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West Vancouver couple put up $1 million for wilderness protection

Money will save habitat from development across British Columbia
Al Collings and Hilary Stevens_Photo by NCC_3 web
West Vancouver residents Al Collings and Hilary Stevens have donated $1-million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

This story has been amended since it was first posted.

A West Vancouver couple is putting their money where their hearts are – in the wilderness.

Al Collings and Hilary Stevens have donated $1 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The money will go to establish the Collings Stevens Conservation Acceleration Fund, which will be used to purchase ecologically important private lands across the province and protect them before someone else swoops in and develops the land.

Through the help of donors, the Nature Conservancy has been purchasing wildlife habitat corridors and threatened ecosystems in some of British Columbia’s most heavily developed regions, including the Salish Sea, the South Okanagan and the Rocky Mountain Trench, the NCC says. Canada has a goal of conserving 30 per cent of its lands and waters by 2030. But, according to the non-profit, only about two cents of every dollar donated in Canada goes to environmental organizations. That’s partly what motivated Collings and Stevens.

“We were surprised to learn that so little charitable giving in Canada is directed to environmental and conservation causes, especially in light of current conversations regarding climate change and the real need for more to be done sooner,” Collings said in a release. “We see real value in providing a significant stream of steady funding that can be used as a catalyst for accelerating NCC’s ambitious conservation goals.”

Although they hope to see their money put to good use keeping carbon in the trees where it belongs, the couple have a broader wish to see others inspired to chip in in a similar way.

“Our intention is that our donation encourages other individuals or families to give flexible funding to protect the environment," Collings said. “We hope this becomes a prototype for giving that other donors will be motivated to replicate.”

Stevens added she hopes the gesture will show younger generations the importance of giving back.

Nancy Newhouse, B.C. regional vice-president for the conservancy, warmly welcomed the contribution.

“By establishing this flexible fund for land conservation, they are demonstrating trust and leadership. Their generosity and flexibility will allow us to be nimble, strategic and confident and act quickly to deliver tangible conservation outcomes. Ultimately this will benefit people and nature in British Columbia, Canada, and the world for future generations.”

Editor's note: This story has been amended to correct an error. Collings and Stevens are from West Vancouver, not North Vancouver, as was originally reported.