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Carolinian Canada Conservation Awards 2014

On Thursday May 22nd, Carolinian Canada Coalition had the great pleasure of recognized conservation heroes in the Carolinian Life Zone.  Every year we help celebrate the work of bold individuals or groups (including categories for youth and lifetime achievement) with our Carolinian Conservation Awards. The accomplishments of our 2014 award recipients are many. Their work has contributed significant benefits to the nature of Canada’s Deep South.

Carolinian Conservation Award 2014 Recipients.  Read about them below

Back row, left to right: Paul Gagnon, Clen van Kleef, Joe Csoff, Gunther Csoff, Brad Renaud.
Front row, left to right: Joanne Beasley (Environmental Educator at Jaffa Environmental Education Centre), Angelle van Kleef, Cynthia Cook, John Cook, Dave Wake, and David Ainslie. Absent: Joe and Joyce Hickson.

Joe & Joyce Hickson and Dave Wake were recognized for their exceptional commitment over many years to advance conservation success in Carolinian Canada with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Find out more about each of our winners below.

The 2014 Carolinian Conservation Awards Recipients


David Ainslie

David Ainslie is an innovative farmer who was amongst the first in the region to adopt conservation farming techniques such as no-till planting.  He has implemented many Beneficial Management Practices that improve water quality, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat across all of his farms.  Most notably, Dave has made use of rock chutes, extensive tree planting, shelter belts and buffer strips, which reduce soil erosion. With his work, David has enhanced the sustainability of agricultural lands. David maintains a 25 acre woodlot in the Municipality of Leamington and has undertaken a woodlot restoration near Comber Ontario.

Joe Csoff & Gunther Csoff

Joe and Gunther Csoff are participants in the ALUS-Norfolk program and have been farmer liaisons since 2008. Each new ALUS participant is assigned a liaison and collectively Joe and Gunther have provided assistance to half of the ALUS participants. Furthermore, they are the “tall grass prairie guys” in Norfolk. Their expertise in tallgrass prairie planting and maintenance has contributed to the planting of 651 acres of native tallgrass prairie in the county.

Joe has retired approximately 13 acres of his marginal farm land to conservation, and contributes native grass seed back into the ALUS program for use in restoration.

Gunther has retired approximately 10 acres of his marginal farm land to conservation, and is a volunteer director with Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association and Norfolk Land Stewardship Council.

Angelle & Clen Van Kleef

Angelle and Clen van Kleef are greenhouse owners and operators in Norfolk County. After immigrating to Canada in 1999 and setting up their business on a 48 acre farm property, they turned their attention to restoring remnant Oak Savanna and Prairie habitat on their property.  They have dedicated a lot of energy and personal resources to restoring these habitats with assistance from ALUS-Norfolk, the Environmental Farm Plan and other Species at Risk funding.

Furthermore, Clen has served two terms as a member of the Norfolk Stewardship Council and Angelle is the current president of the Norfolk Woodlot Owners Association.

Paul Gagnon

Paul is an avid outdoorsman. He graduated from Sir Sanford Fleming College with a Fish and Wildlife Technology diploma. He has worked for the Long Point World Biosphere Foundation both as a Biologist for a consulting firm, and has been in his current role as the Lands and Waters Supervisor for Long Point Region Conservation Authority since 2001.

Throughout his work, Paul has worked with municipalities, local schools, area Scout organizations, stewardship groups and private landowners. This involvement allows him to spread his knowledge and passion onto others. He also takes pride in learning from those he is speaking and working with. Paul is very much about partnerships being the key to success, engaging others to undertake voluntary projects on their properties and providing the tools to meet common goals and objectives.


John & Cynthia Cook

John and Cynthia Cook have made contributions to conservation in both their home and place of business, the Forest Glen Herb Farm.  They have maintained and enhanced their property to provide habitat for Carolinian creatures of all sizes, including insects, turtles and reptiles. Together they have planted a wide variety of Carolinian tree species, including Kentucky Coffee Trees, Tulip Trees, Cucumber Trees and Pin Oaks (amongst a variety of pine, cedar, spruce, and maple).  Through their participation with Communities in Bloom, they have the unique opportunity to share the wonders of Carolinian Canada with the public.

The Forest Glen Herb Farm is a recognized local, provincial and national tourist attraction.

Jaffa Environmental Education Centre

Thames Valley District School Board offers outdoor, curriculum- linked, environmental education programs to JK through Grade 12 students. TVDSB has three environmental education centres, one being the Jaffa Environmental Education Centre near Aylmer Ontario.

The Jaffa Environmental Education Centre recently launched their Carolinian Life Zone exhibit, a brightly coloured interactive exhibit with dioramas that take students and teachers to a Carolinian forest, wetland and tallgrass prairie. The exhibit is filled with hands-on activities that give students and teachers the opportunity to learn about the area and the need to protect it.  The Carolinian Life Zone exhibit is an exciting new tool with which to educate our future leaders about the importance of Carolinian Canada.


Brad Renaud

Brad has been involved in the Friends of Cedar, Mill and Wigle through his Scouts work, and has participated in tree plantings, garlic mustard pulls and bat box construction.  He was one of the first young people to become a member of our Youth Engagement Team, and continues to demonstrate leadership with this group.  Brad has achieved his Chief Scout Status and has now become a Venture, where he mentors other young people. He was a leader in last year’s e-waste collection day, collecting several cars full of unused electronics.

Lifetime Achievement:

Dave Wake

Dave Wake is a tireless, committed and long-serving proponent of meaningful protection for significant natural areas. Dave has been active nationally, provincially and locally. He served as president of the Canadian Nature Federation (now Nature Canada), as a member of Ontario Nature, and has been a member of the McIlwraith Field Naturalists (now Nature London) for almost 50 years.  He has served in many capacities as:  a leader of countless field trips, participant in dozens of organized bird and butterfly surveys; frequent contributor to The Cardinal; member of the Trees for London committee (precursor to Reforest London), chair of local organizing committees for conferences of provincial and national affiliates, and, most of all, as an advocate for conservation issues.  Dave has been a leader in efforts to protect Westminster Ponds Environmentally Sensitive Area. He is a current Board Member for Thames Talbot Land Trust.

Joe & Joyce Hickson

Joe has been an active steward of the land his entire life. His passion for stewardship started through tree planting with his father in 1932 and enjoying the remnant Carolinian forest on his property. Nearing the end of his career Joe and his family have decided to return the property to its natural Carolinian landscape. In 1932 Joe began planting with his father and in 2008 marked his last planting with Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

His work with ERCA spans decades, and he and his wife Joyce have planted 23,450 trees on their 88.5 acre property located in the Muddy Creek watershed within the Municipality of Leamington.  Joe personally assisted with developing the restoration plan, planting trees, creating habitat features in the constructed wetlands, and maintaining the site over the growing season.   Mr. Hickson is a real and life-long steward of the land, and has been a wonderful partner in promoting stewardship to others in our community.