Storyteller Scroll: A message of hope

  • Published on Sep 28 2011 |
  • This article is tagged as: storyteller

CPAWS Volunteer, Jennifer Gautreau, reports on the September 22 Nature Night with guest speaker, David Finch.

Guest Speaker, David Finch, discusses the film Headless ValleyLong before Kevlar and synthetic dry bags were invented, Mel and Ethel Ross of Calgary made a trip up the Nahanni River, NWT. In 1957 these adventure seekers travelled the river alone and also managed to capture their voyage on film. Sitting in an amphitheatre 54 years later, I learned a lot about an area that for many years has been on my bucket list of places to visit. CPAWS, in conjunction with guest speaker David Finch, screened a portion of the Ross’ film “Headless Valley” at St. Paul’s University on Thursday September 22nd. It was both comical and inspiring to watch the Ross’ lug their 20 bags of non-waterproof gear in and out of their 17’ aluminum canoe over the rugged portages. And Mrs. Ross did this dressed in a frilly blouse and hair swept up in an impeccable coif. Oh how times have changed.

The film was shown as part of a larger message. An authority on the region, Mr. Finch commented throughout the movie. Having travelled the river many times he is also an historian who specializes in the area. At several points he was able to show us vistas that are unchanged from the time the film was made. It’s rare today to be able to say that a landscape is the same as it was over 50 years before.

And that is where CPAWS comes into play. For over four decades the organization has been very active in keeping the region as pristine as possible. Alison Woodley, National Conservation Director for CPAWS, was a key player in the success of the Nahanni campaign and she spoke before the film. She outlined the process that led to the six-fold increase in the size of the Nahanni National Park. It took over 40 years to make this happen. But rather than being discouraging, her message was one of hope. She coordinated the South Nahanni Watershed nationwide campaign and has been on the river twice. She knows the area well and is passionate about preserving it. And she showed that working tirelessly to protect something can have a positive outcome. It was a long process that involved cooperation between several stakeholders.

CPAWS National Conservation Director, Alison Woodley, speaks about CPAWS’s work protecting the NahanniDirector Woodley mentioned several times that the public has an important role to play in these types of campaigns. Ordinary Canadians wrote impassioned letters about why the Nahanni was special to them and why they felt it was vital to protect it. Every letter was read by someone involved in the campaign and these words were used to show government officials how iconic the Nahanni was to the Canadian identity. The simple act of writing a letter carried a lot of weight. She also stressed that form letters work but a personal note carries extra weight. Anything that we can do to show we care makes a difference

But even with the recent successes, there is a final push needed to secure the fate of the Nahanni. The headwaters are protected until 2012 but aren’t part of the current park plans. CPAWS continues to work on this effort but continued input from concerned Canadians is still needed.

Whichever issue you’re passionate about, whether it’s the Dumoine River or Gatineau Park, find out how you can get involved. Simply writing a letter can have a big impact. It’s easy to get bogged down with so many worthwhile causes to choose from. And it’s even harder to assess if our efforts affect outcomes. But after listening to David Finch and Alison Woodley speak about their successes, and to see that CPAWS has made real, lasting change, there is proof that even the smallest action has a positive consequence.