think it's impossible to do in our climate because we have such a cold winters and such warm summer.

So we have such a variation in temperature and climate throughout the year that it's pretty hard for a building to adapt to those highs and lows.

So passive house construction basically mitigates the some of the temperature changes and tries to keep that building at an even comfortable climate basically inside.

That shouldn't need much for heating and cooling.

So we are going to have to have a bit of a heat source and we are going to have a bit of a cooling source, but nothing near what a traditional commercial building would have to have in terms of mechanical.

Well, that I mean, that's game changing right, as you sort of go into those things which I think is something that that Fort White has I think fashion themselves on.

I mean, as you say when you start from the very premise of how it started, you know, being a clay mine and a cement factory and what you've got today.

So, yeah, that's super exciting.

If somebody were to ask you in today's environment, Liz, where people talk about sort of sustainability and a green culture, how would you describe to somebody sort of the green culture?

Maybe, as you see it today are evolving or the future.

What are some of the elements that people listening to this podcast should be thinking about when you talk about a green culture?

Yeah, I think a green culture is really just having the mindset to think about things before you do them.

And is there another alternative that might be better for the environment?

So we talk about heating, cooling and power sources, less reliance on fossil fuels.

We talk about regenerative agriculture.

We talk about living with less waste, composting, recycling.

Those are things that we try to instil in our ourselves here and then teach through our education programmes and even just by having composting and recycling on site here and just you can make changes in your life that will have a positive effect on the environment.

So we're just trying to show that even using our electric vehicle that we have here that, you know, that's an option.

We have electric vehicle charging stations to try to encourage people to think about about that as transportation alternative, active transportation.

We're on a big green corridor here were part of the great trail and proud of that.

And to have that active transportation access for people to walk in, bike in to think about your emissions in your transportation choices.

So all of those things are things that we try to say walk the walk here, but also to try to educate people of options that they might have.

They may not think about right.

And when you sort of look at what is, you know, on the grounds today out at Fort White, you've got you know, I think for the longest time people looked at the you know in the in the fall of the migration, people coming out to watch you know, the birds come in and land and how incredible that was.

And I mean still is.

I mean, it still is, but But what sorts of other parts of nature And what sort of other animals are you looking out, or have you introduced or thinking of introducing into Fort White?

Well, we, of course, have our urban bison herd, which is really exciting, because again, we're trying to show what was here before we were.

So we have a herd here that's been here for a number of years with our babies we've had so far this year.

I think we're up to eight so far this year in a few more expected for bison calves.

We usually get rid of our yearlings every year, so we're up to over 40 right now, and that'll that'll go back down to probably about 30 is what we try to maintain in terms of what we can support on the land that we have for them.

Here, we've got four weight farms that has livestock on the farm again, part of our social enterprise programme in terms of wildlife.

Obviously, waterfowl and birding are huge here, but we've got a really good deer population that is here all the time.

We've got some woodchucks that often you say, What do you see when you drive in in the morning while I see the woodchucks that are burrowing under the entrances and the stairs in the corners of the buildings.

But there they are.

They're here to their home also.

Yeah.

One of the things also lives on your website, which is a fabulous website, by the way, Very informative.

I really enjoyed sort of cruising through it.

And one of the things I thought about or I saw there was you're dealing with some bees.

And so, you know, that's become one of those, Maybe not so much now.

But I know a couple of years ago people were worried about bees are becoming extinct and the importance that they have.

And so tell us a little bit about your programme around.

Call it being bees.

We have hives here at Fort White, which obviously helped with pollination for the different variety of plant species we have here.

We harvest the honey every year, and as I say, bottle it.

Which are it?

And we haven't harmony.

Anne is for sale here at Fort White in our in our shop.

But it's also again part of our social enterprise.

We have youth that are involved at Fort Whyte Farms that learn about a little bit about beekeeping.

We do have someone that looks after the hives for us.

That's a specialist.

We've planted pollinator gardens.

We have a lot of gardening volunteers here at Fort Way that are incredible looking after different types of gardens that we have.

So we talk about biodiversity, and we've got pollinator gardens for those bees.

We've got a biodiversity garden.

We've got ponds.

So we've got a real variety of different attractions, I guess, for the for the bees.

And we do have in our interpretive centre, which has just gone under a energy retrofit renovation still closed to the public right now.

But we do have a live bee hive display that we normally have inside the building, and it's got a pipe that goes outside so that these can come and go.

We're going to be building a bit of a pollinator garden under that that pipe access for them to try to, to encourage them to thrive.

So it's it's just again creating awareness of what people can do in their own backyards.

They can plant in certain plants to help these thrive and other pollinators.

You only talk about the moderate butterfly, and there's lots of things that people can do in their own homes that in their own yards that all make a difference.

It all adds up.

Yeah, I'm not such a great takeaway when you look at it, because I think it is really the education of these issues, the understanding of it and the introduction of it, and allowing people to sort of take it away and not say that it's only at Fort White.

It's You can bring it to you as you say to your own backyard and you can You can make it happen there.

So I think that's that's fantastic, Liz, is there any I mean, you're involved in an organisation that's trying to teach people about the importance of our climate and climate change and and kind of all of the elements that are involved in Fort Whyte alive.

Are there elements that concern you about things that you can't control that may have an impact on what you're doing?

there at Fort White, and I'll just give an example if we had way too much snow.

We had a massive snowfall, and it was more snow than we've ever had before.

Are there elements that could that concern you about some things that might happen there?

Too much water?

We've just It's rained and rained and rained and rained, and I mean, we've just never seen this kind of rain before.

Are those elements there that have any impact on what happens out of Fort?

Wait.

Oh, sure, yeah, there's.

I mean, there's not a lot we can control, right?

And that's the beauty and also the challenge with nature.

But I think what it teaches us is resilience.

We see what wildlife does here to adapt to no snowfall.

You see the rabbits and hares and when they are brown and when they change white.

But there's no snow for predators.

And so there's so many things we can pick up from nature and how they learn to adapt.

But absolutely there's there's things we do with on an ongoing basis here.

Right now, it's we really need rain and, you know, our bison pasture is pretty dry and the dugouts that they use to cool themselves off and wallow in in the summer are pretty low.

So absolutely, you know, water water is is obviously crucial to life and to everything that we do here.

Our lakes are not natural lakes, as I mentioned earlier.

And that is a challenge because we have no natural inflows of water were not part of a watershed, only just what we have here on site.

So in drought years, we see our levels in our lakes decline.

And in flood years or in high water level years, those levels again go up.

Now we're pretty high and dry with our buildings.

Thankfully.

But you know when when those levels go down, there's not a lot we could do and we are at the mercy.

So it does change the way you plan for the future.

It changes some of the programming you might be able to offer, and our recreation programmes we have here like paddling, you know, obviously are affected by what our lake levels are at and the health of our lakes there.

Are you trophic.

We have issues, you know, with the water quality in those lakes.

And then, of course, all the species that rely on the water in those lakes and the health of it.

So absolutely it's there's a lot going on, you know?

And I guess you know, that's the thing that's so impressive.

You know, when I sit and I have a chance to chat with you and watch how you take your your I'll just say you're entrepreneur business.

Customer driven focus.

I watched how you dealt with some people when we were out walking through Fort White.

Obviously your staff, how they treat people.

I mean that that's leadership.

Liz, tell me, you know, is there a typical day?

And this is a tough question with Covid.

But is there a typical day for Liz Wilson, the president CEO of Fort Whyte?

Alive?

No, there's not.

And I think that's what I do love about It, too, is the variety.

You know, some days are really funny because her to work, which end up doing at the end of the day.

But, you know, I might be of course, not with so much with covid.

But, you know, I was more dressed up for, say, a business meeting, but ended up hopping in the car.

Botha with Ken to go check out what's going on with the bison.

So it's really interesting because it's a lot of it is funny and it's entertaining.

But no, there's not really a typical day other than I'm involved right now in a lot of meetings, and I think everyone can relate sympathise with that.

We're on our screens and at desks a lot.

That's been typical lately, I guess just because we've got a lot of projects going on, we're constantly having to adapt here daily, especially with changing public health regulations which are there for a reason.

And we are upholding every regulation as best we can here to keep everyone safe.

And we we appreciate the guidance we've been getting because it's pretty tough.

We we fall into a number of different categories, right, we've we've got the Buffalo Stone Cafe here, so we've got a restaurant, we've got retail, we've got school programmes, we've got a preschool.

We've got public programmes where you know people come in and sign up for things together.

We can't have groups, so there's so many different things that we are reacting to on a daily basis right now.

But it's we are at the whim of nature, as you say, and if something happens, we have to react to it.

So it's not very typical, but it's always challenging.

It's always fun.

This is, say, we've got an incredible group here of my colleagues and our volunteers that that make it fun even in challenging times.

Well, And, you know, I saw that firsthand when I was out there, Liz and and I look at the fact that what I'm trying to do with this podcast is look at international days, the International Day of Biodiversity.

As I said May 22nd, but really looking at what's happening locally and what locally is happening that is taking care or talking about those sorts of issues around how we can take care of our planet as we sort of get the clothes of this conversation.

Liz, tell me what excites you the most about the future for Fort Whyte alive.

What excites me the most?

I think it's It's the opportunity to educate and, you know, science.

We haven't been relying enough on science, and that's what we're also trying to share.

Is that with climate change.

It's real and we need to change our ways and react to make our community and our planet better for our future.

So I think that's the exciting part is that we have so much to share here, and sometimes I feel like we're a little bit of a hidden gem.

If you're not around the south end of the city, it's a challenge to get here.

We're not on a bus route yet, right, so it's hard to bring people here to experience it.

And once they're here, if they fall in love with it, and I think that's that's the exciting thing to me is the experiences that people have when they come here are so varied, and it means for me means so many different things to so many different people.

The stories I hear from visitors and from our volunteers and even staff, you know, staff that have been here for years and they first came to a summer camp as a kid, you know, in that type of of effect on them, that staff and visitors that changed the schooling that they wanted to take or change the career path that they wanted to take because they had an experience here that impacted them.

And that's what we can do.

That's our ability here is to give people these experiences that can be life changing.

And that's I think the most exciting thing for me is to be able to see that and have an impact on that.

You know the one element for me, Liz, that I admire your passion for what you're doing.

And it's evident in this conversation it was evident when I first met you and you can see it.

So I want to just thank you for taking some time to talk to me today, uh, to share your who you are your passion, your vision for something that I think anybody that is familiar with Fort White is a massive, massive ambassador and those that haven't had a chance to get there yet when they do will become that.

And a lot of that is, is through leadership of you and, of course, Bill and your team and everybody that's been involved.

But I just want to say thank you for what you do.

Thank you for spending some time with me today on humans own rights and I look forward to many opportunities to come out and watch the wonderful success that is Fort Whyte alive.

Thank you so very much.

I really appreciate the opportunity and being here with you today.

We take care and we'll talk to you soon.

Thanks to word humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray.

Social Media Marketing by the Creative Team at Full Current and Winnipeg Thanks also to Trick Seem a Bit You in Music by Doug Edmund.

For more go to human rights hub dot c, a production of the Sound Off Media Company.

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