Those of us living in southwestern British Columbia are blessed with incredible natural surroundings. For hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, the Coast Mountains are a wonderland of glaciers, lakes, meadows, and waterfalls.
Many of these places wouldn’t be the same without the conservation efforts of dedicated environmentalists. And not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to hit the trails and enjoy the alpine vistas.
Rather than buying yet another piece of gear, how about donating to a nonprofit doing good work in the great outdoors? Here’s eight B.C.-based organizations (listed in alphabetical order) worth supporting this holiday season and beyond.
1. Evans Lake Forest Education Society
Did you ever go to camp when you were a kid? The Evans Lake Forest Education Centre, north of Squamish, has been serving up fond memories since 1960. Located just off the road to Levette Lake, the camp has an outdoor-education mandate and features cabins, docks, and a network of trails.
2. Forest and the Femme Society
Some Downtown Eastside residents rarely get to leave the neighbourhood—let alone visit the North Shore mountains. Enter Forest and the Femme, an outdoor-recreation program for Vancouver’s most marginalized women. FATF founder Jaime Adams takes mostly aboriginal, self-identified women who are dealing with health challenges, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, on day and overnight trips. Experiencing nature helps participants deal with anxiety and boosts their self-esteem. FATF welcomes in-kind donations, gift cards, and cash.
3. Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society
Since 1990, Friends of Cypress Provincial Park has worked to preserve the natural environment in this North Shore park that’s home to a privately operated ski area. The organization became a registered charity in 1995. In 2013, FCPP produced a new map of summer hiking trails in the southern part of the park.
4. Gambier Island Conservancy
In November, the Gambier Island Conservancy rejoiced upon receiving news that the B.C. government had put its plans for two woodlots on hold. The 1,326 hectares of Crown land in question include old-growth trees and hiking trails. The organization seeks to protect the “wild heart” of this island in Howe Sound.
5. North Shore Rescue
Run by volunteers, North Shore Rescue was hit hard by the death of team leader Tim Jones and thefts of lifesaving equipment earlier this year. The search-and-rescue team has retrieved many lost and injured outdoor enthusiasts in the local mountains, and steadfastly opposes charging them for the operations. The Coquitlam Search and Rescue Society, Lions Bay Search and Rescue Society, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, and Squamish Search and Rescue Society are other local teams that can always use donations.
6. Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society
Stretching 180 kilometres from Sarah Point to Saltery Bay, the Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail. The Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society is the trail’s steward. Traversing the Upper Sunshine Coast, the SCT links old-growth forests, while PRPAWS promotes conservation in the area.
7. Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation
Some students don’t quite fit into the mainstream school system. Supported by the Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation, the Take a Hike alternative education program helps those dealing with addiction, abuse, depression, or other challenges. Adventure-based learning is just one part of this, and includes outdoor day trips and multi-day expeditions. Take a Hike’s website has a list of needed outdoor equipment, and the foundation also accepts donations of shares.
8. Wilderness Committee
The Wilderness Committee is known for trail-building efforts that helped lead to the establishment of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, and other protected areas. Its campaigns focus on wild lands, wildlife, public lands, the Pacific coast, and climate change. The organization also makes great calendars.