Coast Alive Stewardship Services, originally Coast Alive Recreational and Ecological Services, was started on Salt Spring Island in 2005, though now operates throughout the southern Gulf Islands and beyond. Initial contracts were in ecological gardening and landscaping, as well as trail building and campsite maintenance.

Over the next decade and a half Coast Alive has increasingly concentrated on environmental stewardship contracts, especially invasive plant control on covenants and nature reserves, wildfire risk reduction on local stratas, and species-at-risk habitat enhancement. This is incredibly meaningful and enjoyable work, and Coast Alive is very grateful to all it’s clients for the opportunity to perform stewardship activities on these often beautiful pieces of land.

About Chris Drake: Raised by the ocean in Vancouver and Vancouver Island, I have always enjoyed the company of critters, and indeed all the non-human organisms that share the world with us. As my academic career progressed from a diploma in Recreation, Fish and Wildlife Management from Selkirk College in Castlegar to a BSc in Environmental Biology (Ecology) from the University of Alberta in Edmonton to an MSc in Ecological Marine Management from Vrije Universiteit Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium, so did my awareness of how humans affect the natural world.

Between years of study I spent years doing silviculture work throughout BC, working at parks and ski resorts, and volunteering on research and restoration projects in Canada, the US, El Salvador and Belgium. The work in El Salvador was especially powerful – please see http://cesta-foe.org.sv/ to see how some amazing people are trying to do environmental work under very challenging conditions.

In the summers during my BSc I worked as a research assistant on experiments documenting moss communities after forest fires in the north of Alberta. My eyes were opened! Moss are such fascinating and important plants but barely understood by most Canadians, even though we have some of the highest diversity. How many other organisms, from bacteria to bats, are integral to the natural world yet invisible to human eyes?

Ecosystems are wonderfully complex. They result from thousands of species interacting over millennia, and the more a person studies them the more mysterious they become. For instance, as recent research on fungal networks in forests by Suzanne Simard is indicating, the world below the forest floor is beyond anything we ever imagined. Yet years of environmental studies can lead to a type of depression that makes you the biggest downer at any party, because as you learn about the wonders of the world you also learn how rapidly humans are destroying them.

The antidote to environmental depression is focused and effective action, and for me nothing beats stewardship. Based on science, these stewardship activities bring real world results. It also takes me inside the web so to speak, so instead of feeling like I am an outsider to the rest of nature, I become connected to the flora and fauna I am trying to help.

Environmental stewardship is a wonderful career, and should be promoted as such in our schools and universities. As the parent of a young teen, I can see that there is a lot of worry for the future in the younger generation. To combat this I would love to work with students to create crews that work on a variety of environmental initiatives, in the vein of Student Painters. While much of this type of work is funded at present through government grants, to truly scale up we need property owners to accept that they have a responsibility to the land they “own”, and they need to have a budget for it, just like they have a gardening or house maintenance budget.

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