Environmental Champion Colleen McCrory of Canada Dies


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

NEW DENVER, British Columbia, Canada, July 3, 2007 (ENS) - Dedicated environmental activist Colleen McCrory, honored internationally for her campaigns to save Canada's forests from logging, died Sunday from brain cancer in the small southeastern British Columbia town where she was born.

Her sudden illness and death at age 57 was a shock to her family, friends and colleagues.

'The whole environmental community is sad today,' said friend and colleague Sue Fox Gregory, communications director with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

McCrory died at her home in New Denver where she founded the Valhalla Wilderness Society in 1975 and ran it for more than three decades.

After eight years of intensive lobbying and campaigning, Valhalla Wilderness Society succeeded in the establishment of the 49,600 hectare Valhalla Provincial Park in 1983. The park lies across Slocan Lake from New Denver and encompasses most of the Valhalla Range of the Selkirk Mountains.

For her achievement, McCrory was honored with the 1983 Governor-General's Conservation Award.

Despite being deeply in debt and exhausted by this effort, McCrory continued her fight to save British Columbia's imperiled forests by co-founding the National Save South Moresby Committee.

South Moresby Island, known as Gwaii Haanas in the Haida language, is part of the Queen Charlotte Islands, also called Haida Gwaii, located 130 kilometers (80 miles) west of the rugged northern coast of British Columbia. Known as the Canadian Galapagos due to the large number of endemic species, these islands are the ancestral home of the Haida nation,

McCrory spent the next several years lobbying to save the forests of these islands although a local pro-logging newspaper led a smear campaign against her and the South Moresby supporters.

Her life was threatened repeatedly, and a two year boycott of her New Denver clothing store finally forced her to sell it.

After years of struggle by the native people and environmental groups, including McCrory, the region was protected from further logging in July 1987 when the British Columbia and Canadian governments designated it a National Park Reserve.

In 1988, she was honored with the IUCN-World Conservation Union's Fred M. Packard International Parks Merit Award.

After these victories, McCrory expanded her work across Canada.

As coordinator of the British Columbia Environmental Network from 1989 to 1990, she organized environmental activists working on issues such as mining in provincial parks and forestry.

In 1990 she travelled across the country documenting the pulp and paper industry's plans to double the amount of logging taking place in Canadian forests.

In 1990, McCrory received the Equinox Citation Award for her achievements in saving Canada's environment.

In 1991, after a cross-Canada trip documenting the crisis in Canada's northern boreal forests, McCrory founded Canada's Future Forest Alliance, a broad network of environmental, native, labor and community groups and individuals interested in reform of forest policy and practice.

'Canada is the Brazil of the North,' she would frequently say. 'Brazil is losing one acre of forest every nine seconds. We're losing one acre every twelve seconds.'

After 1992, McCrory took her Brazil of the North campaign to Brazil, Japan and other countries. In the process, she helped to form the Taiga Rescue Network, a coordinated international effort to protect the boreal forests of the world.

In 1992, McCrory was recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, by placement on the Global 500 Roll of Honor.

That year she also won the prestigious $60,000 Goldman Environmental Prize given to outstanding grassroots activists.

In June 1998, she won the Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition citation for outstanding contributions to protection of the environment, which was presented by British Columbia's Lieutenant-Governor.

In June 2000, McCrory took part in the Stockholm Environment Institute's Global Dialogue, A Forum on Our Sustainable Future at Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany.

Speaking about British Colombia’s forest crisis, she warned that almost a million hectares of forest per year were being harvested.

She stressed that true forest stewardship will bring about sustainability and the potential for implementation of a community ecosystem-based plan.

McCrory ran for the Green Party in the 2001 provincial election, finishing third in the riding of Nelson-Creston.

Continuing as head of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, McCrory was frequently invited to be a guest speaker at environmental conferences in Canada and abroad.

She succeeded in having the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, the Goat Range Park, and the Spirit Bear Conservancy established in British Columbia.

Fellow Canadian environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki told the Canadian Press that McCory will be missed.

'I think that she’s one of the giants in the environmental movement,' Suzuki said, 'not just in British Columbia or Canada, but around the world.'

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