7 community engagement initiatives connecting people to biodiversity

7 community engagement initiatives connecting people to biodiversity

From the Making Biodiversity Count Series

7 community engagement initiatives connecting people to biodiversity

From the Making Biodiversity Count Series

By Jaime Clifton-Ross, Communications and Outreach Curator, National Environmental Treasure

We protect what we love. That’s why community engagement initiatives are a great way to help increase understanding and support for biodiversity. Here are 7 great initiatives connecting communities to biodiversity and facilitating conservation and regeneration efforts.

1. Butterflyway Project and Bee-bnb Programs

Hosted by the David Suzuki Foundation, the Butterflyway Project is a volunteer-led initiative encouraging communities to make a difference by growing pollinator-friendly gardens. As climate change, habitat destruction and pesticides are significantly impacting wild pollinators, this program aims to provide food and habitat for bees and butterflies. With over 400 participating communities across the country, hundreds of volunteers have planted pollinator patches of native wildflowers “in yards, gardens, schools and parks”.

The David Suzuki Foundation also facilitates the Bee-bnb program encouraging individuals to host wild bees and other important critters in their backyards. Hosts and superhosts can sign-up and pledge to provide the following wildlife amenities: 1) native plants; 2) continuous blooms; 3) water; 4) nesting places; and 5) organic (no pesticides). The foundation will also provide resources and guidance.

Monarch butterfly on pink milkweed
Photo by Kendra Koski / 500px from Getty Images/Canva

2. Darken the Mountains

Darken the Mountains’ tagline says it all: “Bringing wellness and diversity to the mountains”. Founded by Rebeccah Kellman, this initiative organizes nature-based events and also runs an awesome Instagram account aimed at increasing representation, breaking common stereotypes and fostering inclusivity in outdoor spaces. Working with BIPOC communities and allies, their goal is to ensure a variety of outdoor activities are safe and inviting for underrepresented communities.

3. City Nature Challenge

The City Nature Challenge is an annual 4-day international bioblitz event encouraging individuals and communities “to find and document wildlife in their cities”. As a friendly competition, cities strive to upload as many observations and species as possible while engaging their residents. The 2021 event focused on the healing power of nature and set some pretty impressive observation records. A whopping 52,000+ community scientists uploaded 1,200,000+ observations and identified 45,000+ species. In Canada, participating cities and regions included Calgary, Cambridge, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Fredericton, Kamloops, and more.

Taking picture of mushrooms in forest
Photo by AlexLukin from Getty Images/Canva

4. Indigenous Women Outdoors

Indigenous Women Outdoors (IWO) is an organization supporting Indigenous women and non-binary folx living on unceded Sḵwx̱ú7mesh, Líl̓wat, səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm territories. To increase representation and to help remove barriers in the outdoor industry, they help Indigenous women “connect with the land and each other by creating safe opportunities that eliminate barriers to getting into nature”. They also provide guidance and mentorship to participants as they work towards completing training and certifications. Originally founded as a hiking project to “get more Squamish Nation women out on the land” by Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25, Myia Antone, IWO’s goal is to empower Indigenous women as leaders and role models as they reoccupy their traditional land.

5. Earth Rangers

Earth Rangers is a conservation organization “on a mission to create a generation of conservationists”. They are dedicated to educating children about biodiversity, fostering sustainable behaviours and directly involving them in the protection of habitats and wildlife. Through school outreach, a membership program, wildlife adoption, an animal-saving app and more, this fantastic non-profit empowers children to take action. And in the face of so much doom and gloom, they even created an eco-anxiety guide to help parents support their children.

Two children walking on boardwalk in nature
Photo by stockstudioX from Getty Images Signature/Canva

6. In the Zone

In the Zone is a Carolinian Canada and WWF-Canada initiative helping residents in southern Ontario and Quebec grow wildlife-friendly gardens. Participants are encouraged to return native plant species to landscapes to provide food, habitat and nesting sites for a variety of wildlife including pollinators, birds, amphibians and more. From wetlands, woodlands and wildflowers, they offer guides for different types of gardens depending on your vision and what you have to work with. They also provide free resources, ecological monitoring and community connections.

7. Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up

The Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up is an Ocean Wise and WWF-Canada conservation program that supports communities tackling trash and debris wherever land meets water. Participants can lead or join a cleanup in their neighbourhood and support scientific research through data collection. This program offers guidance on how to plan a successful and safe cleanup along with a step-by-step guide and checklist on “the anatomy of a shoreline cleanup”. They also provide free educational resources for kids about the impact of plastic trash and how to protect our oceans and waterways.

Biodiversity Action Agenda Item 2.5

Build and connect on the success of projects such as the National Geographic Ark project, Serengeti of the Arctic, Students on Ice, Earth Rangers and Canadian Wildlife Federation Species at Risk project.

About Making Biodiversity Count Series

In February 2019, the Biodiversity Action Agenda, authored by Women for Nature was published. It asks all Canadians to take immediate action on biodiversity loss as there is no recovery from extinction. As a 24-point action agenda, it offers a combination of actions, including low-hanging fruit as well as long-term systemic changes. Follow our blog for regular posts exploring each action.