Taking Back the Wild with CPAWS-BC.

Photo: D'Arcy Hamilton.

Photo: D'Arcy Hamilton.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It's a profound quote stated by someone who clearly has not succumbed to the levels of procrastination that I have. I experienced this classic case of neglecting things until the last minute, as I sat face to face with my CPAWS-BC’s Take Back the Wild (TBTW) application, two hours before it was due, struggling to take that first step.

I had browsed the application a few weeks prior and was stumped on how to encapsulate my scattered ideas into coherent words. Then the usual happened; my mind began to sabotage my efforts as it raced through a million conflicting thoughts: “should I even apply?”, “I highly doubt I would get selected”, “what would I learn?” and “do I even have time to go?” Alas, prevailing against the sea of excuses, I decided to submit an application.

This was the best decision ever, because a few weeks later I had the privilege of taking part in an inspiring weekend at Take Back the Wild - Tofino Summit, March 2015. Here are the top 3 reasons I am glad I hit “send” - and why you too should take the first step in your journey of a thousand miles and apply for a TBTW happening near you! This project is hosting summits across BC – the next summit is happening this June in the Kootenay Region!

Get exploring

Photo: Brianne Miller.

Photo: Brianne Miller.

As goes the hashtag #westcoastbestcoast, the west coast has over 25,000 kilometres of coastline, many destinations to be discovered, adventures to be had and a wealth of places to be explored. The March summit happened in Tofino, but TBTW runs in various locations throughout B.C..

During my time there I had the opportunity to kayak. Some mornings people also went for runs and other not-so-morning people (myself included) sat outside on the porch, caffeine in hand.

Activities aside, we did a lot of exploring, a type of exploration much more meaningful than capturing the best Instagram shot. I’m talking about the opportunity to connect with locals and be immersed in the history and culture. Although I had visited Tofino a few years before on a surf trip, I am embarrassed to say that prior to TBTW, I hadn’t the slightest clue of some pivotal events in the Clayoquot Sound region: the 1993 logging protest and the conflicts over Meares Island. Hearing personal stories from inspiring leaders like Giselle Martin (an educator with Raincoast Education Society and a local story teller) and Dan Lewis (one of the founders of a local conservation organization, Clayoquot Action) provided more context to this beautiful location. I left TBTW feeling connected to the land and ever more appreciative.

Get learning

I attended this weekend with an open mind and left equipped with a toolkit full of ideas and strategies that every activist and conservationist would be jealous of. Kate (the force behind TBTW) did a fantastic job, recruiting speakers from various fields, each with their respective areas of expertise.

Celine Trojand from the Dogwood Initiative taught us to tell captivating stories that champion our causes (a la Barack Obama).

Carol Linnitt at Desmog Canada transported us into the world of journalism, and offered insights into how conservation and media could intertwine.

Skye Augustine (Associate Director at the Salish Sea Research Centre) challenged us to explore some dark areas in Canada’s history, and led some powerful and important conversations about First Nations governance.

We also had a self-care workshop led by Kluane, overlooking sunset, exactly what we needed to reflect and remind ourselves of the things we often neglect.

Finally, we got famous and graced the newsfeed of Tofino’s mayor @josieosborne’s Instagram, after she led us through a government relations workshop.

Be inspired and be connected

You know you are surrounded by like-minded people when everyone shows up wearing identical boots. While it was quite the task every morning to distinguish whose Blundstones boots were whose, great minds think alike and it was rejuvenating to be surrounded by people on the same wavelength.

Sometimes isolated in our individual projects, it’s easy to burn out or lose sight of the big picture. We tend to be more critical towards our own efforts and feel frustrated about not accomplishing enough. Learning about other incredible work happening province-wide renewed my inspiration.

It’s often difficult and slightly daunting to connect with people beyond our professional work. This is a reality of the world we live in. But Take Back the Wild is a rare opportunity to develop relations, both professional and personal.