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  • Writer's pictureMary Asselstine

The Roland Michener Conservation Award

I was honoured this spring to receive the Roland Michener Conservation Award from the Canadian Wildlife Federation. I travelled to Charlottetown for the award ceremony in my electric vehicle, which was an adventure of its own! It was inspiring and empowering to meet the other winners and to listen to their stories.

I have included the text of my acceptance speech below, which talks about the importance of support and community. I know I would never have been able to accomplish what I have done without the help of my community. King Township is a great place to live.

It is an honour to be here tonight to receive the Roland Michener Conservation Award and to be recognised by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
I have to admit when I first heard about the award I was somewhat surprised. Why was I receiving this recognition? I just plod along and do what I do because I think it is the right thing to do; because it is who I am. Then after discussions with my friends and family I realised that it is not really about me at all, but about the thousands and thousands of people like me; those that care about nature and the communities that they live in.
Behind me you are seeing photos of the Dufferin Marsh in Schomberg Ontario … a 5 ha wetland in the middle of the village … and pictures of some of the activities that the Dufferin Marsh Nature Connection has been doing over the last 30 years. I am a founding member of this community group and in reviewing the photos the first thing I noticed was how young I was. I am heartened to know that there are still many young people today that are active and passionate about nature and some of them are in this room.
I also realised that passion and tenacity and giving has given back to me. I have learned so much about nature, fund raising, project management, communications, governance, development processes, and what makes a community work. I have learned that through patience and persistence even the most ardent opponent can become an advocate. My work with the Dufferin Marsh Nature Connection has provided the opportunity to make new and lifelong friendships; it has opened the door to positive and productive community, business and agency partnership; it has allowed me to share my knowledge and passion with anyone who will take time to listen; and best of all it has allowed me to advocate for the protection of the little gem of a wetland just down the street.
When my 2 kids were growing up they had the luxury of roaming around and exploring our village. I remember once my son Garth and his friend Scott got lost among the six foot high cattails in the Marsh looking for a short cut through town. What an adventure they had. I don’t think there are many childhoods like that anymore. I was secure in the knowledge that they were being cared for and watched by the whole community.
My community of family, friends, neighbours and business people have supported me through everything. And most surprisingly they believe in me. I want to acknowledge my husband, who sadly is not with us anymore, for teaching me about nature and how to find it a source of peace and joy; and my two beautiful children who helped with so many restoration projects and other activities with hardly a complaint; so many friends and family who answered the call to volunteer and were there to guide me when things got me down; from dog walkers to Township staff I could not have achieved anything without them.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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