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Michael Barnstijn and Louise MacCallum receive prestigious conservation award from Ontario Nature

Exchange Magazine,
July 6 2017,

A love of the environment and a spirit of generosity has guided the more than 15 years of contributions Michael Barnstijn and Louise MacCallum have made to protect sensitive lands at rare Charitable Research Reserve and green spaces across Waterloo Region. Their dedication to conservation has awarded them the prestigious Steve Hounsell Greenway Award from Ontario Nature.

The Steve Hounsell Greenway Award is awarded to those who add a vital linking piece to Ontario Nature’s Greenway Initiative, by preserving a natural core area or corridor, building public support for preserving a natural heritage system, laying the groundwork for a legislative advance in greenway planning, fighting to restore a watershed, or any other action that contributes to the Greenway.

Michael and Louise received the award for their engagement as founding members and international ambassadors of rare Charitable Research Reserve. Their vision to establish rare as a land trust and environmental institute was paramount to ensure that over 900 acres of land could be set aside for conservation, research and education, which so far is the largest contribution that has ever been made to land preservation in Waterloo Region by private individuals.

“On behalf of everyone in the community who enjoys the conservation lands and many trails Michael and Louise have established to observe birds, plants and other wildlife, or simply enjoys being immersed in nature, we are thrilled that Ontario Nature has recognized Michael and Louise for their efforts towards conservation and public service.” says rare’s Executive Director, Stephanie Sobek-Swant.

Their far-sighted contributions to conservation and the environment for the benefit of the entire community are significant. One of the most important things about Michael and Louise, as they remain dedicated to the conservation cause, is their spirit of community engagement and public service. They understand and have demonstrated at rare that conservation has to involve:

– a constant search for the best methods that will ensure no time is lost and no dollar wasted to support conservation efforts around the globe;

– training the next generation of conservationists to protect our early investments in conservation and further them; and,

– building entire communities of concern around conservation lands, by allowing access in a sustainable manner through trails in less sensitive areas, that are free and open for all community members to use.

While rare is Michael and Louise’s biggest conservation project, their love for the environment has also inspired other significant projects in Waterloo Region. Through the Musagetes Fund they were able to donate the funds needed for a 75m walking bridge across the Grand River in south Kitchener which was the missing link connecting 60km of the riverside Walter Bean Trail that runs from Waterloo through Kitchener to Cambridge. As part of the Walter Bean Trail they also established a trailhead at RIM Park, including a parking lot, trail kiosk, map and 3km of fully accessible trail, known as the Musagetes Trailway, which brings nature close to the community and is popular with bird watchers looking to catch a glimpse on species such as Purple Martins, all from an appropriate and safe distance.

Michael and Louise see these efforts as important in themselves, but they also understand the value of connectivity when it comes to protecting green spaces and the value of allowing people access in a sustainable manner for the enjoyment of passive recreation such as bird watching and other nature observation.