MISSISSAUGA—When it comes to conservation education on Manitoulin Island there are a few names that immediately come to mind, foremost among those is that of Sheguiandah’s Bill Strain.
President of the Little Current Fish and Game Club, Mr. Strain received the Larry Wallace Memorial Volunteer Award at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) annual general meeting and Fish and Wildlife Conference held on March 14.
“Mr. Strain has been president of our club for many years and has been the guiding light in our many activities,” wrote Marcel Gauthier of the Little Current club in his letter nominating Mr. Strain for the award. Mr. Gauthier went on to list many of Mr. Strain’s efforts in his letter, but his personal comments to The Expositor are most telling.
“Bill and I have worked together on many projects over the years,” said Mr. Gauthier, citing the Little Current Curling Club and the Manitoulin Trade Fair as examples. “Whatever Bill sets his mind to do it gets done and done well.”
“By promoting conservation of fish and other wildlife through education, restoring fish habitat in our streams and lakes and then raising and restocking walleye in Lake Huron, your club has ensured that our town can continue to be a great place to live,” wrote Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin in his letter of recommendation that was submitted with the application.
“On behalf of the students and staff of Little Current Public School, I want to thank you for your contribution to our environment, community and to the ongoing level of instruction and engagement of our students,” wrote Jamie Mohamed, principal of Little Current Public School, who extolled the efforts of Mr. Strain and the “number of volunteers in your club willing to share their expertise with our students.”
“Bill, to your members present and on behalf of the people I represent, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude for placing education and learning about the ecology and nurturing our environment on the front burner for our present and future generations,” said Manitoulin Rainbow District School Board Trustee Larry Killens. “Our survival as God’s creatures depends on it.”
Mr. Strain was characteristically low key when contacted about the award. “I think it is a club effort,” he said. “It takes a lot of people to do these events.”
But he admits the educational program he helps to organize is a gratifying experience. “Some of the questions these kids ask you, they are right on top of it,” he chuckled.
Mr. Strain recalled one precocious Grade 4 student’s question. “We had stripped out the eggs from the females and milked the sperm from the males and the kids were mixing them together with feathers,” he said. “This one little girl looked up and asked, ‘Is this like sex?’ I told her to ask her mother,” laughed Mr. Strain.
Mr. Strain said he was looking forward to the program this spring. “We are bringing in two more schools, Assiginack Public School and Central Manitoulin Public School,” he said. “I just received an email from the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) informing us that they will be sending the trailer with all their displays in it this year, so it will really be something to see.”
The Larry Wallace Memorial Volunteer Award recognizes a person or persons who have helped to ensure the future of conservation by sharing their experience, knowledge and love of the outdoors with youth. Mr. Wallace was a long-time OFAH member, zone chair, director and dedicated conservationist. He had a keen interest in introducing youth to the wonders of the outdoors and recognized that youth were key to the future of hunting and angling, notes an OFAH press release.
The release goes on to say that “while several outstanding candidates were nominated for the award, the judges thought that Bill stood out from the rest. They noted that he is a great role model for young people, and praised him for bringing kids, the community and anglers together in projects that make a difference on the ground.”
“For over 25 years, Bill has been involved in the successful pickerel rehabilitation program on Manitoulin Island, has promoted the walleye fishery, as well as the conservation of the species and the environment through a variety of activities,” said OFAH President Bill Blackwell. “He serves as a fine example of what it means to give back to the community and how important it is to engage the youth of today as they are the future stewards of our natural resources.”
For the past 25 years, The Expositor has been privileged to bear witness to the efforts of Mr. Strain, the Little Current Fish and Game Club and the many other volunteers who have worked tirelessly to rehabilitate the Island fisheries in the hatchery based on Mr. Strain’s Sheguiandah resort.
The resort buildings have played host to literally thousands of school children, where lecturers from the MNR and local conservation clubs and sportsmen instilled an understanding of the role and importance that fish, game and the wild play in making our world a livable space and how to sustain nature for future generations.
Mr. Strain noted that when the club first began its pickerel rehabilitation program in 1986, there was virtually no fishery left in this part of Lake Huron. “It had been pretty well wiped out in the 1960s,” he said. Now, the size of the fish coming up the creek in the spring are very gratifying. “You should see it at night,” said Mr. Strain of the phosphorescent eyes of the fish in the dark. “They are like a bunch of diamonds hanging in the water.”
The OFAH press release also acknowledged the outstanding work of Mr. Strain’s fellow award nominees, David Field and Kenneth Beaston.
For a complete list of conservation award winners, visit www.ofah.org/conference/awards.
With over 100,000 members, subscribers and supporters, and 720 member clubs, the OFAH is the province’s largest nonprofit, fish and wildlife conservation-based organization and acts as the credible voice of anglers and hunters across the province. For more information, visit www.ofah.org.