Watershed Moments Team Award honours legacy of Rob Lawrance, former Environmental Planner with the City of Nanaimo


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Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the Living Water Smart vision. Storylines accommodate a range of reader attention spans. Read the headline and move on, or take the time to delve deeper – it is your choice!  Downloadable versions are available at Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Series.

The edition published on on February 7, 2023 featured a tribute to the late Rob Lawrance (1964-2022), former Environmental Planner with the City of Nanaimo.

Presentation of the Watershed Moments Team Award to Kate Miller at the January 26th meeting of the Cowichan Valley Regional Board. From left to right: Paul Chapman (Chair, Watershed Moments Symposia Series), Aaron Stone (Board Chair and Mayor, Town of Ladysmith), Kate Miller, and Kim Stephens. In the background, and looking over their shoulders, is the late Rob Lawrance.


Cowichan Valley’s Kate Miller is the inaugural recipient of the Watershed Moments Team Award which honours the memory and legacy of the late Rob Lawrance (1964-2022), former Environmental Planner with the City of Nanaimo

Watershed Moments began as an annual symposia series. In 2020, however, the COVID pandemic changed everything. The Partnership pivoted and reimagined an approach that combined elements of a TED Talk with Zoom and YouTube technology. The result is a set of legacy video educational resources that showcase stories that the Partnership hopes will inspire collaboration for some time to come.

The foregoing provides context for the Watershed Moments Team Award which recognizes individuals whose extraordinary contributions and accomplishments serve to elevate recognition of ecosystem values and benefits; and advance their integration within the built environment.

The Watershed Moments Award honours the outstanding legacy of the late Rob Lawrance (1964-2022). He was a founding member of the team in 2018. In the 1990s, Rob was the first Executive Director of the Cowichan Land Trust. He then had a 20-year career in local government as Environmental Planner with the City of Nanaimo.

Rob Lawrance had an extraordinary ability to connect with people and people with ‘place’, as does Kate Miller of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Kate is the inaugural recipient of the Watershed Moments Team Award. Just like Rob did throughout his career, Kate champions the embedding of ecosystem values within municipal planning, processes and projects.



The guest Editor’s Perspective for this edition of Waterbucket eNews is contributed by Paul Chapman, Chair of the Watershed Moments Symposia Series. His day job is Executive Director of the Nanaimo & Area Land Trust (NALT). Co-led by the Partnership and NALT, the Watershed Moments team came together for Nanaimo 2018, the first in the symposia series The initiative is grassroots by definition, with members from 10 organizations.

Recognition of Rob Lawrance and Kate Miller

“Rob Lawrance grew up in the Cowichan Valley where he began his stewardship journey. In his time with the City of Nanaimo, he grew the responsibilities of Environmental Planner to include community collaboration. He played a key role in almost every major waterway stewardship initiative in Nanaimo and connected community stewardship passion with municipal capacity,” writes Paul Chapman.

“In 2021, Rob retired from the City and moved to Blaine, Washington. Tragically, he passed away in May 2022 while participating in the cyclocross leg of the Bellingham Ski to Sea relay race. As part of the stewardship community in the Nanaimo area, I can attest that Rob is missed for his contributions to effective stewardship partnerships and his personable ways.”

“Kate Miller is a worthy inaugural recipient of this award. Kate connects the dots between community and regional government water stewardship collaboration. Kate also leads in inter-regional collaboration on water stewardship initiatives through her key participation on the Watershed Moments Team.”

“Beyond these accomplishments, Kate and Rob worked together on water stewardship efforts in the Cowichan Region in their previous working lives.”

“Kate is an outstanding asset to her community and the community of water stewardship practice, and through collaboration and sharing of experience is growing a culture of water stewardship in the CVRD, across Vancouver Island and beyond.”

“The Watershed Moments Team continues to carry Rob’s work forward as we work to present seminars and ultimately a symposium on Blue Ecology – the interweaving of Indigenous and Western water stewardship knowledge. This is a pathway to Water Reconciliation.”

“Over the last few years we have all learned to pivot. Blue Ecology offers us a chance to pivot towards a place of collaboration and hope. The Hope Spectrum as Michael Blackstock, a member of the Gitsxan First Nations and the founder of the Blue Ecology Institute, refers to it.”


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: What made Rob Lawrance special, a tribute from the heart by Nick Leone

Rob Lawrance was a champion for the Environment, as well as for his local and professional communities, and a bridge between the two; an Environmental Planner for the City of Nanaimo for 20+ years.

Rob was a well-known, highly personable, knowledgeable, dedicated, and passionate individual with an extraordinary ability to connect with people and people with ‘place’.

Through this connection, Rob garnered respect, trust and support in linking people with ideas that helped to shape and enhance their community through the integration of Municipal Development with Ecosystem assessment and planning.

Rob saw the value, outcomes and benefits of profiling and maintaining environmental integrity throughout the municipal development planning process, recognizing its importance to community wellness, values and sustainability.

Rob further recognized and understood not only the benefits, possibilities and opportunities of bridging between the built and ecological/natural environments; but its potential to enhance public amenities, community identity, liveability and ultimately, as a means to foster connection to and inspiration of ‘place’.

In Rob’s eyes, these elements, and the range and diversity of ideas within the community citizenry to achieve these goals were not necessarily divergent, though rather integral components of one another.

Rob understood the importance of the natural environment – our watershed health, and its relationship to our built environment (and social wellbeing) through provisioning of ecosystem services and the protection and maintenance of our natural assets (natural capital).

He understood however, that this connection and its potential was arguably limited without an equal focus, respect, and ability to connect, affect and inspire people within our communities.

Rob was not only keenly aware of this fact, but ‘lived-it’ in how he engaged life and supported and mentored others. What an extraordinary influence and affect on one’s community and meaningful legacy.

The ability to interweave and harmonize opinions and personalities, science, professional disciplines and policies, along with technical and administrative processes is an exceptional quality and one Rob was well known and respected for.

Connecting people to place and with one another – for the betterment of community and our world; such principles and ideals are indeed exemplary, reflective of the essence of Stewardship and the Watershed Moments Team values and goals and most certainly deserving of such recognition.

Through ‘his being, his person’ and actions, Rob set a standard which resonates through time and to which we can all aspire.

The possibilities and potential of one person’s actions – Rob extolled the virtues of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life; as both the community and our natural environment are certainly better off for his dedication and service.

The Watershed Moments Team Award, presented in memory of Rob Lawrance, a founding member of the Team who worked to inform and connect his community to the collective benefits of watershed health.


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