I was sent an update on Mountain Equipment Co-op's Summer 2008 "The Big Wild Challenges" program and thought everyone would like to have a look. It's a great project; one that's guaranteed to expand every year.

Here's the update:

WHAT'S THE BIG WILD? The Big Wild is at its heart a community website for people who love the outdoors. It's the brain child's of the outdoor retailer co-operative Mountain Equipment Co-op and CPAWS. The end game for the Big Wild is protecting at least half of Canada's wild spaces. Knowing that it could be awhile before that happens, the secondary goal is to have fun celebrating the outdoors.

The following are the top two fundraising story contributions placed on thier website MEC's The Big Wild

"It was an afternoon stroll that turned into a 5000 ft ascent. Through swamp and bog and bugs then up and up into wind and air. When we descend at 10 o'clock our friends have fish stew waiting for us," said Peter Bowers about the hike to take the above photo.

FRIENDS TAKE A TRIP Bower's 2-week trip with six old friends going back 25 years (Bowers, Luckman, Ian Yolles, Jeff Eppler, Ian and David Thomson) canoed and hiked the Snake River in the Yukon Territory. Despite traveling through one of the most remote places and one of the largest pristine unprotected areas in Canada's North, they cooked up gourmet meals and ate fresh baked goods every morning.

"We joked on the river that we should be taking pictures for the 'gourmet in the woods' book we think Peter should write - he was our main food muse," wrote David Thomson in the comment section on his Big Wild Challenge page. "[Meanwhile] Jeff cooked up some mean and exotic Asian dishes and Chuck has the baking department covered hands down - fresh baking every day, multiple offerings, despite the rain,"

And of course it rained every day during their entire Big Wild Challenge.

Big Wild Challenges are trips into the Canadian wild pledged to wilderness conservation where the participants (challenge takers) encourage their friends and family to pledge money in support of their trip — think of it like a run for the cure, but with canoes.

The Snake River, Yukon 2008 Challenge raised $6,050, taking top fundraising award from the Big Wild and in returned they won $1,500 in Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) gift cards.

The 2008 summer Challenge season raised over 23,000 in its inaugural year, which was matched by MEC and placed in a fund that is managed by Tides Canada, a national public foundation. The money wil be spent in 2009 on wilderness conservation initiatives.

The Canadian Snake River as it flows into the Peel River watershed runs parallel with the border of Yukon and the North West Territories. The Snake is one of three rivers that intersect with the Peel. The Peel eventually connects into the many veined delta of the Mackenzie River, which then finds its ultimate resting place in the Arctic Ocean's Beaufort Sea.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter has pushed for more than a decade for some type of protection of the Three Rivers watersheds.

"It's hard to get people mobilized around protection in Yukon because 15 minutes out of the capital Whitehorse — a population of 22,000 — and you're in the dense bush," says CPAWS conservation campaigner Theresa Gulliver. "The wilderness seems so vast, but it's not."

The Big Wild is at its heart a community website for people who love the outdoors. It's the brain child's of the outdoor retailer co-operative Mountain Equipment Co-op and CPAWS. The end game for the Big Wild is protecting at least half of Canada's wild spaces. Knowing that it could be awhile before that happens, the secondary goal is to have fun celebrating the outdoors, one 5000 ft ascent at a time.

Nahanni River — Family Adventure Big Wild Challenge

3 canoes, 6 parent, 6 kids between the ages of 11 and 6, and 18 days down the rugged and remote Nahanni River— you would think it would time for a nap for these families? Wrong.

Upon returning from their trip where they were inspired by the land and about efforts to protect the entire Nahanni watershed, one family, the Burnett's got busy.

"[We] asked ourselves how we could contribute to this goal. Then we get home, open the new MEC catalogue, see the Big Wild Challenge and find our answer, the Burnett's wrote on their Big Wild Challenge page: Nahanni River — Family Adventure.

Big Wild Challenges are trips into the Canadian wild pledged to wilderness conservation where the participants (challenge takers) encourage their friends and family to pledge money in support of their trip — think of it like a run for the cure, but with canoes.

The Burnetts got on the horn, called up their fellow trip families and went to work, writing stories, posting videos and uploading their photos to the Big Wild. Then they called and emailed everyone they knew and asked for a donation. They raised $4,763 from over 90 donors, taking home the Big Wild Prize for having the largest number of individual donors — Obama of the Canadian wild if there was one. They're win netted them $1,500 in MEC gift cards.

The 2008 summer Challenge season raised over 23,000 in its inaugural year, which was matched by MEC and placed in a fund that is managed by Tides Canada, a national public foundation. The money will then be spent in 2009 on wilderness conservation initiatives.

The South Nahanni watershed is one of Canada's most spectacular Boreal wilderness sites, a top 10 world paddling destination and home to a waterfall twice as high as Niagara, but it is only partially protected from industrial development. Nahanni National Park Reserve and World Heritage Site protect a narrow corridor along the Northwest Territories' South Nahanni River.

Important wildlife habitat for threatened species such as woodland caribou and grizzly bears lie outside the park boundary, along with the globally significant limestone waterways of the Nahanni Karstlands and much of the South Nahanni watershed (map).

Local First Nations and conservationists have been promoting expansion of the park to protect the entire South Nahanni watershed for years. Prime Minister Harper has committed publicly to expanding Nahanni Park Reserve, perhaps with small efforts like the Burnett's the dream will be realized.

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