On Trees, Partnerships and “Soil Talking”

As the Canadian ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered, the trees of a forest “speak” to each other under the earth, sharing nutrients through the fungal colonies that inhabit their root systems. The geobiologist Hope Jahren called this process “soil talking.”

Similarly, local nature groups depend on a larger community for the life-sustaining flow of knowledge and support. That’s where Nature Canada comes in. We’ve been “soil-talking” for 80 years.

In an earlier incarnation, we were a federation—a national representative of local nature groups. Over the years, we’ve become less of a federation and more of our own entity. But our network of local groups, the Nature Network, remains one of our greatest strengths. We currently have over 1000 groups in our Nature Network database.

Who are our partners?

They are the members of Bird-Safe Guelph, who work with us on our Bird-Friendly City program and who are helping local birds “survive and thrive.” They are the planters and tenders of Saskatoon’s SOS Trees Coalition, who have been protecting and fostering urban forests since 1992. They are the citizens of Climate Network Lanark, who are bringing climate change action down to the people’s scale by implementing local climate initiatives.

And they are the Indigenous groups and communities—the Cree of Eeyou Istchee on James Bay, for example, who are working to protect the bird and wildlife habitat of their homeland; and the Métis of Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan, who are leading the effort to create Sakitawak IPCA (Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area).

In sum, they are birders, botanists, hikers, canoeists, trail associations, wildlife centres, land trusts, naturalist groups, friends of local parks and all-around patriots of the living world. They are not just protecting landscapes and waterscapes; they are preserving ways of life.

That’s why, in 2021, we supported our partners to the tune of over $1.1 million. In addition to providing funding, we have convened regular working groups and communities of practice, and offered tools and services to help groups with their own engagement work.

And, as we help local groups realize their potential, they help us realize ours.

Nature Canada conducts national campaigns on important themes ranging from expanding protected areas to promoting nature-based climate solutions. For each of our national campaigns, we rally local groups whose interests dovetail with the focus of the campaign. For example, over 400 of our partners have contributed in some way to our protected areas advocacy.

Nature Groups - Photograph of two teens feeding the chickadees.

Despite our success in engaging hundreds of nature groups, we’re very keen on growing the network—which is why we’re conducting surveys with those groups we’d love to know better.

Like a tree’s root system, our Nature Network is a living lattice, a community of the earth (and for the Earth). Within this community, individual groups not only grow stronger; they can work together to bring about large-scale change.

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