Land Champion - Gary Runka

* Gary Runka is the first person to receive the Land Champion award posthumously. Mr. Runka passed away in 2013.

The Foundation's Land Champion is honoured for outstanding work in sustainable land use in BC. Runka, whose career spanned five decades, worked with public, private and non-profit sector groups to facilitate informed land use planning and natural resource management decisions.

He was the first manager of the BC Land Commission, forerunner of the Agricultural Land Commission, and directed multi-stakeholder processes to create land and resource management plans for BC regions. After his government career Runka led nearly 700 projects through his company. Mr. Runka's work has made a significant contribution to some of the most important land use decsions in BC. For these reasons, we are proud to name him as the 2014 Land Champion. Read more in our blog.

Private Sector Finalists

Winner: Organic Land Care Education Programs - Gaia College

Gaia College's organic land care programs are helping BC communities move beyond conventional landscaping toward a holistic paradigm that creates healthy environments, both above and below ground. This small enterprise teaches landscape design and gardening practices that emphasize connections between the health of soils, plants, people and ecosystems as a whole. To date, the Gaia College network includes more than 20 educational partners in 25 communities. Its programs benefit students, residents and visitors in municipalities where organic land care is practiced, as well as the land, air and water we share.

Sustainability Strategy in the Kootenays - Teck Resources Limited
Teck Resources' science-based sustainability strategy is working to benefit people and wildlife in BC's Kootenay region. Actions include creating and implementing water quality and ecosystem management plans; spending over $20 million to purchase and conserve land with high biodiversity value; and addressing the ongoing impacts of its mining operations through a cumulative effects management framework. Working with a variety of stakeholders, Teck has made major investments to obtain social license to operate and to conserve land across the Kootenay region, setting an example for other resource extraction companies.

Public Sector Finalists

Winner: Agricultural Land Use Inventory Program - BC Ministry of Agriculture

The Strengthening Farming Program is working to create a comprehensive inventory of agricultural land that helps government agencies understand how land is actually being used. Data is collected on a parcel by parcel basis, providing information on the type of agricultural and non-agricultural land uses, types of irrigation, and what land is potentially available for future food production. Current, accurate data allows decision makers to make realistic plans and policies related to the protection of agricultural land. It can also be integrated with other information – related to soil and climate change, for example – to help with emergency planning, water management and other essential activities. Since this work began in 2006, 32 communities have benefitted directly by using the inventories as a basis for their agricultural area and economic development plans.

Baikie Island Restoration - City of Campbell River
Located in the Campbell River estuary on Vancouver Island, Baikie Island is home to an ecologically significant estuary which had been degraded over 100 years of industrial activity. As a result of a unique partnership between the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the City of Campbell River, this land has been reclaimed and restored to its original natural environment. The restoration included creating of wildlife habitat, planting native trees and shrubs, removing invasive species and building a recreational trail. This project will continue to provide many ecological, educational, recreational and economic benefits to the community of Campbell River.

Duteau Creek Watershed Assessment Response Plan - Greater Vernon Water Utility
Greater Vernon Water Utility worked with local residents, technical experts and regulators to improve water quality in the Duteau Creek community watershed in the face of health risks and sediment problems. Foresters, ranchers, First Nations and government agencies participated in a seven-year process that has improved water quality for up to 50,000 residents and 800 farms. Solutions included changes to forestry and road building practices, access to water for cattle, and increased enforcement of off-road vehicles and camping around reservoirs. The response plan is the most extensive in the BC interior. Its collaborative approach is an example for others in BC to identify gaps, conflicts and solutions in their own watersheds.

Farmland Access for Food Security - Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, UBC
In partnership with FarmFolk CityFolk’s Community Farms Program, the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems is promoting innovative solutions to farmland access through research, community engagement, program development and policy advocacy. Recently, the program looked at the potential of alternative farming models, such as community farms and land trusts, to help new farmers access land. Using the findings from community workshops in different BC regions, the Centre is working to recommend policies that support farm protection and food security in the long term.

Non-profit Sector Finalists

Kettle on Burrard - The Kettle Friendship Society
Kettle Friendship Society, in partnership with Family Services of Greater Vancouver and funding partners, redeveloped a single-storey building on city-owned land in downtown Vanouver to create a 16-storey affordable housing project that includes community and commercial space. The infill development, which incorporates green building features and is LEED Gold certified, resulted in 141 housing units for youth at risk of homelessness. It includes the original youth centre, which provides drop-in services and allows residents to access support on site.

Landscape Training and Accreditation for Local Governments - Society for Organic Urban Land Care
The Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL) is building local government capacity to manage the public lands for which they are responsible in an ecologically responsible way. SOUL's "certified professional" and "accredited practitioner" qualifications provide an accessible standard for landscape workers who want to transition away from chemical-based landscaping and the pesticide-applicator certificate required by many BC municipalities. North Vancouver, Whistler, Campbell River and Saanich are the first to benefit from this program, which is at the leading edge of sustainable land care in for local governments in BC, and elsewhere in Canada.

Winner: The Station - Cowichan Green Community Society

In 2013, Cowichan Green Community (CGC) worked to transform an old motor inn to create a zero waste, mixed-use building with commercial space and 20 affordable housing units in downtown Duncan. The project, which includes the development of a community kitchen and food forest, creates a sustainable revenue stream for CGC to continue its work in food sustainability, and contributes to creating a safe, inclusive neighbourhood. Real estate professionals, local governments, non-profits, First Nations, and other community members and businesses contributed extensive volunteer efforts and pro-bono advice to this collaborative project.