People passionate about nature

Harvey Williams

Prairie Crocus Award recipient 1997

The Prairie Crocus Award is given for outstanding service in preserving a part of Manitoba in a natural state. With this year’s recipient, this posed a problem: which part of Manitoba, among so many he has helped to protect, do we focus on?

Should we highlight Hecla Island where he was instrumental in banning moose hunting in the 1980s and where he is currently spearheading a drive to stop an extremely damaging cottage development? Should we highlight Atikaki Provincial Park where he played a key role in banning logging? Should we look to the Mantario Wilderness Zone where he worked to keep the snowmobilers out? Should we look to Duck Mountain Provincial Park where he struggled bravely to save it from the ravages of Louisiana Pacific? Should we look to the boreal forest where he made a major contribution towards the inclusion of ecosystem values in attributing forest management licenses? Should we look even further north toward our newest national park, Wapusk, where he sits on the management board preparing how this park will be administered in years to come?

This year’s nominee deserves at least a dozen Prairie Crocus Awards for his enormous contribution to Manitoba’s natural spaces over the lase quarter century. You will have guessed by now that I am talking about Harvey Williams. No single individual has worked as long, as hard, as effectively, as intelligently, and as co-operatively over such an extended period of time in the conservation movement in Manitoba.

As many of you already know, Harvey and his wife Maida will soon be leaving Manitoba for the “wet coast” (apparently there isn’t enough water in this province), and to say that they will be missed is an understatement of….flood proportions. Since this may be the last time MNS members collectively meet before Harvey’s departure, this award should also be seen as our way of giving him a collective thank you for all he has done for us and all that he has been to us.

The list of Harvey’s involvements in our community is extraordinary. He has been an active member of the MNS for a quarter century, including a stint as president and one as chair of the Parks Committee where he is still a member. He was on the national board of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society for 10 years and helped launch the Manitoba Chapter, on whose board he still sits.

He spearheaded the founding of T.R.E.E. (Time to Respect Earth’s Ecosystems), an umbrella organization which includes the MNS and which is concerned with forestry issues in Manitoba. He is president of T.R.E.E. and also serves on the Steering Committee of the Manitoba EcoNetwork and on the board of Earth Day Manitoba, believing that we should use every possible avenue to educate the public about environmental issues.

More than his impressive achievements however, and more than the lists of boards and committees of which he has served, we will remember Harvey for his profound humanity, his kindness, his creative indignation, his sense of humour, and his respect for others. This respect extends to those in government and industry who are adversaries of the causes he espouses. Even in the full heat of battle, polemics have never been part of his arsenal. He has always preferred the soundness of argument, the thoroughness of research, and the integrity of processes. To such a degree that he has, in turn, earned the respect and even the affection of those for whom he has been a thorn in the side. I will wager that even they will miss him, but not as much as we will.

Harvey will be especially missed by those he mentored. More than one “green” parks committee member has found herself or himself entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a brief by Harvey, and then felt encouraged and guided and supported to the point where they gained the self-confidence to fly on their own wings. Harvey shaped many lives, and many would not have dared to be where they are if not for his prodding, cajoling, ego-building, you-can-do-it support. He is always wanting to thrust someone else into the limelight so they can shine – the sign of a true leader.

In fact, Harvey wanted to do the same with this award. Typically self-effacing and considerate, he would have preferred that another candidate receive it. But we make no apologies for overruling him when he was looking the other way. The overwhelming choice for this year’s Prairie Crocus Award was obvious to everyone but Harvey. This tells us a great deal about this special person.

I want to say a brief word as well about another loss we will all feel when Harvey leaves for Victoria. Harvey and Maida Neilson are a team. Maida has made impressive contributions in her own right to our community, and will be sorely missed by all of us. Maida has had the not-always-enviable task of keeping Harvey relatively organized all these years, and we are grateful to her for that as well. So a little bit of this Prairie Crocus Award belongs to Maida.

Let this Prairie Crocus Award stand for more than the places you have helped protect, Harvey. Let it stand also as tribute to who you are, and as a huge thank you from the countless friends that you will leave behind. In ten, twenty, thirty years from now, we will still remember this gentle, considerate, tenacious, brilliant, amusing, patient, scruffy, occasionally forgetful, wise and committed man who enriched our province and our lives.

Honorary Life Membership 1986

Harvey Williams took over the position of Executive Vice-President from Don Scott during 1982. He was President of the Society from May 1982 to may 1983, and Past President 1983-84. He has been chairman of the Parks Committee since September 1983.

During this time, he fought to maintain Manitoba’s provincial parks as ecological preserves. The master plan for Whiteshell Provincial Park provided for public input, and Harvey has been the MNS spokesperson with the media and government demanding that there be wilderness space provided in the park.

Harvey is acting as a strong social conscience keeping the government in line with the Provincial Park Lands Act. Lately, he has been involved with the establishment of Atikaki Park. The present park has been much reduced in size from the original proposal. This, and the threat of logging, stimulated Harvey and the Parks Committee to raise public awareness about the issue.

Through his efforts he has made our members, and more importantly the general public, aware of threats to the integrity of parks. He has helped to educate hundreds if not thousands of Manitobans in understanding our place in the natural environment. His efforts on behalf of the parks has led to a vastly improved channel of communication between MNS and various levels of government, and given the Society a high level of credibility with these government agencies.