Those who love nature just do. Their reward is spotting a bird mid-flight, watching a beaver send off a warning with their tail, hearing an elk call, getting caught in a rain storm, catching a sunrise or glimpsing a deer before it bounds off. Nature is a cure that leads their tranquility.
One person’s vision has more power than they can see. Their desire to achieve a goal often spreads to other like-minded individuals. Invisible threads weave together into an unbreakable rope.
Twenty years ago, one woman had a vision for the town she had moved to that included her love of nature and her need for companionship. She did some research and discovered that if she wanted to join a naturalists club, she had to create one first. A pen, a piece of paper and few words on a paper stuck to the notice board at the local library soon got the ball rolling. Before she knew it, Madelone Schouten had a dozen people gathered together in the library to form Princeton’s very first nature club. The Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists held their very first meeting and the rest is history.
The original group multiplied as it flourished. Their numbers grew and so too did their credibility among respected naturalist groups. They became more than a group who loved nature. VFFN members influenced youth, collected data, joined forces with others and made important partnership connections.
The club has actively participated in bird counts since 1992 with one of the highlights being the spotting of the Pigmy Owl. “We decided to publish a newsletter and become an associate member of the Federation of B.C. Naturalists (FBCN),” said Schouten during last weeks meeting.
VFFN members have at different times voiced their concern over human development that would adversely effect nature. One of these being the Princeton Chert which is a huge rock face which was under the chopping block if a dam was constructed along the Similkameen River.
The dam would have covered the Chert which is one of two the are known to exist in the whole world – the other being in Russia. Another type of human progress which VFFN has adamantly objected to is the development of coalbed methane mining sites around Princeton. The concerned group held a special meeting and drafted a resolution and mailed it to Premier Gordon Campbell demanded a moratorium on CBM.
After years of lobbying, VFFN was able to have the status of Swan Lake changed to a “viewing and restoration area” with the support of the Ministry of Environment and since then have had lots of visitors to the area. VFFN now has status with the FBCN as part of their regional system and can vote. They have held FBCN meetings including an Annual General Meeting that 176 people attended and a fall meeting with 88 attending. From global warming to restoration of nature after a fire, the members of VFFN have explored issues that directly concern most naturalist groups. The VFFN has held workshops on living by water and grasslands. They have hosted members of the Taiwan government on a tour of Swan Lake. Katimavik youth have been strongly influenced to pursue education and careers that are in harmony with nature after spending time with this group.
VFFN has embraced the Meadowlark Festival held throughout the Okanagan Similkameen each May and was able to hang banners up in the downtown core this past spring. The members have made many improvements to the Swan Lake sanctuary including a beautifully creative information sign painted by Bob Cormack, benches and other informative signs. They have given tours of the lake and taken local students on field trips. The group got involved in the banding of Hummingbirds last year and has held weed pull work bees and participated in all kinds of assessments of nature.
“Without realizing it, we have influenced kids all across Canada,” said Schouten. Present VFFn president Kathy Yingling presented Schouten with an honourary lifetime membership and said to Schouten, at the end of the evening meeting, “You have made a difference to this community and this certificate is a celebration of that. Because of your love of nature, you have started something that has been truly enjoyable to be a part of and given us all many wonderful memories.”