Images~University of Saskatchewan,
University Archives & Special Collections,
Richard St. Barbe Baker fonds, MG 71
Transcript follows in this article
Celebrating National Tree Day September 26, 2018
the 40th Anniversary Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Introducing St. Barbe Baker from the biographical book; Man of the Trees. Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist. By Paul Hanley Foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales Introduction by Jane Goodall ~ Written by Paul Hanley environment awareness promoter, activist, free lance writer, speaker, and author
Transcription is as follows:
This is Paul Hanley, the guest speaker of the evening.
And we also have Renny Grilz from the Meewasin Valley Authority who has come to introduce him and say a few words about Paul Hanley other than what you already know kind of thing about him So I would like to introduce Renny to you then
Thank you Julia
So the wind has died down. Really good.
So thank you for the invite.
And I am Renny Grilz Resource Management Officer with the Meewasin, and Meewasin’s been involved with part of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area since the 80’s This half of the afforestation area falls under our conservation zone. We don’t do much direct management but we have been working with a lot of volunteer stewards like Julia and Jeff with the Fat Tire people and they’ve been doing a great job keeping this place clean and looking ship shape – So really appreciate that Thanks a lot Julia.
With Paul – Paul and I were here on a volunteer event four summers ago three summers ago. Julia had organized the event out on the west side of the Richard St Barbe Baker and cleaning up some of the garbage and it was amazing how much garbage we were finding and how much we pulled out, we had our truck and trailer and we filled it several times.
However what was interesting, was that as we started getting further back into the bush
we were starting to notice this area becoming more wild and more naturalized So this area was planted in about the ’70s – 1972. and what was interesting was that you start wandering through the afforestation area you could start seeing a forest eco-system forming. You know there’s evidence of woodpeckers. This spring, the nature society came out for a bit of a bio-blitz and they found yellow lady slipper which is an orchid and a rare plant and they found that over that way [pointing to the east side of the SW OLRA] I had one of my summer students come out afterwards and she found some more .
So when you think about the work that Richard St. Barbe Baker did – so he planted trees in the prairies – he planted trees around the world – and its more than just a tree, you know he created ecosystems. And this is a site that’s forming its own eco-system right on the edge of the city.
My first introduction to the site was in early 2000, when I was working for Ducks Unlimited and we bought the land right across the road – Chappell Marsh – and at that time it was an overgrazed pasture and there was a former mushroom factory there they used the old acreages there, they used to make mushrooms there – a mushroom farm. And also there was shotgun shells. So it was sort of a different feel to that site, and now you look at the site and its a beautiful wildlife theme- nature built itself there
So its interesting coming out to these areas and you explore them and you get a re-connection to the land and a re-connection to the forest.
With Paul and his work, Paul has been quite involved with Meewasin over the years, has been a strong advocate for Meewasin has written quite a few things about Meewasin, and we really appreciate it and we are all excited to hear about Paul’s new book.
Richard St. Barbe Baker, Meewasin has recognized him quite a few times in different things. We have plaques for him down in the river valley there’s a memorial as well, and I think his legacy will definitely live on especially in Saskatoon. With that, I will pass it back to you.
Thank you very much.
Paul Hanley, this is someone who personally knew Richard St. Barbe Baker and now he has delved into a bit more of the biography and I’ll pass it over to you.
Thank you Julia, Thank you Renny,
So, it’s good to be here with you folks and Ill tell you a bit about Richard St. Barbe Baker in my new book,
I also wrote the 25 year history of the Meewasin Valley Authority,
St Barbe Baker did make a little appearance in that.
So this place is named after him and I guess he is kind of to me like a conservation super hero – starting in the 1920s, from about 1922 to 1982 when he died he was just on a world wide tour constantly traveling everywhere encouraging people to plant trees to save the planet.
I think possibly he was one of the first people to do that on a world wide scale, so that’s why I called him the first Global Conservationist.
So today, we think of people like Jane Goodall, and David Suzuki, and they are known everywhere for their work. He was the first person like that who was trying to raise consciousness among something like 100 countries he traveled. He started the first environmental non-governmental organization- it went global – it’s called the Men of the Trees its now the International Tree Foundation, and he started that in 1922 in Kenya. At one point it had 5,000 members in 108 countries. It was quite a legacy he started.
One of the things I find very interesting is the impact that he had on a number of people through little things that he did. So for example he would go and give little talks like this to people, and do radio interviews, and newspaper interviews, and some people heard those things and went on to make a great difference. For example there is a fellow named Tony Rinaldo and he was an Australian. One time he was with his father, and they were visiting a big farm and he noticed in the shed a great big pile of books, and on the top of this pile was a book called “Sahara Challenge” by Richard St. Barbe Baker and he picked up the book and it inspired him to become a forester. He went to Niger later and developed a whole new way of reforesting the desert, and working with the farmers there, they were able to reforest 12 million acres of the desert in Nigeria.
And Scott Poynton is another person with the same story, when he was fifteen heard a radio broadcast with Richard St. Barbe Baker – was inspired to become a forester, and started something called the forest trust, and what they did was they got the furniture industry to change all of their wood purchases towards sustainable forestry and now they’ve gone on to industry after industry working with them to change their practices towards sustainable wood management.
And there’s a number of stories like that.
One of the most interesting is a guy named Felix Finkbeiner and he started when he was nine years old he had a school project and he was supposed to write about the environment. he heard Richard St Barbe Baker and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai who were both doing the same kind of work promoting tree planting and he wrote this paper and then he started an organization for children called Plant for the Planet. Over the years they have developed a whole program where they have child tree ambassadors and he is a really good publicist so he started working with people like Harrison Ford, Prince Ranier of Monaco, and they have this great campaign where they are standing there and have their hands over their mouth, and stop talking and start planting.
And these kids really got something going and now he is nineteen years old and his program has taken over the United Nations environment programs, tree planting effort, and he’s supposed to be planting a billion trees, and they changed the name to a Trillion Trees. And their goal is to plant one trillion trees There is about 3-4 trillion trees in the world, so now we are talking about a major tree planting effort here. They planted 15 billion trees so far and again inspired by Richard St. Barbe Baker.
So I find it really interesting how sometimes its the little things that we do have more impact than the big things that we do. So he tried in the 1950s to create a massive programme to reforest the Sahara Desert ’cause He believed that it used to be forest. He did an expedition through the desert, drove though it in a vehicle, found tree stumps in the middle of the desert and so on, so he started this campaign. And he said we should build a great green wall across the Sahel region of the Sahara but nobody would listen to him, they thought he was crazy. But today, they are planting a great green wall across the Sahara and some countries like Niger are doing a really good job of it.
So some of his ideas were way out there, at the time, and he was kind of like a voice crying in the wilderness, and people didn’t listen, but some of his ideas are taking hold and are happening around the world.
His organization Men of the Trees, which is now called in Australia, is called Trillion Trees as well.
They had, for example, the Guinness Book of World Records, for the most trees ever planted in an hour – 150 thousand trees – So they had this massive – all these students out to plant trees.
Just some of the impacts that have been felt.
Then, of course, there is his connection to Saskatoon.
When he was a young man he came here to decided to homestead and he came to Beaver Creek, He failed as a homesteader but he also became one of the first students at the University of Saskatchewan and was a lumberjack up at Big River which was at the time one of the largest sawmills in the British Empire, and he saw all of the bad forestry practices and became aware of them. That was one of the triggers he had for becoming a forester. He also spent a lot of time with people from Whitecap Dakota First Nation, which is not too far from Beaver Creek and he said a lot of his inspiration came from listening to their stories and so on. And throughout his life he was very connected with indigenous people. In Kenya when he went there, he became the first white person to become inducted into their secret society of elders in the Kikuyu tribe.
And he became very involved with the Maori and so on.
So basically from the time he was a little boy, just a little toddler, he was planting trees with his father who was a nurseryman, and he was here in Saskatoon in 1982 to plant his last tree, he was in a wheelchair, he got up from the wheelchair, and helped a bunch of children plant a tree which is now marked on the Meewasin trail right by the Diefenbaker Centre – his last tree- and a couple of days later he died, and he is buried in Saskatoon.
So anyways, that is some of his story, and I can answer questions, or talk some more, but its kind of cool.
That’s really awesome. I learned quite a bit of stuff I realized I hadn’t known about him before. That’s very awesome. Let’s say thank you to Paul. Let Richard Kerbes say a couple of words then if you guys want questions to anybody, either Renny, Richard or Paul you can ask them, but why Richard Kerbes is out, he is representing the SOS Elms Coalition. And I believe that one of the things when Richard St. Barbe Baker wanted to do on his last trip to Saskatoon was to try to establish a branch of the International Tree Foundation here, and SOS Elms Coalition is the advocate for the trees in and around Saskatoon. They are a bunch of foresters and grass roots people that have joined the group and so I’ll leave it over to Richard to introduce the SOS Elms Coalition and if you wish to say anything regarding Paul Hanley too.
Thank you Julia. We owe a lot to Julia. She’s the one who really brought the afforestation areas here to our attention. Because of course its a big job to try to educate on the urban forest, and this was a little corner that has been preserved and and more or less forgotten, and thanks to Julia for her efforts.
Its been many many community associations and green groups, a big group effort [from many wonderful community members, indeed].
Certainly in the spirit of St Barbe..
We started in ’92 which is about 10 years after St Barbe’s death, and he was certainly in our minds when we started- he was well known. One of our early members was Robert White – a friend of yours Paul – and on and off he was a great and important advocate and supporter for us, and he brought along quite a lot of help from the Baha’i community as well, and its unfortunate that Robert couldn’t be here tonight.
And I must apologize for getting here late, circumstances beyond my control.
In any case. We started as a citizen’s group to advocate for the American Elm in particular. We since broadened and covering the whole of the urban forest, both the planted trees and the wild trees in Saskatoon. In ’92 when we started, Dutch Elm disease had just entered into the south eastern corner of Saskatchewan and it was a contagion killing American Elm, and not much was being done by either provincial or municipal governments both places. So we took on this task We had a very dynamic president in our first five years. She literally traveled all over the southeast of the province to promote awareness and the need for action. And our efforts did lead to both the provincial government, and the City of Saskatoon really increased their effort for going into monitoring for Dutch Elm disease. It’s of course a hopeless case for the wild stands of Elm, but in our communities of Saskatchewan we have lost a lot of American Elm to Dutch Elm disease, but Saskatoon is very special, because we have only had one case here, it was probably a … fighting a … so that’s one feather in our cap but of course the battle is never over.
There is so many threats to our urban forest as if it wasn’t enough for natural threats like Dutch Elm Disease and other pests. We have several on our horizon. and things like the Cottony Ash Psyllid (Psyllopsis discrepans) which has been killing our Ash trees. On top of that, its a continual battle with various governmental authorities to regulate infill construction because its a good thing to have high density in the central part of the city, but the centre part of the city is where the old mature trees are as well.
Its a continuing job we have in lobbying. In any case, we have a number of projects we have carried out. The most recent is, we have a tree tour guide to the special and unusual or especially nice specimens of trees in the City of Saskatoon. So if any of you are interested, I am happy to give you a copy, And of course I am happy to take your name if you would like to join or join our mailing list or join – our membership is only $10 a year. You can have the satisfaction, as Julia has implied, we are here in the spirit of St. Barbe and Julia pointed it out to me – I didn’t realize that in his last visit here St. Barbe had specifically noted that for historical, for nostalgic reasons, since this is where he really started his appreciation of trees, that we feel kind of honoured, though its not official, that we are carrying on what he promoted his whole life to. So thank you very much.
Thank you Richard.
I think we have three awesome speakers here on behalf of National Tree Day, Paul Hanley is a great environmentalist and brings a lot of attention to environmental concerns, and he has done an excellent of Richard St. Barbe Baker, and Richard and the SOS Elms Coalition is doing a great job preserving our trees in the City of Saskatoon and surrounding area, and Renny representing the Meewasin Valley Authority, if it wasn’t for them this area wouldn’t be managed, and the river bank wouldn’t be a phenomenal place with all the trails and the Cranberry Flats, and Beaver Creek all that wonderful stuff, so lets give another big round of applause to all our wonderful speakers here today, and thank you all also for coming out, and I think what you come out – it turned out we didn’t have snow today, it turned out to be not too bad of a day, the wind has come down, and thank you all of you to appreciate National Tree Day, and to see the Afforestation Area.
And Paul when is your next showing, is that McNally Robinson?
November 20 is the launch at McNally.
So if anybody wants to hear a speech maybe a bit longer, and maybe inside, and would you have your slide show at that time.
And at that time you would have a slide show.
And let people know about that. Spread the word.
Thanks for inviting me.
Thanks for coming.
Thank you guys for coming as well.
That book, I did a course on plants through the historical and social script of the plants and that book surfaced, and was given to the class so you can go and find the oldest tree in town, and the biggest tree in town, and there’s an address.
Isn’t it awesome.
The average citizen has yet to learn the importance of Forestry…the man in the street does not know that the presence of Forests, in reasonably proportionate areas, is vital to human health and in order to stay the process of the disintegration of the surface of the land….Happily the solution of the Problem is at hand.” ~University of Saskatchewan,University Archives & Special Collections,Richard St. Barbe Baker fonds, MG 71
Visit Paul Hanley’s website:
To learn more about U of R Press, visit:
To check out Sask Books’ Book store, visit:
For more information:
Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, SK, CA north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city.
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com
Contact the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The MVA has begun a Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund. If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund (MVA RSBBAA trust fund)”. Post to MVA 402 Third Avenue South Saskatoon, SK S7K 3G5 Please and thank you!
Please contemplate joining the SOS Elms coalition ~ an active group interested in forest management~ or make a donation to “Save our Saskatchewan” [SOS] Elms ~ leave a message to support the afforestation area 😉