Mary Haig-Brown Recognition Award

Purpose:

To recognize an individual for outstanding service in the restoration and protection of the Tod Creek Watershed

Criteria:

Available to any individual and a candidate of any age who has made a significant contribution to the health of the Tod Creek Watershed

Collaborates with and educates others to identify strategies and solutions for the  protection and enhancement of the watershed

Demonstrates commitment, consistency and reliability to the projects undertaken by the FOCW

Approaches opportunities and issues with curiosity, integrity and collaboration

Shows initiative through leadership, hands on effort, advocacy, administrative work and/or support of others

Administration:

The award will be presented only on the occasions of exceptional contributions to the mission of the FOCW. 

The award will be determined by the majority of those regularly attending the bimonthly meetings of the FOTC

The Recognition Award will be presented for exceptional service as merited however the possibility of a candidate will be reviewed annually at the January meeting. 

Presentation:

The recipient will be presented with a personalized framed certificate featuring the Friends of Tod Creek Logo and a citation stating reasons for the award

Mary Haig Brown’s Environmental Achievements

When Mary Haig Brown moved to a rural property in Saanich 40 years ago she brought with her a family legacy of conservation values and understanding. Over time, Mary and her husband Bernie, have transformed the former hobby farm  into a wildlife refuge, protected forest and environmental learning center.

Mary arrived at Prospect Lake at a time of change in the area and the impact of increasing human activity was compromising the lives of the residents. She provided leadership for several initiatives designed to address the declining water quality in the lakes and streams of the watershed including the Tod Creek Prospect Lake Rehabilitation Study, 1992, the educational publications Returning the Loon to Prospect Lake and Watershed Connections and the Prospect Lake /Tod Creek Watershed Management Plan, 1999. Embedded within the 1999 plan was the recommendation for a management strategy that would support the work of residents and ensure best practices to protect and restore the diversity and natural beauty of the area. This plan would form the basis of the provincially designated Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area Regulations and Riparian Areas Regulations.

The report also established the need for a local Environmental Stewardship group to take on the challenges identified in the report and work with Saanich in achieving the community objectives. With Mary as the chair of the first meeting, the Friends of Tod Creek Watershed established their name and identified key focus areas including the water quality of lakes, streams and ground water, riparian zones, education and trails. This year Mary retired as Chair after 20 years of environmental advocacy, education, restoration and protection. She has also served as a member of the Executive Board of Peninsula Streams for 12 years, a steward for Habitat Acquisition Trust for 20 years and a member of the Saanich Environment and Natural Areas Advisory Committee for the past 18 years.

 Mary is involved in many environmental initiatives most of which have an educational component and extend far beyond the Watershed boundaries. A life long teacher, Mary has worked with UVic Environmental Studies classes,  high school exchange students, and elementary school students in sharing her knowledge and experience. She has been instrumental in organizing workshops for the community including Streamkeepers, Lakekeepers and Shorekeepers Certification courses. Her philosophy of environmental teaching is to “change minds and open doors to learning”. 

As an educator, leader and mentor, Mary’s impact on environmental education is through inspiring individuals and leading by example. Success has been achieved through collaboration and understanding, providing a clear vision and supporting those who wish to make a difference.  She has provided presentations and displays for environmental events including the Victoria Natural History Society meetings, Pulling Together workshops, Conservation Connections and Hartland Happenings and is a board member of  the Haig Brown Institute. Major projects such as the Butcharts fishway, the Tod Flats initiative and the Whitehead Park restoration have been successful because of Mary’s skills in finding funding, bringing stakeholders together and creating  common goals. She understands the value of many small changes and the need for a comprehensive plan to complete long term projects such as restoring Tod Creek to a healthy salmon spawning stream. Through research, consultation and partnerships she was one of the first to understand the need to consider the entire watershed when protecting lakes and streams and the importance of salmon as an indicator species of a healthy watershed. From advocating for the protection of Killarney Lake as one of the headwater areas of the watershed to the building of the Butcharts fishway near the mouth of the stream at Tod Inlet, and with carefully planned restoration projects along the length of the creek, Mary has been instrumental in keeping Tod Creek as one of the few relatively uncompromised watersheds in the region.

The protection of the Tod Creek Watershed and restoration of Tod Flats, at the core of the watershed, have become models for similar geographical areas on Southern Vancouver Island. Over 100 years of Colonization have left these areas in ecological decline. Many conflicting interests including logging, agriculture, water withdrawal and urban encroachment have exceeded the area’s natural rate of recovery, leaving the land and stream vulnerable to development. In 2008 Mary spearheaded the vision of a restoration plan for the Tod Flats, finding funding to produce the Tod Flats Integrated Management Plan in partnership with Saanich. The success of this plan is the result of consultations with farmers, landowners, First Nations, Qualified Environmental Professionals and municipal, provincial and federal governing bodies, all organized and facilitated by Mary.  The implementation of this vision continues today as additional funding and resources have seen the improvement of drainage patterns, habitat for wildlife and fish, agricultural potential and recreational opportunities. 

 A project of this scope and size requires funding, communication and organization brought together by committed leadership.  Mary has given fulfillment to each of these needs. Disappointments in funding applications, changing attitudes, and evolving processes have occurred along the way, however Mary’s optimism and conviction have overcome these challenges.  Over the past ten years of the recovery process for the Tod Flats, Mary has found additional funding resources, developed strong partnerships with Peninsula Streams, SeaChange Society and Saanich and consulted with internationally recognized restoration specialists.

Mary is able to balance her  passion and values  with patience and understanding.  With an open mind Mary chooses to “meet each person where they are and you walk along with them a little way”.

  Although she has resigned as Chair of The Friends of Tod Creek Watershed, Mary continues to maintain an energetic and full volunteer schedule. For over ten years, she has been the Lead Steward for the Pulling Together project at Whitehead Park, spending 3 -4 hours every Monday working on the restoration areas of the park.   For the past three years, one full morning each month is spent on water quality monitoring along the length of  Tod Creek. She continues to work with Peninsula Streams in many capacities ranging from the Board of Directors to  group leader for Creatures of Habitat.

During the first phase of the Tod Flats restoration 2015, Mary worked side by side with staff, spending eight hour days over the 4 month fisheries window to remove invasives, create drainage channels and replant with native species.

She is a key organizer and reliable volunteer for each of The Friends of Tod Creek Watershed special events including most recently Rivers Day,  Know Your Watershed Bus Tours,  Annual Broom Bash and Prospect Lake Elementary School Watershed Field Trip.

Through a lifetime of conservation work Mary has approached the issue of environmental protection with integrity and knowledge working effectively in the following areas:

  1. Advocacy and Consultation: From municipal to federal levels, Mary has worked on projects including the protection of Killarney Lake as a CRD park, the improved operation of Hartland Landfill, the extension of South Prospect Lake Park to protect wetlands and the Canada Goose count survey
  2. Environmental Education and Training:  Mary has arranged for certification opportunities for Streamkeepers, Lakekeepers and Shorekeepers. Through the Friends of Tod Creek Watershed she has sponsored community Septic Savvy Workshops, organized the publication of Returning the Loon and Watershed Connections for residents, supported member participation in Conservation Connections, Gary Oak  Ecosystem Recovery Symposium, SEP Community Workshop and other educational opportunities
  3. Restoration Projects:  Mary has organized regular invasive species removal at Eastlake and Lohr Roads, Whitehead Park, South Prospect Lake Park and Killarney Creek Fan. Mary has provided the leadership for  Tod Creek Flats and Butcharts fishway restoration  
  4. Protection Initiatives:   Building on past research, Mary provides leadership and participates in monthly water quality monitoring and the annual Aquatic Plant Survey of Prospect Lake.

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