The Big Wild Challenge

CPAWS and MEC partner to protect and preserve Canada’s wilderness
  • Sep 07, 2015
  • 402 words
  • 2 minutes
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The facts are simple yet disturbing. While Canada is home to one-fifth of the world’s extant wilderness, we’ve succeeded in protecting only 10 percent of our lands and less than 1 percent of our waters. Since 1963, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) has worked tirelessly to improve these numbers, to impressive effect. In just over 50 years, the society has successfully led campaigns to create over two-thirds of Canada’s protected areas, roughly half a million square kilometres.

With 13 chapters, CPAWS accomplishes miracles with a modest budget and staff and the tireless work of hundreds of devoted volunteers. Even so, the non-profit society is perpetually searching for funding and support. On September 19, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) steps up to roll out the Big Wild Challenge Trail Run in cities across the country, from Victoria and Vancouver to Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal. Getting as many people as possible out into the great outdoors, where they can have fun, stay active and enjoy the wonder of green spaces is part of the allure. Raising money that will help ensure these locations are preserved into perpetuity is the other critical piece.

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While the organized trail runs take place on September 19, there’s another option. Individuals and teams yearning to get off the beaten path are invited to design their own challenge (all events must be completed before September 30, 2015). Some outdoors lovers are hiking the Bighorn Wildland, Alberta’s last intact forest, which represents 5,000 square kilometres of unprotected alpine, subalpine and montane wilderness and is the source of 90 percent of Edmonton’s drinking water. Another team is tackling Vancouver Island’s North Coast Trail, home to some of the wildest coastline in the country and an area that CPAWS-BC is working to protect. Others are making the first trail-less hike through the wilds of Gros Morne National Park.

The beauty of the Big Wild Challenge is that even if you’re not free to run or design your own adventure, you’re welcome to support a participant who is. Choose a champion, as it were, to fight on your behalf for Canada’s wilderness. Each participating city has a home page that allows you to make an online donation to the individual or team of your choice. For more information and to make a donation, please visit:

Photos courtesy MEC Big Wild Challenge


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