Inspired by nature’s resilience

Over a century ago, many of the wetlands on Ontario’s Pelee Island in Lake Erie had been drained. On a property acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), much of the rich soil in these fields had eroded and the lands were now marginal for farming. NCC secured the property to protect remnants of habitat that supported many different endangered species. But what to do with these fields?

The management plan for the property called for something ambitious. Could we bring these wetlands back?

Almost 10 years later, NCC began to transform these marginal lands back into wetlands. By excavating depressions and breaking old drainage tiles we were able to get this land to again hold water. With this water came life. Not only did wetland plants quickly return, but so did migrating shorebirds, turtles and waterfowl. When given a chance, the resilience of nature can be rapid and remarkable.

Restored-Pelee-Island-By-NCC
Restoration on Pelee Island, ON (Photo by NCC)

Nature has much to teach us about resilience, and can inspire us in times of uncertainty and challenge. It’s perhaps no wonder that Canadians found themselves turning to nature during such challenging times.

And it’s no surprise that the last fiscal year posed a number of challenges for most organizations, including the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Among them, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, the increased urgency of the climate and biodiversity crisis and the resulting global economic uncertainty posed perhaps the largest challenges in the organization’s close-to-60-year history.

But NCC’s cautious and creative approach to an unexpected global crisis shows that with prudent planning, NCC can also be resilient and even thrive in times of change.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the fourth quarter of FY 2020-21, NCC proved its ability to pivot quickly. Advances in technology and our new internal communications program meant staff could transition to working remotely while maintaining our focus and productivity, ensuring that donor contributions continued to be put to good use during times of physical distancing. In a proactive move facing a number of uncertainties, the NCC management team developed a plan to ensure NCC’s financial resilience in the next fiscal year.

NCC also faced additional uncertainties with the announcement of the retirement of our president and CEO, John Lounds, who has served the organization for more than 23 years. To plan for a seamless transition, our board of directors put a plan in place to prepare for a transition in leadership to guide NCC in the next decade. And our staff complement is now the among youngest and largest it has been, pushing us to do more, better, to achieve our vision.

NCC remains committed to our mission. And our supporters’ firm belief in our work has made us even more committed to ensuring our organization continues to thrive in the face of unexpected challenges. The successes of the last year have shown what can happen when committed Canadians come together to ensure a natural legacy for the next generations and beyond.

Here’s what we said we would do this year (2019-20):

Leave your landmark

Goal

Rally Canadians to help us reach our $750-million Landmark Campaign goal.

Outcome

Donors from across Canada pledged and contributed more than $132 million this year in support of nature conservation.

Grizzy bear (Photo by Jenel Bode)

Goal

Conserve habitat for Canada's terrestrial and freshwater species at risk.

Outcome

We have directly protected habitat for one-third of Canada’s terrestrial and freshwater wildlife species that are at risk of being lost from our country.

Jumbo Valley, BC (Photo by Pat Morrow)

Goal

Conserve 76 securement projects totalling 12,500 hectares (30,875 acres) through ongoing programs in conservation agreements, fee simple acquisitions and other means.

Outcome

Secured 87 projects totaling 7,086 hectares (17,510 acres).

In addition to this work, NCC paid compensation for the termination of development rights on 6,136 hectares (15,162 acres) in BC’s Jumbo Valley. This will help create an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area in a landscape known as Qat’muk, which includes the Jumbo Valley.

Hiddema Family (Photo by Mike Dembeck)

Goal

Continue growing our supporter base.
(*NCC defines a supporter as anyone who donates, volunteers or otherwise engages with the organization.)

Outcome

Our supporter base grew by 14 per cent (close to 35,000), fueled by new donors delivered through fundraising campaigns and social media engagement programs.

Next Creek, BC (Photo by Steve Ogle)

Goal

Develop a new strategic plan to guide NCC from 2021 and onward.

Outcome

Work on the plan was temporarily interrupted by the pandemic. It will be resumed under the leadership of our incoming CEO.

Shaw Wilderness Park, Halifax, NS (Photo by Adam Cornick Acorn Art and Photography)

Goal

Launch the Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP), our new public-private partnership.

Outcome

In its first year, the NHCP delivered 13,000 hectares (32,124 acres), including habitat for some of Canada's most endangered wildlife.

NCC Staff Conference 2020 (Photo by NCC)

Goal

Host a national conference to advance new approaches to finance conservation.

Outcome

Postponed to spring 2021 due to COVID-19.

Learning the land (Photo by NCC)

Goal

Support and advance Indigenous leadership and advance Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.

Outcome

Celebrated a number of Indigenous-led conservation successes, increased our staff support and began rolling out staff cultural training.

Nature Days (Photo by HSBC Bank Canada)

Goal

Launch an internal communications program.

Outcome

Successfully launched.

Collector tablet (Photo by NCC)

Goal

Invest in new technology to support field staff and enhance donor relations.

Outcome

New Land Information System launched, and two-year digital innovation project is well underway.

Conservation Volunteers event at Chase Woods, BC (Photo by Melissa Renwick)

Goal

Connect more Canadians to nature through programs such as Nature Destinations, Nature Destinations and Conservation Volunteers.

Outcome

We hosted more than 430 regional events from coast to coast in summer/fall 2019, attracting more than 27,400 participants.

(Photo by iStock)

Goal

Inspire more Canadians to consider leaving a gift to NCC in their Will.

Outcome

160 Canadians confirmed legacy gifts in their Will — close to 20 per cent more than last fiscal. And 252 Canadians indicated they were thinking about leaving a gift in their Will to NCC.