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What Naturalists Do

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Volunteer naturalists across Canada annually contribute over 608,000 hours to running nature conservation and education activities, and providing service to their local naturalist clubs. Naturalists in the Canadian Nature Network help manage local natural areas and protect species at risk. Members of the CNN own directly over 152 properties comprising more than 14,288 hectares of protected habitat. CNN members are also involved in a wide range of stewardship activities to enhance and protect biodiversity in many natural spaces, from school yards to national parks. Here are just some of the ways they contribute to their community.

Naturalists help establish policies that conserve nature and protect wildlife

The impact of naturalists in the Canadian Nature Network on policies that protect nature at all levels is substantial. Nature group members sit on many important boards and review panels across the country, including species at risk recovery teams, and environmental advisory panels. 67 percent of local groups are involved in municipal planning processes such as letter writing or delegating before various councils.

Nature club members have helped push the adoption of legislation to protect species and habitat at all levels of government.

Naturalists add to our body of knowledge about the natural world

As well as protecting nature, naturalists contribute substantially to the body of knowledge and science that informs decisions about managing and protecting resources. Take birds for example.

For naturalists, birds are by far the best known, studied and admired class of organisms on the planet.

The Canadian Nature Network members contribute significantly to the science behind decision-making through a wide range of “citizen science” projects, many of which involve birds. For example, 65 percent of nature groups participate in or organize Christmas bird counts and 46 percent are involved in breeding bird surveys.

At present, provincial affiliates lead, and local nature club members provide the bulk of the workforce for Breeding Bird Atlas projects in Ontario, the Maritimes, Alberta and British Columbia. These projects can involve multi-million dollar investments. They provide the best examples of multi-stakeholder partnerships achieving results that would otherwise not be possible. These projects engage the naturalist community and provide the best scientific data available anywhere. Their value is unsurpassed.

The CNN’s interest in nature goes well beyond birds to embrace a wide range of organisms and habitat types, from mushrooms and rare trees to geology and astronomy. About 50 groups participate in the national program called FrogWatch. They also contribute directly to environmental impact studies. Most environmental consultants contact naturalist groups directly when producing an impact study because “they are the people who know.”

Naturalists help others connect with nature

When it comes to education, nature groups reach out to the public through their monthly speakers’ meetings, nature walks and various publications. Beyond the wide variety of newsletters and bulletins, 33 groups within the network publish books on subjects ranging from local natural history to provincial citizen’s guides to municipal planning processes to bird atlases.

Many members of the CNN engage in educational activities with youth. They deliver young naturalist programs that connect kids to nature, provide teachers with valued expertise in the classroom and offer guided walks for students. Naturalists are connected to many universities. Faculty and staff play leadership roles in many groups and provide expertise, advice and speakers.

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