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

Man accused of smuggling drugs across Osoyoos border still waiting for arraignment

Armando Esparza-Ochoa was charged on Sept. 1 for importing/exporting a controlled substance

Couple reportedly staking out Summerland home

The man and woman were seen in a black Suzuki Tracker with a white back

It’s a wrap for Okanagan actress/director Madeline Wahl

Madeline Wahl who grew up in Naramata and now lives in Vancouver shot a film in Penticton recently

Sagmoen denied bail

Bail for Curtis Wayne Sagmoen was denied, to uproarious applause by rally supporters.

Warriors come out on top over Vees in first of home-and-home series

West Kelowna Warriors defeated the Penticton Vees, rematch tonight

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Black Panther claw, Power Rangers blade among 2018’s ‘worst toys,’ safety group says

The World Against Toys Causing Harm organized announced its 46th annual list in Boston on Tuesday

Active investigation into reported sexual assault at BC naval base

An Oct. 5 allegation is being investigated by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

UBC Okanagan offers its expertise to struggling parents

Pilot walk-in clinic open to the public

VIDEO: Carport fire sets Kelowna apartment building aflame

Kelowna firefighters were called to the 1900 block of Pandosy Street about 4 a.m.

Gear worth thousands stolen from Merritt search and rescue team

Thieves broke into a storage facility twice in two days to steal gear

Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated: academics

As B.C. voters decide on electoral reform, the Vote No side is cautioning that the system would allow extremists to be elected

What now for Calgary, Canada and Olympic Games after 2026 rejection?

Calgary, along with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., made Canada a player in the international sport community

Sex-misconduct survey excludes vulnerable military members: Survivors’ group

But It’s Just 700 says recent research has shown young military members and those on training are among those most at risk for sexual violence

Most Read