Haliburton resident Leora Berman receives national conservation award
By Vanessa Balintec
Haliburton resident Leora Berman, chief operating officer and co-founder of charity The Land Between, was awarded the Roland Michener Conservation Award, a national award given by the Canadian Wildlife Federation for candidates who showcase remarkable achievements in wildlife research, conservation, and education.
“This has been humbling and scary at the same time,” said Berman, who received the award this past June and attended a special CWF Gala in Halifax, Nova Scotia for its presentation. “I was really pleased that it brought attention to the Land Between, because it is the last reserves of a lot of wildlife and a lot of ecosystem functions – the last reserves for these things in all of southern Ontario. This is what I spent 13 years fighting for. This landscape needs that attention, and our kids and turtles need that attention, because they are the underpinnings of our future.”
The award has already had an impact, garnering more attention from other people.
“I do see a lot more people,” said Berman. “I get a lot more emails, I’ve gotten a lot more website hits. The Land Between already gets quite a lot of attention, Haliburton might not realize, because when you’re from a place you might not understand what’s here. The Land Between is well-recognized across Ontario already, so I was happy it was recognized nationally through this award.”
Her current long-standing initiative, The Land Between, has multiple projects, like the Turtle Guardians and The Blue Lakes Project, that she hopes will spread throughout the country.
“I work non-stop,” said Berman, who runs Turtle Guardian educational camps throughout the summer. “But I’ve got the best staff ever. I get to see kids, even if they tire you out, they’re just so happy at the end of the day, it’s really rewarding.”
Having a long list of endeavours throughout her career, her passion for conservation began while she was growing up in South Africa with her family.
“I was born in South Africa where water is precious,” said Berman, who grew up in the Dundas area. “I would stare at water, I used to think it was magical. And then the big game, the wildlife. When wildlife is that much of your story, and so animated and expressive, you always pay attention to wildlife. And the Indigenous people of Africa are extremely colourful as well in terms of their culture and personalities.”
Berman brought her knowledge of the land of Africa to Canada, and made sure to find connections to it here.
“When I came to Canada, my dad made sure we learned about this country,” said Berman. “He took us to the parks, the reserves, so I was always looking for those things. So this just came naturally. The Indigenous people of the land, and the wildlife teach us about who we are.”
Her career spans over 20 years, and features work for Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Berman, known for starting projects, owns Aquatilus Consulting, a specialized environmental company dealing with lake planning, goose control, and shorelines. She’s studied at Sir Sanford Fleming College and McMaster University, and has worked in a variety of roles ranging from biologist and instructor to director and consultant for various organizations for her skills in environmental science and water and soil technology.
“Every job I ever had I thought was the best job ever,” said Berman. “Every job is like, ‘I can’t believe I get to do this.’”