Ambassador: Judy Stewart

When you read how Judy Stewart has contributed to the Cochrane community over the years, it’s easy to be impressed.  And maybe just a little tired.

Judy is an outspoken advocate for environmental conservation and management in Cochrane, and has been a tireless champion for sustainability issues.  It’s no surprise then that she’s been a strong supporter of the Cochrane Sustainability Plan, and the difference it can make for our community.

“Judy has a passionate interest in local, regional and national affairs,” says Tim Giese, a Board Member with SPUR who recently nominated Judy for an Emerald Award (for which she was a finalist).   “As an environmentalist, Judy enjoys working with community groups in land use planning and water management planning to protect sensitive environmental landscapes, especially wetlands and riparian lands. Her influence extends from grassroots organizations through regional groups and into municipal and provincial government policy.  She is highly respected for her in-depth knowledge of water management issues and the impact on land use planning.”

For Judy, a commitment to sustainability influences every part of her life.  “I live, work and play in a sustainability mode,” she says.  “I am always living life large – enjoying every opportunity – but I’m always mindful that I may use and enjoy resources but I must contribute, must steward and must return things undiminished in quality and quantity when I am done.”

Judy has three key principles for living sustainably:

 

  • Be mindful of the world you share with others and be resourceful
  • Enjoy the people you meet in your life, work and play activities
  • Work hard to give back

Judy traces her interest in sustainability back to the mid 1990s.  It was then that she became involved in Cochrane’s Sustainable Communities Initiative as a Town Councillor, serving as co-chair of the project.  As Judy’s interest in sustainability grew, so did interest across the community.  A number of local programs have evolved over the years as a result of growing interest in sustaining our social, economic and environmental assets – initiatives like the Cochrane Environmental Management Advisory Committee, Branches and Banks, the community tree plant and the Farmers’ Market. “Our community has grown, but our assets are essentially the same – we have a strong history, a vibrant volunteer sector, an anchored downtown business community and we work together to resolve community issues,” Judy says.

Given her experience and commitment, taking part in the development of the Cochrane Sustainability Plan (CSP) was a natural step.   “In 2009, I was co-chair of the Cochrane Pathways to Sustainability Conference, which focused on the AUMA sustainability work.  That conference showcased Cochrane’s Sustainability Plan and the planning process that was underway at the time,” she says.  Judy was involved in the CSP Governance working group, and is now a Sustainability Ambassador, talking to local businesses and organizations about the importance of achieving the goals of the Cochrane Sustainability Plan.  From her perspective, every citizen practices sustainability every day in some way.  Sustainability is a way of life, not a destination.

Much of Judy’s commitment stems for her belief in the idea that our decisions today will have impact for generations to come.  “If you don’t care about the future, then you don’t care about your children or grandchildren, and I don’t believe that there is a person alive today who doesn’t care about the world that will be inherited by his children and grandchildren,” Judy says. “No one is that selfish.”

Judy has been able to show her commitment for sustainability in both her personal and professional lives.  A lawyer, Judy helped to create Cochrane’s first Waste Management Bylaw and Water Conservation Policy, and recently she was instrumental in assisting the Town in the development of a Wetlands and Riparian Lands Inventory Policy.  Judy was also a key part of developing a Wetland Policy for the town of Strathmore, and the Wetland and Riparian Lands Policies for the County of Rocky View.  As a member of the Bow River Basin Council Legislation and Policy Committee, she drafted a template of municipal policy statements and land use bylaw provisions to protect water resources and environmentally sensitive lands that is available for all.  That template was basically dropped into the Town of Cochrane’s Land Use Bylaw.  Along with Tim Giese, Judy is proud of the work products that they have been able to introduce into Cochrane’s planning documents.

Much of Judy’s work has been in support of Pathway 2 in the Cochrane Sustainability Plan – protecting and preserving our water supply.  “Water is our most precious resource – but it is connected to the lands, the air, the biodiversity and makes life possible.  Without water, we die,” Judy says.  “I try to use a minimal amount, use it wisely and put it back.”

For many years, Judy chaired the Legislation and Policy Committee of the Bow River Basin Council (BRBC), a regional stakeholder group that has become a Water Planning Advisory Committee under the provincial Water for Life Strategy. In addition, she served as the Chair of the Alberta Water Council Policy and Issue Gaps Project Team as a BRBC representative. “I think I have been successful in raising awareness about water issues in Cochrane, regionally and locally. I’m proud of that body of work – it has been my life work in environmental citizenship.”

Examples of Judy’s commitment are seen all across the community.   Her efforts have provided opportunities for citizens to enhance the local natural habitat, and have helped people appreciate aspects of the riparian zone, aquatic life and the relationship to the larger Bow River watershed.

Judy’s local volunteer work also includes being the secretary of the Cochrane Settlement Community Association, a Director of the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee (CEAC) and a Director/Treasurer of the Branches and Banks tree-planting group.  On CEAC, Judy chairs the Wetlands Sub-committee.  She’s also a Director for the Alberta Lake Management Society, the Calgary Airshed Zone and the Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership, in addition to being an Alternate Director of the Alberta Water Council and a member of the Western Sky Land Trust.  She’s spoken at a variety of conferences in western Canada, and is the recipient of Volunteer Recognition Award from the Bow River Basin Council, and the Governor General’s Commemorative Medal for community volunteerism.

“I believe in the fundamental premise that we are all on earth for a such a short time and each of us has the right to use resources freely to maximize our life enjoyment, but each person is also responsible to steward the land, water, air biodiversity and all other natural resources such that the next generation can utilize and enjoy them as well,” Judy says.  “I believe that our rights to live and enjoy are directly correlated to our responsibilities to others, to other life forms and the communities in which we live, work and play.  As such, I can enjoy my life to its fullest only when I am responsible to the people and life I interact with and which surround me.”

Moving forward, Judy plans to continue to be a strong advocate for sustainability in our community. “Cochrane needs to find a secure supply of water for continued growth,” she says.  “I am always working on raising awareness of water conservation, using storm water onsite, appreciating water and where it comes from and making sure our water supply is not polluted by our social and economic activities.”

Everyone has a role to play when it comes be being sustainable.  For Judy, it’s important to take a stand, make a difference and be grateful for all you have.  “Start every day thinking you can do better, because you can,” she says.

Judy’s Tips For Making A Difference

  1. Shop locally and support local business
  2. Conserve water – don’t plant lawns, plant landscapes
  3. Reuse, recycle and reduce – give unneeded items to Home Treasures and the Clothesline, Salvation Army, etc.
  4. Get to know your neighbors and become friends with them
  5. Enjoy those moments with friends and family that are priceless