Norman Barichello says he’s fortunate that he’s been able to pursue conservation throughout his life working as a biologist, First Nations advisor, naturalist guide and educator.
He’s taken part in studies about grizzly bears, polar bears, wolves, Dall sheep, mountain goats, caribou and gyrfalcons and in 2019 published his book Gyrfalcon: The One Who Stays All Winter.
“It’s been one adventure after another,” he said in a Dec. 22 interview.
His extensive work in conservation is being recognized by the Yukon Conservation Society (YCS), which awarded him the 2020 Gerry Couture Stewardship Award.
The $1,000 prize is presented annually for “outstanding personal dedication to natural resource conservation”.
“I am honoured to have the opportunity to recognize Norman for his extraordinary lifetime of efforts on behalf of the wild places and all of those creatures who live in these places,” YCS executive director Coral Voss said.
Barichello began his career in conservation with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science from the University of British Columbia in the 1970s.
Between earning his two degrees he took part in a number of studies on wildlife. After earning his masters, Barichello started working as a wildlife biologist responsible for the management of Dall sheep and mountain goats in the Yukon.
“These journeys and encounters, in some remarkable regions across Canada, nourished my passion for nature and conservation,” he said in a statement.
His work expanded to include efforts with First Nations, in particular the Kaska Dena Council where he is continuing to work as an advisor and advocate for land conservation.
“The elders have shared and trusted me with their stories, knowledge and worldview, for which I am grateful,” he said. “With this has come an appreciation of the importance of Indigenous wisdom and knowledge in guiding our relationship with the land.”
Most recently Barichello’s work with the Kaska Dena Council has focused on persuading governments to support an Indigenous Protected Conserved Area for a part of the Ross River area. He is currently part of the board of directors for the Dena Kayeh Institute, a Kaska not-for-profit institute advocating for conservation, education and protection of Indigenous knowledge.
While it’s anticipated it could take many years before that conservation area will be established, Barichello said he’s hopeful it will happen as soon as possible and will involve more work with the Yukon government.
He has also worked as an adjunct professor at what was then Yukon College (now Yukon University) and since 1990 has co-owned Dechenla Wilderness Lodge, hosting naturalists and students in an ongoing Indigenous guardian education program.
“Part of this included the development of a curriculum, focused on caribou, and authorized by the Yukon Department of Education,” he noted. “I also had the enviable job of helping to produce a number of caribou videos.”
Throughout his career, Barichello says he has tried to foster public awareness of wild things and wild places.
He wrote his book, Gyrfalcon: The One Who Stays All Winter, wanting to present information aimed more at a general audience rather than a more scientific audience.
Despite his extensive contributions in conservation, Barichello said it was a surprise to learn he would be awarded the 2020 Gerry Couture Stewardship Award.
“I was just very surprised; very pleased,” he said.
Upon being presented with the award, Barichello said he feels “honoured to have been selected for the Gerry Couture Stewardship Award in the company of so many people who have committed their lives to conservation here in the Yukon. In my journeys, I have been fortunate to have learned from many elders and others who have dedicated themselves to conservation here in the Yukon — Dave Mossop, Don Reid, Katarzyna Nowak and Hillary Cooke, to name a few, as well as the late Bob Frisch and Gerry Couture.”
Selection for the award is made by the inspiration of Couture’s fearlessness, creativity, innovation, and “curmudgeonliness,” YCS noted in a statement.
Couture was a respected member of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Yukon Salmon Committee. He also worked as YCS’ mining analyst until 2009, and as a commercial pilot, homesteader, trapper, commercial fisherman and placer miner.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org