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Last Minute Gift Ideas for Nature Lovers

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Nature Lovers

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Need gift ideas for yourself or the nature lover in your family? We have a few suggestions that are sure to fill you and your family with holiday cheer!

Snow shoes

We're in for a long winter. Turn it into a positive and explore nature by snow shoe!

Chutneys, Relishes, and Other Preserves

Great if they’re from your own garden, or purchased from a local grower. If you know someone with a real appreciation for good food, you can make them happy all year long with a membership in an organic cooperative that keeps them supplied with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Head Lamp

For night time hikes and cross-country skiing a headlamp can really come in handy! Try to find one that’s light-weight (2-5 ounces), waterproof and has an adjustable light. [caption id="attachment_23536" align="alignright" width="225"]Image of binoculars Photo of binoculars[/caption]


Binoculars are a great gift for your bird watching friends and loved ones! Be sure to get ones with a strap so that way they can carry them around in their bird watching activities.

Bird Feed

Birds depend on reliable food sources during the winter. Suggestions: Sunflower seeds are favored by chickadees, evening grosbeaks, tufted titmice, blue jays, finches and cardinals, among others. White proso millet is preferred by ground-feeding birds such as sparrows. Corn, on or off the cob, are enjoyed by medium sized birds including the mourning dove and common grackle.

Bird Feeder Accessories

Spruce up the feeder! Consider attaching a convenience perch – simply a small tree branch or stick – to the side of the feeder to reduce congestion and provide a place for birds to crack open seeds.

Bicycle Accessories

Anything bicycle-related makes a good gift, such as a new bike helmet or a gift certificate for a comprehensive bicycle tune-up. A pass for a guided hike or wilderness trip is just the thing to get someone active outdoors! [caption id="attachment_23542" align="alignleft" width="245"]bike-926063_1920 Grad some great bicycle accessories![/caption]

Compost Bin

If you’re a gardener, composting is an ideal way to turn non-animal kitchen and yard waste into free fertilizer. If you’re not a gardener, composting is still a practical way to reduce the volume of solid waste that your household produces. Lee Valley Tools has a cool indoor stainless steel compost bin; it’s attractive enough to put on your countertop, and it comes with biodegradable compost bags.

Singing Bird Clock

Keep track of the time and learn common bird calls with a singing bird clock. Most models allow you to turn the sound off at night, and during the day, the top of each hour is hailed by a house finch, mourning dove, blue jay, house wren, tufted titmouse, or many other species.

Tree Faces

These amusing outdoor décor items add whimsy to your backyard or garden. It’s also fun to see a person’s reaction when they finally notice your tree has a face! Caution: Get the faces with the wrap-around attachments; don’t nail to the tree!

The Bedside Book of Birds, by Graeme Gibson

For armchair naturalists who appreciate words as much as birds. Poetry, prose, myths and beautiful illustrations make this book a true joy to read. Available in virtually any book store, including Chapters.

The Birder's Conservation Handbook: 100 North American Birds at Risk by Jeff Wells

Finally! An easy-to-read book written specifically to help birders and researchers understand the status of North America's most threatened birds, and what can be done to protect them. The Birder's Conservation Handbook is beautifully illustrated and a must-read for anyone who loves birds. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="134"] The Birder's Conservation Handbook[/caption]

Waterproof Notebooks

Don’t let wet weather keep you indoors! Bird listing and sketching is still possible with a waterproof notebook, and we especially like the ones that fit inside a pocket.

Breeding Bird Atlas

For the serious birder in your family, a bird atlas is a survey of the nesting areas of birds in a particular region. You can even contribute to a bird atlas by participating in local bird counts.

Programmable Thermostat or Water-saving Showerhead

Conserving energy means preserving wildlife. There are plenty of ways to reduce energy consumption around the home.

Make a donation in someone’s name to Nature Canada or the conservation organization of your choice

There are many worthy causes that work on the local, regional and national level to protect nature. Give you and your loved ones peace of mind this year.
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The Lovely Ladybug: Natural Pest Controllers for Your Garden

The Lovely Ladybug: Natural Pest Controllers for Your Garden

[caption id="attachment_33210" align="alignleft" width="150"]becka-tulips Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy. Has a Ladybug ever landed on you? You’re in luck because many consider this occurrence a sign of good fortune. As long as you allowed the Ladybug to rest as long as it wished, that is, you didn’t brush it off, the brilliantly coloured beetle will take away your troubles when it finally flies away. ladybug-on-fingerWhether this superstition holds true, the Ladybug is nevertheless a fascinating insect. Also known as a Ladybird or Lady Beetle, most of the Ladybugs we are familiar with belong to the beetle family Coccinellidae. The classic recognizable type stands out on greenery with its distinctive bright red-orange body and black spots. However, Ladybug species vary in colour, with a range of reds, yellows, oranges and browns and some do not have spots at all. There are around 6,000 known species of Lady Beetles worldwide. Of these, more than 150 occur in Canada. Ranging in length from a mere 1 millimetre to over 10 millimetres, females are typically larger than males. The two-spotted (Adalia bipunctata) and thirteen-spotted (Hippodamia tredecimpunctata) species are two examples of common ladybirds found in Canada. There is also the pervasive multicoloured Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), a non-native species introduced to North America in the 1970s by the U.S. government as a biological pest control agent. First sighted in southern Ontario in 1992, it can be easily distinguished from other Lady Beetles by the M-shaped pattern immediately behind its head. If you’ve ever been in contact with a Ladybug, you may have noticed a teeny bit of yellow excretion on your skin afterwards. This is a foul-smelling fluid that Ladybugs release from their leg joints as a defence mechanism—they are warning predators that they won’t taste good! A 2015 study at the University of Exeter found that ladybugs also use colour as a signal to potential predators—those with more brightly coloured bodies were found to have higher levels of the toxin. Thus the more conspicuous the Ladybug, the less likely it is to be attacked by birds. ladybug-on-green-leafThankfully, the Ladybug’s toxin, though sometimes annoying as an odour, is harmless to humans. In fact, Ladybugs are rather an ideal insect for many of us. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and a traditional sign of good luck, they do not transmit disease and act as natural pest controllers. They are a boon to gardens and green spaces, as they enthusiastically feed on more than 50 species of aphids—a single Ladybug can consume up to 500 aphids in one day! Lady Beetles will actually lay hundreds of eggs right in aphid colonies. Once the larvae hatch, they immediately start to feast on the nearby nourishment. Besides aphids, Ladybugs may also consume flower nectar, scale insects, small caterpillars, moth eggs, mealybugs, mites, mould, and in some cases … each other. If usual prey sources become scarce, some species of Ladybugs, both adults and larvae, have exhibited an inclination toward cannibalism, consuming eggs, pupae, and other larvae. On that rather interesting note, how can you encourage these natural pest controllers into your backyard? Ladybugs are known to enjoy the pollen flavour of flowering plants like marigolds, angelica, sunflowers, cosmos, roses, and geraniums, as well as herbs like chives, caraway, fennel, and dill. Favoured vegetable plants include cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. Ladybugs also need water, so leave out shallow bowls (and change often to prevent mosquitos). Acknowledgements: Encyclopedia of Insects, Health Canada, Michigan State University Diagnostic ServicesMother Nature Network, Penn State Department of EntomologyUniversity of Exeter, University of Florida Entomology and Nematology, Virtual Museum of Canada

Monarch playgrounds—create a butterfly garden!

Monarch playgrounds—create a butterfly garden!

Monarch Butterflies are a classic sign of summer but it is becoming increasingly rare to catch sight of them. In the following post, learn how you can create a Monarch-friendly garden to attract this beautiful butterfly to your own backyard!

Why it’s important

Over the last 20 years, the Monarch population has seen an 80% drop. As of the 2016 assessment by the Committee on the Status Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the Monarch Butterfly is designated “threatened,” and its status under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) is “Special Concern."  While severe storms are a factor in this decline, one of the main problems is the near eradication of milkweed due to overuse of pesticides. Milkweed is crucial to this butterfly—they depend on it during their egg and larval stages for food and protection. The decline of milkweed wreaks havoc on Monarch reproduction, but there is something you can do! Grow your own Monarch-friendly garden and give a home to this majestic butterfly.

How to create a Monarch-friendly garden

Plant milkweed Milkweed comes in many varieties that are indigenous to Canada. Opt for local plants when you can, they are already adapted to the climate and won’t require watering or fertilizer. Local milkweed varieties include:
  • Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) | blooms June to early August
  • Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) | blooms June to September
  • Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) | blooms June to September
  • Poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) | blooms June to early August
Plant nectar flowers Adult Monarchs require nectar as a food source. [caption id="attachment_31842" align="alignnone" width="600"]image of wild bergamot Wild bergamot[/caption] Local varieties of wildflowers are an excellent pick, and make sure to include colour! Butterflies generally like yellow, pink and orange flowers. Some of the wildflowers Monarchs prefer include:
  • Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) | blooms May to September
  • New England aster (Aster novae-angliae) | blooms August to October
  • Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) | blooms July to August
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) | blooms June to September
  • Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) | blooms June to August
  • Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) | blooms July to September
A place for rest and water Try to include flat stones where butterflies can perch, spread their wings and bask in the sun. Additionally, damp spots or puddles in the soil allow butterflies to drink and replenish the minerals they need. For more information about Monarchs and the plants to use in your garden, consult The Monarch Guide—our pamphlet with all the information you need.

What else you can do

Sign our petition to become a voice for Monarch Butterflies! Join Monarch conservation initiatives and speak out against the use of milkweed killing pesticides. You can also help through supporting Nature Canada’s many conservation initiatives. Already have a Monarch-friendly garden? Let us know what plants you like to use in the comments and send us your pictures on Twitter and Facebook!

Small Wonders

Small Wonders

[caption id="attachment_27818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Leslie Abram Leslie Abram, Guest Blogger[/caption]

Look closely- You never know what you might find right in your own backyard!

This blog was written by guest blogger, Leslie Abram. You can go on a mini safari right outside your door! Take a look at the little things, like the tiny worlds inside water drops after the rain. Go looking for little creatures. You will have to look very carefully, as many of them, like this grey tree frog, blend right into their environments due to their amazing camouflage. [caption id="attachment_27824" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of a Grey Tree Frog Grey Tree Frog by Leslie Abram[/caption] Ambush bugs lurk on flowers they know other insects will visit, like coneflowers, yarrow, and goldenrod. They stay so still that their prey don’t even know they are there until they are in the ambush bug’s claws. Ambush bugs can catch and kill much larger prey, such as honeybees. [caption id="attachment_27820" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of an ambush bug and bee Ambush Bug waiting to grab a Honeybee by Leslie Abram[/caption] Assassin bugs also stay perfectly still and wait for their prey to come to them. This Assassin Bug Nymph has sticky front legs, which it uses to catch and hold its next meal. [caption id="attachment_27819" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of a Assassin Bug Nymph Assassin Bug Nymph by Leslie Abram[/caption] Shiny bronze jewels? Actually, these are Stink Bug eggs! A close look through some asparagus leaves turned up these little gems. [caption id="attachment_27823" align="aligncenter" width="698"]Image of Stink Bug Eggs Stink Bug Eggs by Leslie Abram[/caption] Who’s watching you when you don’t even know it? Take a slow walk through your yard. Look under leaves, observe what’s going on around flowers. Sit still for a few minutes and watch the dramas of nature unfold before you. [caption id="attachment_27821" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of a Jumping Spider Jumping Spider by Leslie Abram[/caption] Small wonders are out there waiting to be discovered!
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Attract Pollinators to Your Garden!

Attract Pollinators to Your Garden!

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption] Wow! Look at that little…hummingbird...fuzzy butterfly…bee? You’re close! Try Hummingbird Moth! Once you’re done scratching your head in disbelief at this bizarre, seeming-cross between a bird and an insect, you’ll want to know exactly what can be done to keep these fascinating creatures around your backyard landscape! Scientifically, the Hummingbird (Clearwing) Moth is known as Hemaris thysbe and it belongs to the sphinx family of moths. It is often referred to as “Hawk Moth” or “Hummingbird Hawk-Moth.” The Hummingbird Moth begins as a larvae/caterpillar, munching on the leaves of its favourite plants: honeysuckle, snowberry, hawthorns, cherries and plums. Once it blooms into a fabulous, winged creature, its primary food source is flower nectar – which it sucks from its long proboscis while still suspended in the air, fluttering its wings at a rapid rate.

Top plants that attract these pollinators include:

[custom_table style="2"]
Bee Balm Image of Bee Balm

Red clover



Image of Lilacs


Image of Phlox


Image of cranberry flowers


Image of a Vetch plant
[/custom_table] To optimize your chances of catching a glimpse of this moth, plant a wide variety of these flowers! In addition, you can help Hummingbird Moth caterpillars construct their cocoons by leaving “leaf litter” (plant residue) around your garden terrain. And please refrain from using chemical pesticides – let’s keep the nectar sweet for our pollinators! If you are looking to attract all kinds of pollinators, keep in mind that different types (bees, butterflies, birds, etc.) have varying foraging techniques, which corresponds with their flower preferences.

When preparing your garden, consider the following:

  • Plant a balanced mixture of open-petal flowers and enclosed-petal flowers – some pollinators can go deep inside to gather pollen and nectar, while others – like the Hummingbird Moth – “hover” over the flower.
  • Whenever you can, choose plant varieties that are native to your region.
  • Ensure that your flowers bloom during various seasons, so that pollinators will have flowers to visit from spring to fall. If you only plant early-blooming flowers, for instance, pollinator food-stores may be cut short in the fall, when they are preparing for winter hibernation.
  • Include other features in your garden such as bird houses, bird baths or a shallow, insect-friendly dish that holds water. You should also put rocks and sticks inside these baths or water holder so that they have landing spots when they come in for a drink.
  • If you are feeling particularly “experimental,” learn how to construct a home-made beehive using very basic household materials! Stay tuned for our next blog on how to build this beehive!
Let us know about the pollinators you have in your garden this spring through sending a message on Facebook or tweeting at us @NatureCanada!
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It’s Not a Baby Hummingbird – But What is It?

It’s Not a Baby Hummingbird – But What is It?

[caption id="attachment_25028" align="alignleft" width="150"]Leslie Abram Guest Blogger Leslie Abram, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Leslie Abram.

Who Are You?

I admit it. The first time a Hummingbird Moth buzzed past me in my garden, I thought it was a baby hummingbird.  I watched closely, trying to follow this speedy little creature as it hovered and zoomed between flowers.  I noticed its long curved proboscis curling in and out as it collected nectar from our flowers, and I realized it must be some kind of butterfly or moth.

Meet the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Sure enough, these little moths are considered hummingbird mimics, and act in many of the same ways that hummingbirds do. However, their life cycle is completely different, as they are moths, not birds! In the fall, the caterpillars burrow into the soil to spend the winter as a brown, hard shelled pupae. As spring days grow warmer, they emerge as adult moths. The moths lay their little green eggs on the underside of leaves. These eggs will hatch in about a week, and take about four weeks to become full sized caterpillars. In Canada, the moths usually only go through one breeding cycle per year.

Invite Hummingbird Moths to Your Garden

It’s easy! Two very hardy, long-blooming and beautiful flowers are absolute favourites of these beauties. Plant some Red Bee Balm and Mexican Hyssop, sit back, and enjoy the show![one_third] [caption id="attachment_26502" align="aligncenter" width="299"]Image of a Hummingbird Moth Curly proboscis used to collect nectar[/caption] [/one_third] [one_third] [caption id="attachment_26503" align="aligncenter" width="233"]Image of a Hummingbird Moth Enjoying some Mexican Hyssop[/caption] [/one_third] [one_third_last] [caption id="attachment_26504" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Image of a Hummingbird Moth Hummingbird Moths love Bee Balm[/caption] [/one_third_last]
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Of Heart and Home:  Nature’s Little Jewel of Solitude

Of Heart and Home: Nature’s Little Jewel of Solitude

[caption id="attachment_16434" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jodi Joy Jodi Joy Director of Development and Communications[/caption] [dropcap style="default"]J[/dropcap]oyce Nordwall chuckled when I asked her about her love of Canadian nature.  “I came to Canada from Scotland for a year and have stayed 61years. I fell in love with Canada, especially the West Coast, for its wild and raw nature”.  She credits her mom, a Queen’s Scout, with inspiring this love of the outdoors.  As a young child Joyce was always right out in nature, hiking and camping in the Lowlands, moorlands, the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland with her family. Early in her Canadian career, Joyce purchased 5 acres on Galiano Island, one of the beautiful Southern Gulf Islands.  It is a special place where she enjoyed relaxing and camping in a tent. It was there that she became engaged to her husband, Johan, who built a two storey log cabin, using her red cedar trees. Fittingly, her husband of 45 years is now buried in the tranquil cemetery there, overlooking Active Pass. Her cabin looks over Trincomali Channel surrounded by Arbutus and Red Cedar trees, as part of the spectacular scenery and is visited by friends and family regularly. [caption id="attachment_26113" align="alignright" width="132"]image of Joyce Nordwall Joyce Nordwall, Nature Canada member[/caption] It was Johan, a Swedish Canadian, who purchased their other nature sanctuary - 5 acres of forested land, on Victoria’s Old West Saanich Road. Together they cleared and felled the red cedar trees, dug out peat from a slough to make a lake, designed and built their three-storey home out of the trees from their land.  They called their home, “Varmland “after the Province in Sweden, where Johan was born. They wanted their home and garden to be a sanctuary for family, friends and wildlife, so devoted much time to nurture and protect the land, sculpting it into a beautiful  acreage with a loving home, surrounded by daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, wisteria and clematis with  the lake a home to wood ducks, mallards and many diving ducks. A fenced garden was made to keep the deer from enjoying her roses, but allowing them and other wildlife to roam…even once a cougar!  Her veranda is gated and graced with lilies, roses, delphiniums, gladiolas and hanging baskets. The birds flock to the feeders and the tiny tree frogs chirp their song….rivet, rivet. Now, Joyce runs a Bed & Breakfast business, as well as serving lunches and teas.  She enjoys sharing this little jewel of nature with guests, friends and other nature lovers like herself.  When her grandchildren come to visit, she enjoys teaching them about nature too.   “Many visitors enjoy watching the flickers, hummingbirds and woodpeckers during breakfast.  Osprey and kingfishers are frequent visitors to the lake as well” reports Joyce. [caption id="attachment_26114" align="alignleft" width="446"]a picture of bed & breakfast and landscape At Varmland Bed & Breakfast[/caption] Joyce has been a devoted member of Nature Canada for nearly 20 years.  She believes “it is important to support national groups like Nature Canada, which are also helping to protect and preserve special places from development, especially oil and gas.” Joyce wishes she could do more to help support our important work, but as a Guardian of Nature monthly donor, I remind her she’s been helping each and every month and that amount really adds up over time. So glad she decided to stay on in Canada!   Her special place is “just a joy” to behold.  Perhaps you may also look forward to visiting this nature jewel, as I do, and meeting Joyce to thank her for caring about nature!    

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The Monarch Butterfly Needs Your Help!

The Monarch Butterfly Needs Your Help!

The latest research on Monarch Butterflies shows a sharp decline in its numbers since monitoring began nearly 20 years ago. Part of the problem lies in the parallel decline of milkweed – a plant that Monarchs rely on for food and protection. Milkweed, often eradicated through the use of pesticides, is vital to the Monarch’s ability to survive and reproduce. What can you do to help? It’s easier than you think! Plant milkweed in your garden, along your driveway or at the cottage this spring and give the Monarch a much-needed helping hand. Need help getting started? Check out our guide to planting milkweed and get ready to welcome home the Monarch! “Weeds are just a plant out of place” – Ed Lawrence on the CBC’s Ontario Today Listen to Ontario Today’s podcast special on Monarch Butterflies and milkweed gardens.

Give Nature a Break!

Give Nature a Break!

Sometimes, nature needs to be left alone in order to thrive and do its job well.
That's the message Carla Sbert, Nature Canada's manager of conservation programs and legal issues, shared with CBC Radio One's Ottawa morning show listeners on behalf of everyone who feels nature deserves a break.
Inspired by her daily commute to our office in downtown Ottawa, Carla asked the National Capital Commission to help Monarch butterflies by leaving fields standing through the summer. Here's Carla's story, which was read by the show's co-host, Stu:
I have been cycling to work from Gatineau to downtown Ottawa through Leamy Lake Park  for five years. Every summer I am pained to see beautiful fields along the bike path razed down in the middle of summer. This year that happened last week and early this week, even before Canada goldenrods started blooming and just a couple of weeks after the first milkweed did. This is so unnecessary. These fields are important for declining pollinators and birds, like bees, swallows and other insect eating birds and bats. They are important for monarch butterflies, too. I hope you’ve heard about the latest research showing the importance of milkweed for monarch butterflies and the role of milkweed loss in their decline. Please give nature a break and leave fields standing through the summer.
If there's a natural space where you live that needs a break, share your story with us. Tell us what inspired you to protect it and what can be done to ensure it gets a break in the comments section below. And don't forget to advocate for this natural space just like Carla did!

Connect with Nature: Nature, Food and Play

Connect with Nature: Nature, Food and Play

Photo by John Corvera (via Flickr)
It feels like we’ve hit mid-summer this week in Ottawa, but we’re really only a few weeks into the growing season. In spite of that, there’s a harvest bounty right around the corner – berries! My favourite way to enjoy berries is sun-warmed and picked fresh off the vine, but even if you’re just having a strawberry social in the backyard food is a great way to connect with the natural world all around us. If you’re going out to pick your own berries, it’s a wonderful opportunity to just enjoy the outdoors. You can also spend some quality family time together by taking multiple generations of family members on the trip; I usually go out with my mom and grandmother to a local strawberry patch. While you’re enjoying the juicy goodness of your berries, remember all of nature’s effort that went in to producing them – the seeds, soil, rain, pollinators and sun that all came together to create the fruit you're eating. To experience the growing process yourself, why not plant a bean tent in your backyard? They make wonderful, edible summer hideaways!
Photo by Zero-X (via Flickr)
  1. Start by clearing space for your tent, raking the soil smooth and marking out a circle the diameter you want for your tent.
  2. Insert poles into the earth around the circle, about a foot apart, and tie them together at the top. This makes the frame for your tent.
  3. Tie strings in horizontal lines around the poles to act as a trellis that will help guide the plants. Remember to leave a space between two poles for a doorway!
  4. Plant your bean seeds around the outside of your tent circle according to the instructions on the package. Water them well as they start to sprout.
  5. Help your young bean plants find the tent frame and trellis strings and begin to guide them upwards. If there are any gaps, you can replant your bean seeds every couple of weeks which will also ensure that you have a constant supply of beans all summer.
  6. Enjoy your shady, natural tent!
Having a closer connection to our food sources leads to healthier lifestyles, helps us learn about the world around us and can be a lot of fun. Get outside and play with your food this month!

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Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.