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Spring Gillard
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River Quest and the Case of the Missing Fins

I have been working with the Rivershed Society of BC (RSBC) for nearly three years now. The group looks at sustainability through the lens of salmon and water. I was a little shocked at first to find myself working with a bunch of hunters and fishers. I was a vegetarian after all and not the kind that thinks fish are vegetables. In fact before I took the contract I said, “We’ll get along fine as long as you don’t make me organize a salmon bake.” My favourite refrain at meetings was, “If you really want to save salmon, stop eating them.” “Why bother then?” they would say, shaking their heads and exchanging she-just-doesn’t-get-it glances with each other. Over time, I realized these folks cared passionately for the environment and are great stewards of the rivers and streams that run through our lives. They just come at it from a different angler.

We have done some exciting projects together. Like when we wrapped a SkyTrain inside and out with a salmon mural inviting people to: Take the Train. Save a Salmon. Check out the SalmonTrain and the Keep it Cool. Save a Salmon campaign.

This year I am helping RSBC promote their Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP). Every year, 10 young leaders are chosen for the trip of a lifetime down the Fraser River. During the three-week outdoor education program, the group travels 1,400 km by raft, canoe and on foot down the greatest salmon river in the world. Along the way they talk to local experts and learn about watersheds, ecosystems and what a truly sustainable fishery might look like. Who knows, maybe they’ll find the nine million or so salmon that have gone missing this year. Let’s see could it be sea lice from the fish farms? Climate change heating up the water and boiling the salmon? Or are we poisoning them with all the pesticides and other toxic stuff we’re pouring into our waterways? Maybe all of the above.

The Executive Director of RSBC, Fin Donnelly (yes that’s his real name! Imagine Fin and Spring working on salmon and water!), has swum the full length of the Fraser twice. No not against the current. Slacker! Even though he wore a wetsuit, he worried about the effects of that water on his health.

This year’s trip began August 6th up in Mt. Robson at the headwaters of the Fraser. They will finish the journey at the mouth of the river in the Lower Mainland, landing on Jericho Beach August 29th.  I am trying to organize an interview for Fin on CBC’s Almanac but think we missed the window for this week. I have emailed Glenda, one of the facilitators. Left several messages on Fin’s cell. Badgered his wife at home, who told me they are unreachable now. They are in the Cathedrals, an awe-inspiring place with pristine waters in the heart of the Fraser Canyon. They will each do a solo walkabout there. Will have to try for next week, when they resurface.

In the meantime, you can follow the group down the river on Granville On-line. Glenda and three of the youth are blogging – probably the most challenging part of the whole river quest, just to find internet access. At journey’s end, the graduates will take what they’ve learned back home and turn it into a project that will make their own communities more sustainable.

As for me, when I introduce myself in these circles now, instead of saying, “Spring, just like the season,” I say, “Spring just like the salmon.”

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