How a Paradise teen became a wetlands conservationist

One of the veterans of protecting the wetlands in rapidly growing Paradise has yet to graduate from high school.

Brendan Kelly, 16, has worked for years on protecting swallows, ducks and other species

Brendan Kelly, 16, has already spent several years protecting wetlands habitat for birds that nest in Paradise. (Adam Walsh/CBC )

One of the veterans of protecting the wetlands in rapidly growing Paradise has yet to graduate from high school.

Brendan Kelly has been working on protecting wetlands for six years, and can be seen patrolling the town with high-end camera gear he uses to document the town's environment — all with a goal of protecting what is left.

"Wetlands filter our water — they're a lot more important than people actually realize," Kelly said

"With so much development, especially in Paradise, one of the fastest growing communities around, it's important that we got to protect some of our natural areas."

Kelly got into conservation as a small boy by building birdhouses with his father. As he got older, he got more serious about his commitment to wetlands, and has been building nesting boxes to help bird populations thrive.

"We've set up tree swallow boxes on posts in the water for the tree swallows to nest on, and they have pretty much a 100 per cent success rate. Almost every one we've ever set up has been used," said Kelly, who has also worked on projects for other species, including ducks and mallards.

Other plans on the horizon

Kelly, who will enter his final year of high school in September, has been working recently on Brazil's Pond, and has plans for other ponds in the town.

He hasn't, though, had the smoothest process over the years of getting people in the town to take him seriously, including Paradise Mayor Ralph Wiseman.

"At the beginning there were definitely a lot of people who were kind of like, 'How do you know what you're doing?'" Kelly said.

"Especially the mayor of Paradise, actually — that was one of the biggest setbacks for me, but I think we got past that and it's been going good."

Kelly's commitment to the environment earned him a placement on an Arctic expedition last year, and this summer he will join 79 students for another trip North of 60.

His focus, though, remains on his own town.

"One of my hopes [and goals] would be for the town of Paradise to sign a wetlands stewardship agreement with the provincial government, and basically … that would be would be like the town saying, 'We're going to try our best to enhance wetlands that we have and protect ones that we are already aware of,' " he said.

"Torbay has recently done it so I think it's time for Paradise to step up."

With files from Adam Walsh