News From Nature Canada Survey

In the spring of 2006, Nature Canada asked for input from all naturalist groups in Canada to get an indication of what was happening at the grass roots. This was accomplished through a survey. Ontario Nature coordinated the survey results for Ontario. The following is a summary of information regarding naturalist clubs for Ontario.

The 143 groups average about 100 active members each with 8 being the smallest and 1000 being the largest.

60% of the groups’ members are over 60 years of age and 5% are over 80. Recruiting younger members is a problem.

13% of the groups have annual budgets over $100,000 while 53% have budgets between $1,000 and $10,000. Almost 50% of the funding comes from membership fees and 12% from donations.

Volunteer time is enormous – the average is 1682 hours annually per group split between: leading events and outings, directing, governing, planning, communications, organizations and producing materials. This all adds up to 175,000 hours provincially or about 4 person years!

Nature protection activities focus around forming coalitions, networking as well as policy input. Species at risk management and planning is also becoming very important. Some 30% of the groups are involved in land trusts and 25% are involved in land acquisition which represents 4455 ha.

Education and outreach activities: 90% of the groups feature guest speakers. While 79% deliver programs to youth only 14% have a structured junior naturalist programme. 85% participate in birding and bird related activities while 75% participate in botany and invertebrate activities.

Communication is predominantly done by email. 75% of us have websites and publications. 93% produce newsletters, 60% produce electronic newsletters and 50% produce annual reports.

More than three-quarters of respondents identified increasing the range of their nature protection and education and outreach activities as a priority. Less than 75% identified an interest in expanding the range of their activities to include nature restoration, natural history, stewardship and research and monitoring. About 60% of respondents indicated an interest in expanding planning and policy input and advocacy. Most nature groups expressed an interest in collaborating with other groups, preferably local ones. At the provincial level about 60% of the respondents indicated an interest in networking with other groups in other provinces.

Probably the most important point made is the value of grass roots activities and voices to policy direction made by government; local, provincial and federal. The value of efforts of an individual club and thus the individuals themselves cannot be overstated. Let us keep up the good work and realize that we can and do make a difference.