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  • Writer's picture Lorna Visser

He's simply the best: VFE's McCrory is BC's Land Champion

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Biologist Wayne McCrory, at age 80 a life-long environmental activist and a director of the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology and the Valhalla Wilderness Society, has been awarded BC's prestigious Land Champion award by the Real Estate Foundation of BC.

With a track record of a lifetime, our board chair and director, biologist Wayne McCrory received the prestigious Land Champion Award from the Real Estate Foundation of BC. at a Gala Celebration event held in June of 2022. This recognition could not be more richly deserved!

Click below to view a video produced by the REFBC documenting Wayne's many gains for nature.

Wayne is pictured below at the Foundation's Snk'mip Marsh Sanctuary with wife and fellow activist, VFE director Lorna Visser (photo taken in the spring of 2022).

At age 80, Wayne McCrory is still going strong, a champion fighting to protect BC’s wild places. This award recognizes a lifetime dedicated to conservation and ecological protection. As Wayne says in an article published in The Tyee: "why retire when I have all this knowledge and the skills to help save the planet?" To read the full Tyee article, click here.

Saving wild places for grizzly bears

Perhaps one of Wayne’s best-known successes is the protection of the Khutzeemateen area for grizzly bears and other at-risk species. His work led directly to the creation of the Khutzemateen Grizzly Sanctuary (a wilderness valley north of Prince Rupert, BC). Wayne worked tirelessly for years in co-operation with Coast Tsimshian First Nations toward the creation of this protected area.

Many parks and protected areas, thanks to Wayne

Wayne McCrory didn't stop there. He went on to campaign to protect the Valhalla Provincial Park and Goat Range Provincial Park in the West Kootenay region, and large areas on the mid-coast in the area know as the Great Bear Rainforest including the Spirit Bear Conservancy area.

Wayne's campaign to protect the habitat of the white bear (spirit bear) in the territory of the Kitasoo XaisXais People based in Klemtu, BC, became a global cause celebre.

That effort flowered into one of the most successful ecological protection stories in this province: Klemtu now features a successful bear-viewing business that employs First Nations people as bear-viewing guides and cultural hosts at a luxurious lodge. The iconic, rare white bear of the area has been made BC’s official mammal. None of this would have happened without the early involvement of Wayne McCrory and his tenacity in pushing forward this effort for decades.

Making areas safer for people and better for bears

As a Registered Professional Biologist Wayne's resume is long and detailed. One of North America’s leading experts on preventing bear-human conflict, Wayne has worked with BC Parks and Parks Canada in almost every park area in BC plus with municipalities throughout the province… all toward making parks and hiking areas “safer for people and better for bears.” He worked extensively with municipal authorities in the Whistler area and the entire lower mainland regional district, developing models for better and more “bear-smart” urban development (better trail design, managing attractants, waste disposal) in intensely populated areas that also support urban bear populations.

Saving wild places including the Valhalla Mile, leaving a legacy

Most significant to us, of course, is Wayne's work to establish the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology. We're a charitable organization and land trust that acquires and stewards ecologically precious lands. Wayne helped bring about the creation of several nature sanctuaries in BC, notably the Snk’mip Marsh Sanctuary on Slocan Lake in the West Kootenay region and the Jaŝ Chinook Salmon Nature Sanctuary in the Chilcotin region of BC.

I work with Wayne as a co-director of this organization. In 2007/2008, Wayne and I led a campaign to add a mile-long stretch of pristine shoreline on Slocan Lake (dubbed the “Valhalla Mile”) to Valhalla Provincial Park. That effort involved a whirlwind campaign to raise $1.5 million from a small community in 10 short months. The acquisition was successfully made and Valhalla Provincial Park was expanded. This achievement is noteworthy for the protection of a natural lacustrine (lake-shore) ecosystem as very little undeveloped lake shoreline remains in southern British Columbia.

McCrory’s leadership has created a rich legacy for BC and the world and has inspired countless people to stand up for bears, wild places and endangered species. We are so proud to have him as our board chairperson and on-call professional biologist!

Written by Lorna Visser, VFE Director

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