Jill's Story


by Jill Sturdy

I became involved with CPAWS even before I even knew about CPAWS. I have always been an animal lover, and I wanted to be a wildlife veterinarian when I grew up. After high school I traveled to Australia which led me down the path to environmental protection. I learned about tigers and bears and rhinos being poached, which horrified me, and I came back to Canada with a new passion - I was going to save the tigers. A few months later I was in my first year of university. That summer I got a job at the Environmental Resource Centre (ERC). There were a number of ENGOs working out of the Centre and one of them was also the volunteer chair of the (then) Edmonton Chapter of CPAWS. I also met a University Professor (who I had invited to speak at an open house I organised at the Centre) who suggested I switch programs into the Environmental Sciences program. Turns out Dr. Butler had also been involved with CPAWS and the creation of Borealis magazine in the late 80s and early 90s. The foundation of an activist was born, and I didn't even know it yet.

That summer working at the ERC I learned about the proposal to develop an open-pit coal mine adjacent to Jasper National Park. I was devastated. Jasper holds a very special place in my heart and me being politically naive back then, just could not understand why this proposal would be approved (let alone proposed). It would destroy grizzly bear habitat - not to mention have a devastating impact on the ecological integrity of the national park. My heart lead me to take action. Being surrounded by longtime campaigners I learned a lot. It was also a pivotal moment in my activist career. I realised that I didn't have to go to the other side of the world to make a difference. Alberta's wildlife needed me and I needed to stick around to give Alberta politicians a kick in the butt.

And practically overnight, a fresh new young voice for wildlife was born.

I switched university programs, got involved with student council, attended events, organised events and rallies, volunteered with CPAWS and other groups and raised an environmental ruckus. Two summers later, I was working for CPAWS as a summer student going door-to-door raising money for CPAWS to protect Alberta's threatened grizzlies and stop the proposed Cheviot coal mine.

When I graduated from university, I had a degree in Environmental Conservation (major in conservation biology) in one pocket, and in the other pocket I was armed with a strong passion and dedication to defend and protect all that is wild. CPAWS snatched me up and I went on to raise awareness (and a little hell) for more protection of Alberta's Boreal forest and the critically endangered woodland caribou, secure a strong federal species at risk act, engage high profile Canadians, work with First Nations, and empower a large group of dedicated volunteer - and much much more.

Fast forward a decade and I'm still here. And I love it. My focus now is protecting wilderness and wildlife on a nation-wide level. I have lots of stories to share on proud achievements across the country and working with some of the most dedicated people I know, but I never forget my advocacy roots and my heart in Alberta.