Haliburton environmentalists’ work dates back decades
By Jenn Watt
Dec. 11, 2018
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust has selected three environmentalists as this year’s Enviro-Heroes.
The annual awards are given to those who “protect and sustain our natural resources and environment through education and stewardship,” said the land trust’s chairwoman Mary Lou Gerstl, during the presentation at the charity’s Haliburton office on Dec. 6.
Carolynn Coburn, Eric Lilius and Andrew Carmount were this year’s recipients.
“Our first award goes to a couple (partners, in fact) who have been involved with environmental protection and education for many years, Carolynn Coburn and Eric Lilius,” Gerstl said in her address, “Carolynn and Eric actually facilitated the first gathering of people interested in forming a land trust and of course here we are today.”
Coburn was a member of the Anson, Hindon and Minden Environmental Advisory Committee as well as on the board of the Haliburton Highlands Stewardship Council.
“She is a [retired] lawyer and has brought a reasoned and passionate approach to the ongoing development of sound public policing of our region,” Gerstl said.
Lilius has worked on environmental issues in the county for the last four decades.
“Eric’s commitment has been instrumental to the introduction of improved waste management and recycling in the county,” she said.
He was a founding member of County of Haliburton Advocates or Agents for a Naturally Good Environment, which managed and financed the first recycling bin in the county at the Dysart landfill and ran a campaign to stop roadside herbicide spraying, the couple told the Echo in an email.
Both Coburn and Lilius were part of the County Advisory Committee for the Environment from 1998 to 2002 and have worked with Environment Haliburton! since it was incorporated in 2003.
“I think we have an obligation to put our energy into what we think is most important. Clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and healthy soil for growing nutritious food, are foundational. All the rights in the world mean nothing without them. Once one has truly taken this to heart, one cannot not care about the state of the natural environment; one is obliged to work for its protection,” Coburn said via email. “I appreciate the recognition from the land trust. At the same time I acknowledge that there are many individuals in the county working in various ways to protect the natural environment.”
Lilius said the couple had been connected to the land trust since its inception.
“We have a long relationship with the land trust. I like to say ‘before it was a gleam in Ian Daniel’s eye.’ Members of EH! support and collaborate with the land trust on many of their projects and events,” Lilius said. “Carolynn dug out some CACE [County Advisory Committee for the Environment] files tonight. In there, we unearthed a large highly informative broadsheet from climatechange.gc.ca telling us ‘It’s Time to Act.’ It’s from 1999 and full of the same information that is relevant today. That website no longer exists and the federal government does not display the resolve of 20 years ago. The provincial government is very clearly establishing that its environmental interests are not For the People but clearly and astoundingly corporate.”
Carmount, who was unable to attend the ceremony as he is now studying at the University of Toronto, was vice president of student council, working on the recycling program at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. He was part of the school’s eco-team and worked to establish the community garden at Nature’s Place in Minden. He helped produce a video on sustainable gardening and was also on the Algonquin Highlands environment committee for two years.
In an email sent to the land trust, Carmount said: “As I move forward in my life’s endeavour to be part of the solution to our global climate [and] environmental problems, I will always remember my convictions began in Haliburton and the influence of those who recognized me.”
Gerstl thanked several other people during the presentation, which coincided with the land trust’s open house and included much conversation and snacking.
She noted the work of biologist Paul Heaven who has worked for years with the land trust.
“Paul never tires (or at least he does not show it) of the ever-changing board who often have little background in biodiversity [and] species at risk and goes out of his way to help in our education,” she said. He has worked on the turtle migration project and the bats at risk project.
Peter Brogden, who has worked for many years on trail development in Algonquin Highlands, was thanked for his recent donation of securities, which when sold will increase the stewardship fund by about $6,000.
“This is a significant donation and one that will help the land trust continue our never ending responsibility to maintain and protect all of our properties,” Gerstl said.