People passionate about nature

Marilyn Latta

Service Award recipient 2020

Marilyn has received the Service Award once before, in 1997, but in the 20+ years since then has continued to do exemplary service for Nature Manitoba. She is chair of the Habitat Committee, which entails looking after our Tall Grass Prairie Preserve properties, supervising seasonal staff each year, and serving on our behalf on the management committee of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. In the past few years Marilyn played a major role representing us in convincing the City of Winnipeg to preserve Henteleff Park in south St. Vital, and continues to represent Nature Manitoba on their management committee. Marilyn has for many years been a regular contributor to our Workshops, with her programs on wildflower identification and gardening with native plants.

Prairie Crocus Award recipient 1995

More than anyone else, Marilyn Latta has brought the Manitoba Naturalists Society to the forefront of habitat conservation in Canada. Under her tireless and inspired leadership, the Society has gone from being an advocacy group to an organization that “puts its money where its mouth is”.

Marilyn has focused her attention on one of Canada’s most endangered habitats – the tall grass prairie. Her efforts to preserve tall grass prairie began in 1985 when she helped to form the Habitat Conservation Committee, which she has chaired since. Through her dedicated action, the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve Project was formed, and the remaining tall grass prairie sites in Manitoba were mapped and classified. Under her leadership, and using the prairie inventory as a framework, the Society worked with other organizations to purchase remaining pieces of prairie. Marilyn was the catalyst that brought about the purchase of roughly 4,000 acres of endangered tall grass prairie in southeastern Manitoba. Marilyn also developed the innovative Prairie Patron Program. She instituted the program both as a fundraising and education project, organizing and leading field trips to prairie sites and integrating these activities with the surrounding communities. Now that the Society is responsible for managing these protected tracts of prairie, Marilyn continues her conservation efforts through active involvement in the management of these sites, including the prescribed burns.

Lest you think that Marilyn’s service to the Society and the community-at-large begins and ends with the tall grass prairie, here are just a few of her other activities and accomplishments. A past president of the MNS, she served eight years on the Board, and was a charter member of the National Habitat Coalition and a member of the Manitoba Heritage Marsh Committee on behalf of our Society. She oversaw the first interpretive program at Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Management Area and supervised the Naturally Clean Rivers Program in Winnipeg. Under her guidance, the Habitat Conservation Committee contributed substantially to the Kissick Prairie Wetland Complex, the Reeder Snake Den, and Manitoba Critical Wildlife Habitat Program.

Marilyn’s dedication to conservation of our natural world has resulted in the long-term protection of one of Canada’s most precious and endangered ecosystems. She truly has embraced the concept of “think globally, act locally”, and has shown that individual action can make a difference. For her outstanding service in preserving part of Manitoba in its natural state, the Society takes the great honour in presenting Marilyn Latta with the Society’s Prairie Crocus Award.

Ernest Thompson Seton Award recipient 1998

Over the many years of her membership in the MNS, Marilyn has been an active, creative, and energetic participant and leader. On behalf of the Manitoba Naturalists Society, she has sought out, identified and worked to acquire for preservation, remnants of tall grass prairie. She has organized work parties, plunging in to work with them, in such prairie maintenance activities such as controlled burns, clover pulls, and “spurge purges”. She established the Habitat Conservation Fund to raise money to enable land acquisition and to pay taxes on acquired properties. She organized raffles, sales, and parties to swell that fund. She sought bequests, donations, created the “buy-an-acre-of-prairie” event and organized an Annual Art Show and Sale to raise money for the Habitat Fund.

Marilyn is a self-taught botanist who set about to learn the names, habitats and seasons of Manitoba’s plants, and she has recorded in stunning photographs many of the flowering plants in our province. These remarkable achievements could have been reached only through a combination of disciplined personal study, association with other botanists, dedicated field work, and careful record keeping. With exemplary generosity of spirit, she has in her turn, led countless field walks on wildflower identification, wildflower photography, and prairie exploration. She has conceived, planned and twice presented an eight week course in basic botany, illustrated with 1200 of her own slides! The funds generated by these courses are donated to the Habitat Conservation Fund.

Over a long period, Marilyn has given generously of her time and her remarkable energy. She has worked on many committees; she has served on our Board in many capacities, including that of President. She is an outstanding achiever, a generous leader, a genuine and informed friend of the prairie, a dedicated and superior naturalist. Her work honours the memory of Seton, even as the medal bearing his name honours her.

Service Award recipient 1987

Since joining the Manitoba Naturalists Society (NM) in 1975, Marilyn has established a reputation for organization and administration. Her amiable personality and friendly powers of persuasion have, over the years, encouraged many members to become actively involved in Society activities.

Marilyn has served on the Board of Directors, as Chairperson of the Indoor Program, Program Vice-President, Executive Vice-President, and President of the Manitoba Naturalists Society.

It was during Marilyn’s term as president that the society was awarded the Environment 2000 grants that enabled us to undertake the Oak Hammock Marsh Project and the Clean Rivers Project. These were new ventures for the Society and required many additional hours of review to ensure that all was running according to plan.

More recently Marilyn’s talent for organization has been responsible for the birth and success of the Habitat Conservation Committee. By utilizing human, financial and organizational resources available, Marilyn has motivated, not only the committee but our whole membership into supporting an activity that has put the Manitoba Naturalists Society at the forefront of habitat conservation groups in Manitoba and Canada.