Environment network looks to restore roots

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Rebuilding efforts ramp up two years after federal funding cuts

Two years after it learned Environment Canada was cutting $18,000 in annual funding, the Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Network (NLEN) is attempting to restore its roots.

“We’re really trying to go down a new path, renew ourselves and seek supporters of the environmental community and say, ‘If we want our local environmental groups to exist, then we all need to chip in and support the good work that’s being done in our own communities,’” said Katie Temple, a board member with the organization.

The Canadian Environment Network lost core funding from the federal government in 2011 to the tune of $547,000. An umbrella organization for environmental groups across the country, the NLEN was among dozens of organizations impacted by the cut to core funding.

NLEN works with environmental groups across the province and aims to increase public awareness about environmental issues.

The provincial government offered a $20,000 one-time grant to help the organization get by. NLEN was able to continue employing its part-time executive director until April of this year. The organization now relies strictly on the work of volunteers.

“It’s really slowed down what we’ve been able to do, especially our core activities,” Temple said, noting it did not have the capacity to offer an environmental perspective on the last provincial budget and has not been active on the issue of potential hydraulic fracking developments in western Newfoundland.

“Normally we could help facilitate groups getting together and helping with communication and networking and supporting the groups that are being active, and at the time we were needed, there was definitely a big gap there because we couldn’t fill that role.”

She hopes that through fundraising efforts, the organization will be able to once again have a paid executive director at some point in 2014.

“We’re really trying to diversify our funding, and I think a lot of environmental groups are in the same boat. They don’t want to rely on just one key source, because if that disappears, then they’re stuck with nothing.”

Corporate sponsors, individual donors and attendees for fundraising events are amongst the ways NLEN plans to rebuild. Last weekend, it benefitted nicely from the proceeds of a sold-out event in St. John’s focusing on climate change in Atlantic Change that included a film screening and a panel with prominent environmental advocate David Suzuki.

The NLEN Eco-Gala will be held at the Quidi Vidi Brewery today in St. John’s, featuring a performance by singer-songwriter Joanna Barker, as well as finger foods and a silent auction.

The organization’s renewal campaign is called “Restoring our Roots.”

“This is a positive step,” said Temple. “We’re trying to show people we’re on a path of renewal.”

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Roots

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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