Seven young men and women from across British Columbia are about to embark on a trip down the Fraser River
They have been selected to take part in the Sustainable Living Leadership Program, a 25-day journey by canoe, raft and foot that starts Thursday at the Fraser Rivers headwaters near Mount Robson and finishes on the shores of Vancouver some 1,400 kilometres away.
The program is run by the Rivershed Society of B.C., founded by Fin Donnelly who has swum the Fraser River twice to raise awareness about river ecosystems and what can be done to protect them.
Theres no better way to learn about sustainability than to be out there in the environment, on the river, going from community to community and witnessing the issues, said Donnelly, who also serves as MP for New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody.
In the rivers upper reaches, they'll learn about the relationship between forests, riversheds and the logging industry with a hike on the Goat River trail.
They also visit the ancient cedar forest grove east of Prince George and tour a pulp mill in Quesnel.
In the Fraser Canyon, they will learn about the importance of the Fraser for fishing and water in the dry interior plateau. Participants stay at a traditional first nations village, visit sites that have been used as summer camps by first nations for centuries, witness salmon dip-netting techniques, and see a demonstration by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Through the Frasers lower stretches they tour Glen Valley Organic Farm and learn about sustainable agriculture in a region that boasts some of the best soil in the country. They get to see firsthand the impacts of urban development on the river.
They'll be accompanied by two facilitators and one facilitator trainee, Amy Law, 26, of Quesnel, who took the trip last year after hearing about it from a friend.
Simply learning about the initiatives communities are taking to protect the river was an ongoing highlight for Law.
"And the different ways the river is used," she added. "Seeing people dip netting on the river outside of Lillooet, that was something really special."
Law, who worked for the Baker Creek Enhancement Society in Quesnel, arranged the pulp mill tour, when the group will meet with the plant's environmental advisor to learn about ways industrial towns are mitigating their impact on the river.
Law holds a masters degree in education and has also worked at Camp Trapping, the wilderness program for young offenders, and she's enrolled in the public administration program at the University of Victoria, starting this fall.
Her goal for this trip is to see how she can help out and be a positive influence in the Fraser watershed.
One of the participants is also from Quesnel. Jillian Simpson, 20, could not be reached for comment Monday but according to a biography of the society's website, she intends to develop an offshoot of Fresh Air Learning, a summer camp for preschool-age children, in Quesnel.