Welcome to Conservation Champions, a new series, introducing you to the staff of Kawartha Conservation who work to protect the people, property and environment within the Kawartha watershed.
Kawartha Conservation balances environmental capacity and human need, while managing natural resource features that are essential for sustaining water quality and quantity, through watershed planning, stewardship, environmental monitoring and research, and management of conservation and natural areas.
Our programs and services are focused within the natural boundaries of the Kawartha watershed, which extend from Lake Scugog in the southwest and Pigeon Lake in the east, to Balsam Lake in the northwest and Crystal Lake in the northeast – a total of 2,563 square kilometres.
Today, we introduce you to Director of Conservation and Stewardship Lands, Kristie Virgoe.
Name: Kristie Virgoe
Title: Director of Conservation and Stewardship Lands
Years at Kawartha Conservation: 1 Year
Q: What is your education background?
A: I am a graduate of the Ecosystem Management program at Fleming College. I am also a Certified Forest Therapy Guide.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: I love that my job allows me to create opportunities for people to deepen their relationship with nature. We protect and care for Conservation Areas so that people can access nature close to home.
Watching a family see an owl for the first time, and witnessing the joy that visitors feel when a rabbit hops across the trail in front of them is exceptionally rewarding.
Helping landowners achieve their goals for planting trees, pollinator gardens, or even larger agricultural projects is very gratifying because these projects improve their lives, their properties, and our community.
Q: Why does what you do matter?
A: Nature is not something that exists in provincial parks. It exists in our back yards, in our school yards, and in our Conservation Areas close to home. Access to quality natural areas is known to help improve individual health on a physical, mental, and even spiritual level. That’s important to me, and to our organization.
Providing opportunities for our community to come for a walk in a natural setting helps to build a resilient community.
Most of our land base is privately owned, which means wise management decisions are the responsibility of the individual landowner. That’s a huge responsibility, because the things we do on our own properties have impacts on our community.
I am proud to be part of an organization that recognizes the need to help landowners with information, guidance, and sometimes with incentives to help implement these improvement projects.
Q: What advice would you give others who are interested in a similar position as yours?
A: Obviously, getting the right education at the college or university level will help build your career. I also encourage people to look for volunteer opportunities where you can build your network of contacts and your skill sets.
I think it is really important to recognize that a career isn’t built on one job. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes perseverance when things don’t go as planned.