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Lions Roar : November 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2011 51 Robin Bryan Wilderness Committee WINNIPEG, MANITOBA Robin Bryan is completely at home striding through the Canadian boreal forest he’s devoted to preserving. He comes by it naturally. “I had kind of an alternative growing-up experience,” he says, “raised in acreages in forested areas and living off the land, and doing a lot of traveling.” Native American Church elders were early mentors, and reverence for the sacredness of the Earth was instilled from childhood. “I work from that place of deep understanding of the value of living in natural spaces and staying connected that way. We need to protect that experience for future generations,” he says. Bryan was fifteen when he began working with the Wilderness Committee to preserve the boreal forest in Manitoba, part of a coniferous belt between the arctic tun- dra and temperate zone that covers more than six million square miles in North America, Europe, and Asia—a third of it in Canada. Like the Amazon, the boreal forest is of critical importance to all living things and is not only the world’s larg- est source of fresh water, but a huge carbon storehouse that is crucial to regulating climate change. And, Bryan warns, it is being threatened by industrial development. He started by going door-to-door one summer and fell right into the job, realizing that canvassing is the most grass- roots level of educating. “It was an inspiring thing to do and it made sense,” he says. “It was a way of encouraging people to action by joining the Wilderness Committee, donating, or tell- ing decision-makers how we want our public lands to be used and demanding accountability.” The forests in Manitoba’s provincial parks were being dev- astated by logging. Waters were being contaminated. Clear- cutting was ruining the soil, he says, and it would take genera- tions to come back to a level where it could support growth. Bryan recruited thousands in a campaign to get the Manitoba government to halt logging in its parks, and was rewarded in 2008 when the government announced a logging ban in four of the five parks. In 2009, he received a Brower Youth Award, which honors young environmental leaders in North America. Then, almost immediately, logging interests found a way to beat the ban. Now, as that struggle continues, the group also is striving to prevent mining companies from stripping the region of its rich mineral resources. The area Bryan focuses on, known as the Heart of the Boreal, is home to many First Nations communities, many unreachable by roads, and their traditional livelihoods have been hampered by destruction of the lands and waters they rely on. Among them is the Hollow Water Reserve, where he’s working on the volunteer-driven Wanipigow Garden and Trail Project, which aims to improve residents’ health as well as developing eco-tourism. The garden has three large plots and a dozen or so raised beds for elders, and will be the site of workshops on starting a garden, pickling and preserving, fall planting, and cooking in season. “Our gardens and trails will demonstrate how oppor- tunities can be created without damaging this global ecologi- cal treasure.” ♦ PHOTOCOURTESYOFBROWERYOUTHAWARDS