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10 is the Magic Number: Celebrating 10 years with CPAWS at the Decennial World Parks Congress

There are few moments in life when the stars align and cause you to pause, reflect and celebrate. This is one of those moments.

A few months ago, I was accepted to speak at the 2014 IUCN World Park Congress in Sydney, Australia – a forum that happens only once every ten years. As I was applying for funding to attend the congress, I realized that I was also celebrating my 10-year anniversary with CPAWS’ Southern Alberta Chapter (CPAWS SAB).

Back in 2004, I was hired to work in the education department of CPAWS SAB. During that time, I helped run and build the environmental education program that reached thousands of students and teachers each year. I was privileged to take new immigrant youth on their first experience hiking in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I was inspired by student action in environmental stewardship. And, I was driven by my core beliefs about the importance of connecting to nature and the value of conserving parks and wilderness. In 2008, we won a prestigious Alberta Emerald Award for our unique environmental education programs. By 2015, the program will celebrate a significant milestone of over 100,000 youth reached.

In 2009, I transitioned from the role of Education Director to Executive Director. I stepped out of the classroom and grew strategically as a conservation leader. Here are just a few of CPAWS SAB’s accomplishments:
• Having grizzly bears listed as threatened under Alberta’s Wildlife Act
• Stopping Bill 29 to amend the Alberta Parks Act threatening protection
• Having over 100,000 emails sent to the Premier demanding protection for the Castle Wilderness
• Stopping logging in the Castle pending the land-use planning
• Ensuring that the proposed Goat’s Eye daylodge at Sunshine ski area meets National Park standards for water quality
• Recommending and supporting the seasonal travel restriction on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park
• Establishing a new signature Discover Parks! education program

In Sydney, I will be talking about Discover Parks!, our new education program designed to showcase parks and get youth excited about these amazing protected places from a conservation and user perspective. It is a perfect culmination of my 10 years with CPAWS, combining education and conservation and getting back to the basics, connecting youth with parks and wilderness, and investing in the next generation of park stewards. 
Looking back at my 10 years with CPAWS, I reflect upon my contribution to the organization and celebrate the significant accomplishments that a small organization with smart, passionate people can achieve and inspires me to continue to make a difference. There is always more work to do and the journey is not over, but it feels good to know that we have made a difference along the way.