The annual banquet in support of Scout Island and the Williams Lake Field Naturalists is coming up April 5 at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Ordell Steen is the co-president of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and has been with the group since the 1980s. Steen has always had an interest in natural history and upon joining loved taking part in and later organizing the various programs they run both on Scout Island and the wider community. This includes hikes, bird and wildlife watching events, plant investigations and nature observation walks, to name but a few.
“It’s a great group of people, there’s a lot to learn there and I think a great social circle, too,” Steen said. “I think awareness of nature is the first step towards not only conserving nature but just enjoying life. The more people know about nature the more enjoyable it is to be out and about in the environment and the Cariboo Chilcotin is a great place to be a naturalist.”
He feels that the Williams Lake Field Naturalists provide a valuable service to the community by making it easier for people to jump into exploring the natural world.
This year the group’s guest speaker is Chris Shepherd from Big Creek who is an internationally known primate biologist who co-wrote the book A Naturalist’s Guide to the Primates of Southeast Asia with his wife Loretta. Steen said that Chris has also written several papers about the trade of illegal animal parts in the region and is “a combination of a biologist and an advocate for conservation of primates.”
Shepherd, according to Steen, is very keen about his work and is an enthusiastic speaker when presenting his knowledge about his chosen field of study. Even after almost three decades of finding speakers, Steen said that the Field Naturalists still continue to find new interesting people with a passion for nature, knowledge and, in Shepard’s case at least, great photographs.
Usually, Steen said just over a 100 people attend the banquet each year from which they raise roughly $1,000 once expenses are settled.
All proceeds from the night go towards funding the various programs and educational opportunities Scout Island offers to residents. Many of these programs, Steen said, are offered to children and the students of SD27 in particular.
“Educating children about nature is a very important thing to do, so I think that’s one good reason to support the nature centre, just to help kids get outside. In this day and age where a lot of the stuff for kids to do is inside on computers or other screens, I think the Field Naturalists (through Scout Island) provide a valuable way to get outside,” Steen said.
While the night is important for them to secure funding, Steen said he places equal importance on the awareness about Scout Island it helps raise in the community. As he sees it, awareness of Scout Island increases the awareness of nature, which increases activities in nature and therefore the conservation of said nature.
Indeed, currently, the Williams Lake Field Naturalists are made up of close to 200 members, both individuals and families, who support Scout Island with a $15 per individual, $10 for students, and $30 per family membership fee.
Tickets are available at The Open Book and Scout Island itself or with any members of the board of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists for $40 and adult and $15 for 16 and under. The event begins at 6 p.m. with a pre-social and dinner, followed by brief presentations by local representatives before the main presentation by Chris Shepherd.
“I think (Scout Island) is a little gem within the city in terms of just being able to step out of the urban environment, a little bit, without really going too far. I think we really need to support Scout Island Nature Centre,” Steen said.