Harvey Locke paddling on the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories. Photo courtesy Marie-Eve Marchand

Yellowstone to Yukon and beyond

Meadowlark keynote speaker has some big ideas

Harvey Locke is an environmentalist with some big goals.

Locke, a leader in the field of parks, wilderness and large landscape conservation, is leading a movement to link together parks and protected areas over a huge part of North America.

“Yellowstone to Yukon is the first large-scale conservation initiative that I worked on extensively,” said Locke. “When we started in in 1993, it was in response to scientific findings, that as great as national parks like Banff or Yellowstone are for saving wildlife, that if they become islands of habitat in a highly fragmented landscape by other human developments, they will lose their species through time.

“But if you can connect them up to each other through networks, they will retain species through time.”

Locke is also the keynote speaker for this year’s Meadowlark Nature Festival, delivering his talk on May 18, starting at 7 p.m. in Cleland Theatre.

Harvey Locke, Canadian Conservationist, on the power of wilderness from Alexandra Christy on Vimeo.

In his presentation, Locke is taking the audience on a journey from Yellowstone to the Yukon, including the Okanagan, and exploring conservation as it is practiced around the planet.

“I will be talking about these ideas, how we might think about how we live in places like the Okanagan, as it relates to sharing the world with nature,” said Locke. “I hope people will find it an interesting journey. They will be taken around the world … but it will be grounded locally and travelling globally.”

The challenge with connecting Yellowstone to the Yukon, he explains, is that you can’t just create a giant national park.

But you can create landscape conditions between the parks that allow for animals to move and maintain genetic connections to avoid inbreeding and population collapse,” he said, explaining that might include connections through private land, and highway crossing structures like those in Banff National Park that allow animals to get across busy roads.

“We’ve been able to work with land trust partners to purchase key parcels of land along busy highways and gravel bed rivers to protect wildlife connectivity,” said Locke. “We haven’t yet achieved everything we hoped to achieve, but there is certainly an awareness that the landscape needs to be connected.

“We have made some real progress. That doesn’t mean we are done.”

Another big initiative is Nature Needs Half, which was inspired in part by the decline in the number of species under threat of extinction.

“We’re seeing across Canada, even where things aren’t going extinct, a huge reduction in the numbers of species that are surviving,” said Locke. “So we need an idea commensurate with the scale of the problem.”

When the question asked about how much of a given eco-region needs to be protected, Locke said often the answer is about half.

“Many traditional First Nations Peoples, who still have a lot of intact territory, think that scale of conservation of half or higher is necessary,” said Locke. “Those ideas sort of came together, traditional knowledge and western science saying we should be protecting a lot more of the landscape than we thought we should.

“That’s the idea of Nature Needs Half, of protecting half the world in an interconnected way, both land and sea.”

It’s not surprising then that Locke is a big fan of the national park reserve proposition for the South Okanagan Similkameen.

“In places like the South Okanagan, especially the desert part of it, protecting every piece possible is a good strategy.

“There are a lot of endangered species concentrated in certain areas of Canada and the South Okanagan is one of them,” said Locke. “It is also highly desirable for vineyards and other things, residential development, second homes, so there is a lot of pressure on the landscape, so securing as much of it as possible is a first-class strategy.”

The fundamental challenge, according to Locke, is that people want to move into the places that are most biologically productive because that is where the climate is nicest.

“That’s why we end up having conflicts between human aspirations and the needs of nature,” he said. “I think we need to turn that a little bit and say that when we meet the needs of nature, we meet a more satisfying life for humans too, when nature flourishes along with us.”

Locke said over his lifetime, he has spent a lot of time in the South Okanagan and has seen the population growth and expansion of the communities. “It’s got an exceptional quality of life. But that quality of life, if it loses nature, it will be diminished,” he said.

Tickets for Locke’s May 18 keynote presentation are $20 and are available through meadowlarkfestival.ca. The 2018 Meadowlark Nature Festival runs May 17 to 21, featuring 78 tours led by naturalists, painters, biologists, writers, ecologists, Indigenous cultural leaders and more.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
Email me or message me on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Just Posted

VIDEO: Kelowna Rockets look to leave Kamloops Blazers in the smoke

The season home opener takes place Friday night

UBC Okanagan professor tasked with increasing diversity in science

Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology names new associate chair

West Kelowna begin flushing Lakeview Water System

Water service will not be interrupted but boil water notices will be in effect

Prospera Place gives credit union members a break on parking

Prospera Credit Union members will receive $2 off event parking

Growing Okanagan tech sector hailed in new report

Study shows sector employees 12, 474 workers and is worth $1.67 billion to regional economy

Pavement Patty slows drivers near Rutland Elementary

New survey reveals unsafe school zones during 2018 back-to-school week

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

Most Read