Nature Canada

Celebrating Charles Labatiuk’s Life and Legacy

Chuck Priestly, Natalia Labatiuk and Bill Labatiuk at Beaverhill Lake IBA

In celebration of National Philanthropy day in Canada, Jodi Joy, Nature Canada’s manager of legacy giving, shares a story about the legacy of the late Charles Labatiuk.“I still remember the day of his birth,” said Natalia Labatiuk, “Today would have been his 55th birthday.”

Instead his parents, Bill and Natalia, and myself celebrated Charles’ life and spirit by visiting Beaverhill Lake Important Bird Area (IBA), a place that was so dear and close to his heart.

On our drive to Beaverhill Lake Important Bird Area, located just outside Tofield, Alberta, I laid eyes on the prairie landscape for the first time, being a Northern Ontario girl myself.  I saw widespread rolling hills and grasslands galore.

Bill, Natalia and I met Chuck Priestly, the Executive Director of the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, at the gate.  We passed by cattle that share this space with shorebirds that migrate through and stop over at the site.  Chuck then toured us through the IBA visiting the “Herrier Highway” where we viewed some juvenile harriers in flight.

Walking past the fence, he remarked on the importance of the fence to ensure protection from the local cow herd that was trampling on nest sites and knocking over nestboxes, thus negatively impacting the success of the nesting birds, and thanked Nature Canada for the funds to erect it.  And we passed by the 200 or so songbird boxes that are maintained and repaired each year.  Next we visited the bird banding station where he updated us on recent monitoring trends.  The lab is over twenty years old and this year’s Labatiuk Endowment funds helped repair the roof and upgrade facilities and cabins.

Sitting over lunch we reminisced about Charles’ many memories and accolades.  His legacy continues on in the great work being achieved by the volunteers at Beaverhill Bird Observatory.  We wondered about Jeff Howard, the first recipient of the scholarship in Charles’ name and Annie Buckton, the 9 year old whose exceptional initiative and volunteerism was also recently awarded, and pondered how this recognition will nurture their own dreams. Bill and Natalia reflected that Charles would be happiest to know that this special space and the birds that depend on it will be protected for others to enjoy for years to come.

What a fitting birthday tribute to Charles. We all hope to be remembered so fondly.

Through a generous legacy gift, the Charles Labatiuk Nature Endowment Fund supports bird conservation work at Beaverhill Lake Important Bird Area, provides an entrance scholarship for a young naturalist for their post-secondary studies in the natural sciences and rewards volunteer excellence.

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