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Courtenay’s Wayne White gets provincial honour for habitat work

‘It was a surprise to me…. The people who nominated me didn’t tell me.’
Courtenay’s Wayne White was one of several people in the province recently honoured with a BC Achievement Communiity Award. Photo, BC Achievement

A Courtenay conservationist was honoured by the BC Achievement Foundation for his efforts to restore the local habitat.

Wayne White was one of the 22 people in the province who received the BC Achievement Community Award during a May 10 ceremony in Victoria with Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin.

“It was quite a nice ceremony at Government House,” he says.

For more than 40 years, he has worked on protecting the environment, dating back to his days as a school trustee in the 1980s. At the time, he worked to promote outdoor education for students. Then, the school district set up a program in conjunction with the neighbouring Qualicum district that allowed kids the opportunity to spend time outdoors.

RELATED STORY: Tsolum River Restoration Society volunteers busy rescuing stranded salmon smolts

From there, White got involved with a task force started in 1995 to restore the Tsolum River following many years of toxic mine runoff. Eventually, this led to the creation of the Tsolum River Restoration Society in 1998, for which White served as a director and later president.

“It allowed them to go after various grants,” he says.

He and other groups partnered with senior government agencies on a massive cleanup project at the old mine site on Mt. Washington, as the toxic copper leachate could result in fish kills under certain conditions. Building on previous efforts, some dismissed the work as a failure, but a decade later, White says, it did reduce the problem. With grant funding, they added a large bitumen cover to the site to contain material.

“It was essentially a 12-and-half-acre roof,” he says. “That work was finished in 2009, and within two years we had pink salmon coming back in good numbers into the river, so it was quite successful.”

For all his work, some colleagues from the society decided to nominate him and get letters of support from others during a nomination period from Dec. 1 through Jan. 31.

“It was a surprise to me,” he says. “The people who nominated me didn’t tell me…. It is nice to be recognized by the community you work with.”

On May 2, Premier John Horgan and Anne Giardini, BC Achievement Foundation chair, named the recipients of the 19th annual Community Award to honour extraordinary British Columbians, with White’s name on the list.

“Wayne’s work shows how one person can make a real and lasting difference in protecting our environment…. His passion for our natural environment has led him to work in environmental monitoring, and to take on a range of roles,” Giardini says. “Wayne’s actions show his belief both that our natural world is at a critical point, and that we can make decisions and actions both collectively and alone to help ensure a healthy planet where people and nature can thrive.”

Among other things, White has also volunteered for the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association (CDFGPA) for more than 10 years, serving as chair of the conservation committee. He also sits as CDFGPA’s representative on the Comox Lake Water Protection Group. His recent achievements include negotiating land and water use agreements and constructing a freshwater fish hatchery at Comox Lake.

The BC Achievement Awards give awards in a number of categories. According to the website, the Community Award goes to British Columbians who go above and beyond in their dedication and service to others and devote their time and energy to making their communities more caring, dynamic, beautiful, healthy and inclusive.

“We live in a province where exceptional and ordinary people do extraordinary work every day. Our recognitions provide an opportunity to learn about their work, honour them and learn from them,” says Giardini. “As chair, I have the thrill of witnessing first-hand the forging of new relationships and thriving social, creative and entrepreneurial activities across the province. All of us benefit from more engaged and more hopeful communities. All of us gain from thoughtful, collaborative approaches to the issues and problems of our days.”

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Wayne White receives his BC Achievement Community Award from Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin during the May 10 ceremony. Photo, BC Achievement

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