Bryn White is this year’s recipient of the Meadowlark Nature Festival’s Outstanding in Nature Award. (Submitted photo)

Okanagan woman honoured for her dedication to conservation and the environment

White works in habitat conservation and protection, manages the South Okanagan Conservation Fund

After years of dedication to conserving and protecting the South Okanagan’s diverse ecosystem, it is no surprise that Bryn White is this year’s recipient of the Meadowlark Nature Festival’s Outstanding in Nature Award.

Well, it is surprising to no one except for maybe White herself, who said she was shocked to learn she was being recognized.

“I was surprised, it was a really wonderful recognition and I didn’t know that was something that was coming,” said the program manager for South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program (SOSCP). “It’s hard to be the recipient of something like that, working with so many amazing people.”

White explained that the work carried out by the SOSCP is the result of collaboration.

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“The purpose of the SOSCP is to work together, it is a partnership. We’re not an organization or an entity, it’s more like a community of organizations that work together,” said White. “We’ve grown from a handful of organizations that came together 20 years ago now, to now over 50 partners from a really broad spectrum of dimension.”

White also manages the South Okanagan Conservation Fund, which was established by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen in 2016.

“The fund is generated from property values from property levy, so local regional governments oversee it. But we help them out with being able to administer it,” said White. “The Kootenays first established local conservation funds and we started to see the benefits of what was happening there. So we worked with local governments here to explore the idea of establishing a fund, and through a lot of discussion and dialogue and engagement with the community, it took eight years for everyone to agree that this was a good thing to do.”

The fund raises $450,000 annually in the South Okanagan and White said after the first year, seven projects were funded to a total of $400,000. That resulted in additional funding supplied from outside of the region for these projects to the tune of $2.1 million.

“The value of that local investment helped to leverage and bring in so much more, and just brought so much more value to the region,” said White.

When asked why we she became so passionate about conservation and the environment, White joked that it was not because the industry is well-paying.

READ MORE: Funding allocated for Summerland organizations

“Working in this industry is not a lucrative industry, but it’s a labour of love,” said White. “It’s something that you’re called to for sure. I have always wanted to work in a field that made a difference, and I feel that our partnership is doing that. I’d say some of my proudest moments working in this is really the tangible restoration projects we’ve been able to do. It’s super rewarding.”

“(The Okanagan and Similkameen) is a biodiversity hots pot in B.C. and in Canada. We are known as of one of Canada’s most endangered natural ecosystems. And one quarter of all the animals, plants and ecological communities that are at risk in B.C. occur in the RDOS,” said White. “There was just a report released by the United Nations that said one million species are facing extinction, so at an unprecedented rate, we are losing species and ecosystems that not only the species depend on, but we are one of those living things. We are one of the species on Earth that relies on these natural areas.”

White will receive the Outstanding in Nature award at the upcoming Birders, Burgers and Beer event for the Meadowlark Nature Festival on May 17 at the Penticton Golf & Country Club. For more information about the Meadowlark Nature Festival, visit www.meadowlarkfestival.ca. The nature festival runs from May 16 to 20.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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