Wilderness Committee Donor Story

Lost causes and sore losers

Joe Foy
Protected Areas Campaigner
Wilderness Committee

Back in the ’50s my parents set me on course to love wild nature—a blessing and a curse.

A blessing, because like a lot of kids I was shooed out of the house as soon as I could walk to spend countless days roaming the forests and meadows surrounding our farm. A curse, because when you love something as much as I love wild places, it really hurts to lose them.

For a while it seemed to me that holding on to wilderness was a lost cause as we were destined to lose this wild heritage one valley at a time.

But then hope came my way. In the ’80s I ran into the sore losers at the Wilderness Committee. No one there liked to lose even the smallest piece of wild nature. They fought like the dickens for each one.

The sorest loser was Gwen Barlee, whom I was honoured to work beside at the Wilderness Committee for almost two decades. Don’t get me wrong, Gwen was gracious and polite to a fault. But she hated to lose anything—from a card game to a challenge over who could fold our educational publications the fastest. Gwen really didn’t like to lose wild places or species.

Gwen Barlee’s legacy of fighting to protect critters, parks and forests is ensured through a memorial fund, established from her estate and supported by her family, friends, colleagues and organizational donors. Photo: Wilderness Committee

Gwen took on many lost causes. She battled for wild rivers against speculators and private power and won a reprieve for some wild beauties. She took under her wing one of the most endangered species in Canada—the spotted owl—and their dwindling ancient forest habitat.

When diagnosed with cancer, Gwen fought it with the same steely determination. Sadly, she passed away in 2017 at age 54. But Gwen’s legacy of fighting tooth and nail to protect critters, parks and forests is ensured through the Gwen Barlee Memorial Fund, a fund established from her estate and supported by her family, friends, colleagues and organizational donors.

It’s humbling and comforting to know when we’re battling to win relief for the most endangered species and old-growth forests—or other ‘lost’ causes—our work continues thanks to the dedication of Gwen and others who will never ever give up on the natural world.

To learn how you can leave a wild legacy, reach out to Michelle Johnson, Donor Relations Manager at plan@wildernesscommittee.org or visit WildernessCommittee.org/WildGifts

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