STITCH TOGETHER ALTERED LANDSCAPES: “We build on the passion and actions of champions by building a culture of stewardship,” states Paul Chapman, Chair, Vancouver Island Water Stewardship Series

Note to Reader:

In this issue of Waterbucket News, published in May 2020, the Partnership for Water Sustainability featured an article contributed by Paul Chapman, Executive Director, Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT). Paul is also Chair, Vancouver Island Water Stewardship Symposia Series. Below, Paul reflected on what the Series is accomplishing, what a leadership role in the Series has meant for NALT, and how the Series partners anticipated adapting program delivery for Comox Valley 2020 in the face of COVID 19.

Subsequent Developments

By July 2020, adapting to the new reality imposed by COVID necessitated decoupling of the original 2-day program for Comox Valley 2020. Decoupling meant that the two founding partners, NALT (Nanaimo & Area Land Trust) and the Partnership for Water Sustainability,  proceeded with a stripped down and reconstituted program for the third in the Symposia Series.

Pre-pandemic, NALT and the Partnership would have delivered Day Two of the Comox Valley 2020 program as a set of three modules in April. Under their pandemic response plan, the three modules were undertaken as Watershed Moments, the Video Trilogy Series and delivered via YouTube on November 19, November 26 and December 3.

CREATING OUR FUTURE: “Beyond Champions – Building a Culture of Water Stewardship” – Paul Chapman

Building on the success of the first two symposia, the series founding partners – NALT, Partnership for Water Sustainability, Regional District of Nanaimo, Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES), and federal and provincial agencies – reached out to the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership to co-host #3 in the series in collaboration with the inter-regional team.

Move Toward Actionable Visions!

“A guiding theme for the series is that an actionable vision translates good intentions into practices on the ground. An actionable vision is driven by leadership that mobilizes people and partnerships, a commitment to ongoing learning and innovation, and a budget to back it up. Now, as we look ahead to a world after COVID 19, communities need actionable visions more than ever to balance settlement, ecology and economy,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“Whether Comox Valley 2020 is held in-person or rolled out virtually, the Partnership and collaborating organizations are approaching it as a ‘springboard moment’. COVID 19 is a generational turning point – we can change direction as a society and we can stitch together altered landscapes for the greater good.

“To quote Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. Onwards and upwards!”

Champions Implement Change,
Cultures Sustain Those Changes

“In its first couple of incarnations, the Symposia on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate, have featured the progress made by water stewardship champions within their organizations and communities. At Nanaimo 2018 and Parksville 2019 we heard about local and regional stewardship initiatives, innovative approaches to stewardship and partnerships, and the changes in stewardship focus related to climate instability,” writes Paul Chapman.

“The successes of these projects and programs are strengthened and expanded through partnership and collaboration. We build on the passion and actions of champions by building a culture of stewardship. This culture exists across sectors, in government agencies, within environmental organizations, in schools, neighbourhoods, business and industry. Champions implement change, cultures sustain those changes.”

“The symposium format provides a neutral forum for local elected representatives, local government staff, stewardship groups and others to ‘convene for action’ to improve where we live.

“The Symposia programs are built around success stories – inspirational in nature, local in scale, and precedent-setting in scope and outcome. In short, these precedents can be replicated and/or adapted in other communities.

“Now, more than ever, it is essential that we look beyond short-term responses and figure out how we will learn from these success stories; and build a sustaining culture of stewardship so that communities do adapt to the new normal caused by COVID 19.”

COVID 19 Response Plan

“In March, the directives and protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID 19 caused us to postpone the 2020 symposium until October 20 – 22. Now, the CV2020 symposium partners are exploring how the event could go forward in consideration of directives from the province to maintain a safe distance in all settings.

“In view of recent announcements from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Premier Horgan, it seems uncertain or even unlikely that we would be able to have an in-person gathering this fall. If it must be a virtual gathering, we will seek to make it both an engaging and memorable experience. Rest assured we will not ask you to spend two days in a row staring at a screen.

“Regardless of whether Comox Valley 2020 is in-person or virtual, I look forward to learning the lessons of 2020, applying them as appropriate in my community and reconvening, in person, in the Cowichan Valley in 2021.”

Water Connects Us, Water Stewardship Connects Us

“In Nanaimo, one outcome of these symposia has been the formation of the Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice (NWHCoP), a gathering of diverse groups and individuals engaged in water stewardship and focussed on promoting the various values of healthy functioning watersheds to our community and political decision makers.

“Almost immediately this has resulted in mutual support of stewardship efforts by Streamkeepers, agricultural and environmental organizations. NWHCoP has showcased creekshed restoration projects, bringing civic politicians and City staff to sites of stewardship activity.

Until the enforced shutdown imposed by COVID 19 and our efforts to contain the disease, NWHCoP had been planning to launch watershed-situated initiatives to connect communities to their creeks. Partners in the Community of Practice are developing curriculum-based stewardship activities to connect schools with their home rivers and wetlands. Water connects us, water stewardship connects us.

“When we all understand that community well-being is directly related to watershed health; when we practice stewardship of our creeks and streams; when we plan for water and watershed resilience, we build a sustaining culture of stewardship.”

Stitch Together Altered Landscapes

“The Comox Valley 2020 Water Stewardship Symposium will feature examples of connecting with our communities to re-create how we come together to achieve lasting change:
  •  We will learn of local initiatives to restore and ensure ecological viability in a landscape altered by human habitation and activity.
  • The successes and challenges of regional water stewardship programs will be shared by those tasked with implementing them.
  • Understanding the value of healthy watersheds as critical infrastructure will be discussed.

“An opportunity to align efforts with federal and provincial focus, to achieve a watershed moment in freshwater stewardship, will offer us a path toward our next gathering to share and expand our experiences and achievements.”