Gerry Wilkie became involved in Kootenay conservation work soon after he retired to the Columbia Valley in the late ‘90s. But, as he puts it, his “conservation feet got wet much earlier on.”
The Banff Centre Grounds Supervisor for 30 years, Gerry was deeply involved in conservation in Banff and the Bow Valley. He was one of the original members of the Bow Valley Naturalists, serving as president for several years and as an executive member from the organization’s inception in 1967 until he and his wife Carol relocated to Edgewater in 1997.
“The Naturalists have had a tremendous influence on conservation in the Bow Valley and especially in Banff National Park,” said Gerry.
He was also a director of the Calgary chapter of the National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada, now known as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and a member of the Alberta Wilderness Association.
As a Columbia Valley retiree, Gerry swiftly joined the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society and became a member of the regional board for the East Kootenay Environmental Society (now known as Wildsight), a position he held from 1998-2000. In 2006, he attended the first founding meeting of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP). Gerry later became CWSP president and is currently Past President and an executive member.
Politically, he has also had great influence as an elected official. The Area G director for the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) for the past two terms, Gerry was a huge proponent of the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, which was established by referendum in 2008 and is administered by KCP on behalf of the RDEK.
He considers the conservation fund one of the big highlights of early collaboration in local government in the Columbia Valley, and has been the RDEK representative on the KCP executive committee since 2010.
“While many of these (funded) projects are relatively modest in scope, cumulatively the Local Conservation Fund is doing what it was designed to do. It is making a significant contribution to our quality of life by providing the funding and opportunity for non-governmental organizations to enhance and conserve our local land base and biophysical environment.”
Looking ahead, Gerry’s focus is on getting stronger protection for the Columbia Wetlands, as well as the establishment of a Recreational Access Management Plan and a Community Forest for the Columbia Valley.
“I think any conservation work requires stewardship,” he said. “These projects will all have important benefits for the Upper Columbia Valley region, socially, economically and environmentally.”