Nova Scotia

Trek to raise funds for N.S. conservation

A new Nova Scotia-based program will be taking adventurers to exotic wilderness areas across the globe in a bid to raise funds for protected areas in the province's backyard.

A new Nova Scotia-based program will be taking adventurers to exotic wilderness areas across the globe in a bid to raise funds for protected areas in the province's backyard.

The Nova Scotia Nature Trust initiative is aimed at connecting outdoor enthusiasts with the province's wilderness by showing them already protected parks around the world, said Bonnie Sutherland, executive director of the trust.

"There are people who love the outdoors and love exploring, but they haven't necessarily made that connection to why we need to protect nature in our own backyard," said Sutherland.

The inaugural Expedition for the Earth, slated for next February, will take participants through the volcanoes, mountains and glaciers of the Torre del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The park is a protected biosphere reserve on the southern tip of South America.

Each participant will pay $2,750 to cover their accommodations, food and guides in Chile. But they also must raise another $2,500 for the Nature Trust, which is dedicated to conserving the province's ecologically significant lands.

The idea of charitable treks isn't new, but the trust wanted to expand on the idea, said Sutherland.

"The idea of making these educational kind of expeditions is not just to go to exciting tourist destinations but to places that are protected areas themselves and tell a story about how government, local people and landowners get together to protect places that are special," said Sutherland.

Goal is to raise $50,000

Berg Adventures International will be leading the expedition. Wally Berg, the company's founder, said he's been involved in other charitable treks.

In 2006, his company led the way as volunteers and members of the Feed Nova Scotia food bank climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, raising about $56,600.

Berg has extensively mapped Patagonia and said the adventurers headed to the region next year will come back with newfound devotion to protect wilderness in their home province.

"Patagonia … stirs in me a lot of passion for proper use of public lands as well as our collective use of private lands," said Berg.

"It broadens our horizons and opens our eyes."

The Nature Trust's goal is to raise $50,000. Sutherland said having access to money that is not tied to any particular initiative is important when dealing with land conservation.

"When land changes hand, we sometimes have a really narrow window of opportunity to save something. So it's really exciting for us to have a source of this kind of funds that will come in without a lot of strings attached."

Sutherland said about four people from the ages of 30 to 65 have already signed up for next year's expedition to Chile. The trust is hoping to sign up another 10 people, but the trip can accommodate up to 30.