Baby Boomers are the first generation to grow up with television and owe many of their images of Canada's wilderness to this medium. As the demands of Canada's 9.8 million Boomers drive housing developments into woodlands and intensify cottage construction in most recreational areas, thoughts of animals living in harmony with their environments often give way to new realties that may frustrate landowners.
In the early 1960s, Hinterland Who's Who vignettes produced by the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) were a powerful TV connection to the Canadian wild. The simply narrated black and white film clips, accompanied by a haunting flute theme, were successful "commercials" for wildlife in this emerging medium. Each week, hundreds of Canadians -- many of them Boomer kids -- wrote in for CWS factsheets on featured animals.
In the twenty-first century, with Boomers ranging in age from 39 to 58, images of Canada's "untouched wilderness" fall prey to the reality of the human touch. Beloved Hinterland memories are being replaced:
- "The cry of a loon echoing across a lonely lake" is increasingly silenced by habitat destruction and pollution.
- "The thrill of great Vs of Canada Geese wheeling in the sky" has given way to dismay as inflated populations of this emblematic bird have become a nuisance and a detraction.
- "The power and majesty of the polar bear" has faded to contempt for the garbage-picking marauders and sadness as pollution kills off bears that try to live off the land.
- And the list goes on ...
Hinterland TV spots were revived in 2003 and paired with an educational website. Whether the return of these "icons of Canadian culture" can be given credit or not, there has been a steady rise in public concern over wild lands that were taken for granted by generations.
CWS surveys consistently confirm that the great majority of Canadians believe it is important to maintain abundant wildlife and to protect endangered or declining wildlife species. In fact, 91 percent of the surveyed population, or an estimated 19 million Canadians, are involved in some form of wildlife-related activity or recreational fishing.
To preserve the wilderness that attracts property owners from cottagers to fractional-ownership resort developers, CWS suggests contributions to restoring a "Ribbon of Life" by rejuvenating shorelines as natural buffers between human activity and wildlife:
- the ideal buffer strip extends a minimum of 30 metres from the water's edge with mixed communities of fast-growing, flood-tolerant trees, like the silver maple, and native grasses and legumes.
- Survey your shoreline to determine which native plants thrive there or could be added.
- Exposed, collapsed banks demand immediate attention.
According to CWS, "Canadians are starting to learn that wildlife is not merely a source of personal pleasure, as deep and meaningful as that pleasure might be. We are beginning to understand that the health of our wildlife is an excellent indication of the health of the environment on which we depend, and that healthy wildlife populations and habitat are important to our social and economic well-being."
Environmental impacts are far reaching, so even one property owner can make a difference:
- Amazingly, whether you live in the country or the city, you have the power to help conserve caribou habitat in even the most remote reaches of Canada's boreal forest where over 2.4 million caribou are threatened by habitat loss and alteration. The fate of the caribou (and other wildlife) is not only dependent on the level of industrial activity in the boreal forest. Urban recycling programs, chemical-free gardening and other energy conservation programs contribute, directly and indirectly, to the preservation of our natural heritage.
- Many farmers are partners in the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP), which strives to conserve upland and wetland habitat for waterfowl populations. Individual landowners agree to modify their agricultural practices to restore the prairie sloughs and improve the hydrology of their land, and in the process, help ducks, geese, swans, and other wildlife.
- Since 1995, the growing land trust movement in Canada, in which landowners agree not to develop their land, but to leave at least some of it in a natural state, has seen more than 200 Canadians donate lands and conservation easements valued at $25 million to conservation organizations under the National Ecological Gifts Program.