It’s been a difficult year of transition at the GOERT Society, and perhaps the hardest part has been saying goodbye to colleagues. Faced with funding shortfalls, our Executive Director Rebecca Mersereau made the difficult decision of having to cut two staff positions. Carolyn Masson, long-time Communications Coordinator, left GOERT in early summer. With the falling leaves and fall storms came the departure of Holly Clermont, Local Government/First Nations Liaison with GOERT since 2010. Shortly afterwards, Rebecca herself decided that it was time for her to move on.
From her home office in Nanoose Bay, Holly greatly increased GOERT’s presence, especially in the central and northern range of Garry Oak ecosystems. She cultivated great working relationships with First Nations, local and provincial government staff, educational institutions, industries, and conservation organizations through workshops, dialogue sessions and many other projects. One of her proudest achievements resulted from such multi-partner cooperation. Holly and a team of Vancouver Island University students and instructors collected data from all levels of government, Cowichan Tribes, and other sources, and then developed a computer modelling tool to identify remaining patches of Garry Oak habitat in the Cowichan Valley pilot area, and the best opportunities for creating ‘connectivity corridors’ to link them. Holly’s dedication and passion for the project continues, and she is searching for funding to apply the methods elsewhere as she completes her PhD. dissertation.
Although Rebecca’s tenure with the GOERT Society was relatively brief, she left a lasting legacy. Rebecca joined the organization during a period of turmoil resulting from overly ambitious work plans, diminishing funding, and the confused relationship between the Recovery Team and the Society. Rebecca immediately began searching for new funding sources and ways to reduce costs, developing policies, supporting the Board and staff in strategic planning, and working to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Society and the Recovery Team. She faced many tough challenges along the way, but managed to guide staff through these difficult transitions with her calm, professional approach, warm personality, and sense of humour.
The Society staff and Board of Directors appreciate the contributions that Rebecca and Holly made over the years, and we are happy that both are planning to continue to be involved with the Team and Society.