Six additional individuals were recognized as Conservation Champions, as ERCA’s 40th year of conservation draws to a close.
Sarah Rupert, Mark Bartlett, John Staley, Henry Denotter and Ken Schmidt were honored for their contributions. “It is an honour to recognize these individuals for their many and varied contributions towards conservation in the Windsor-Essex region,” stated ERCA’s General Manager Richard Wyma.
Sarah Rupert has been birding her entire life, and continues to be a birding mentor to many others. She was able to evolve her passion for birding and the environment into her career, and has been working at Point Pelee National Park for over fourteen years. She volunteers as the regional editor for Ontario’s Christmas Bird Counts, and is an active member of the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory, volunteering as a hawk counter and aiding with the marketing and communications for the organization. She co-founded the Young Naturalists club in Sarnia, her hometown, and locally, has been a member of the Essex Stewardship network, a key member of and advisor to our regional birding committee, amongst many other volunteer duties.
For over 25 years, Mark Bartlett has worked successfully to make environmental protection a top priority for the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union, now known as Unifor; and the broader Canadian Labour movement. He has personally negotiated the distribution and planting of over 90,000 trees. He has represented workers on the Ontario Environment Network, the Canadian Environment Network and the Windsor/Essex County Environment Committee. While studying at the University of Windsor, he helped launch the Green Corridor Project. Mark was instrumental in forming an educational partnership through CAW’s Youth Environment Network which resulted in over 1000 secondary school students experiencing a full day of environmental action in a Conservation Area. His involvement in environmental committees and initiatives around the region are too numerous to fully outline, but a few highlights include his efforts to bring Dr. David Suzuki to Windsor to speak to students in our region, longstanding representation on the Childrens’ Water Festival and Earth Day committees.
An educator for over 40 years, John Staley introduced thousands of young people to the joys of conservation. As the former principal of St. Anne’s secondary school, he helped to initiate the Friends of Pike Creek, a community group dedicated to the cleanup and restoration of the Pike Creek watershed. He has been a longtime member and served as president for many years. He has been a staunch advocate for continued environmental improvements in the Town of Tecumseh. Under John’s leadership, the Friends of Pike Creek received the Provincial Outstanding Achievement Award for Volunteerism as well as the Windsor/Essex Volunteer Award. John has also been a longtime advocate for trails in the area, and a few years ago proposed a path along the banks of Pike Creek that could connect the town’s Fairplay Woods with McAuliffe Woods Conservation Area and continue all the way to Lake St. Clair.
Henry Denotter was an early adopter of Conservation Farming Practices and has worked diligently over the years to ensure that water and wind erosion Best Management Practices have been implemented at their family farm. He has also encouraged other farmers to adopt these practices. In fact, he appeared in an ERCA produced Public Service Announcement encouraging agricultural community to implement these types of practices. He also protects woodlot and wetland habitat pockets on his property, and has been a leader in many agricultural organizations such as the Essex Soil and Crop Improvement Association and Essex Conservation Club. He’s been a participant in and strong proponent of the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan program. Henry currently is serving as the President of the Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association.
For 35 years, Ken Schmidt lived and breathed environmental protection and improvement through his role at the Essex Region Conservation Authority. Over the course of his career, he ensured the protection of thousands of acres of natural habitat and oversaw the planting of 5 million trees. He led the acquisition and development of 100km of trails, and worked to build relationships with senior levels of Government in advancing the collective conservation agenda with federal and provincial governments relative to watersheds and Great Lakes. Ken has been recognized as an ambassador in encouraging bi-national cooperation, sustainable management and environmental restoration of the Detroit River and throughout the Great Lakes on projects such as the Healthy Great Lakes initiative, the Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan and others.
To date, thirty-one individuals have been recognized as Conservation Champions. Since 1973, the Essex Region Conservation Authority has served as a community-based organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and managing the natural resources of the Essex Region.