Youth & Young Leader Digest
connecting emerging leaders in conservation
january 2011

in this issue ::
:: A message from Spirit Bear Youth Coalition founder and chairman Simon Jackson
:: Input and Collaboration
:: Leadership Skills
:: Protected Areas in Malaysia, Update from Siti Zuraidah (Aida) Abidin
:: Opportunities and Grants
No Challenge in Insurmountable, excerpt from upcoming book - Endangered: Journey to Survival
by Simon Jackson

I believe that every campaign - much like life - is ninety nine percent hard work and about one percent good luck. My efforts ran into roadblocks every step of the way. Teachers didn't want their students getting engaged in politics. My parents were nervous about how this campaign would affect my studies. I lost my friends, not because they didn't support me, but because saving a bear was different. However, I believe strongly that if you believe in your message and stay the course, no challenge is insurmountable.

On those dark days when all I wanted to do was give up - to not go through the hell that was my high school life or deal with the ugly politics of the issue - I'd remember: it wasn't about me, it was about a bear - a bear that had no idea what was in store for its future. If I gave up on this bear, I would have to be prepared to grow up in a world where this bear wouldn't exist - something I could never do. And it wasn't that I was the best equipped or the smartest person to lead this fight, but I was one of the most passionate and I knew, more than anything else, this bear needed - deserved - a passionate defender that wouldn't capitulate to political whims or issue fatigue. So I kept going.

Finally, that one percent of good luck came knocking at the door: Time Magazine had selected me as one of their 60 Heroes for the Planet, one of only six young people selected from around the world. I didn't - and still don't - think I'm a hero, but I gladly accepted the honor for what it was: an acknowledgement that young people can made a difference and that their voices, in these issues, do count.

Spirit Bear Youth Coalition Logo
The recognition, seemingly overnight, transformed the Youth Coalition from a high school letter writing campaign to a broad-based global issue.  It gave us the ability to speak to government with credibility and the opportunity to share our message with the world.  The issue went from the wilderness of public awareness to the forefront of boardrooms, cabinet meetings and the public eye. What began with 700 hundred letters from a middle school in Vancouver became the most supported conservation initiative in Canadian history. And with support coming in from all corners of the globe, in 2001, the issue's varied stakeholders, including the Youth Coalition, began working with the BC government to create a sustainable future for the BC coast and, in the doing, the spirit bear. 

Simon Jackson, now 28, is the founder and chairman of the volunteer, youth-run Spirit Bear Youth Coalition and is the Executive Producer of THE SPIRIT BEAR - the forthcoming CGI animated movie.

Input and Collaboration
As posted in the November digest, Jordi van Oort is currently studying at Wageningen university: Msc. Forest and Nature Conservation.  He is searching for Msc. thesis subjects and is particularly interested in African wildlife and big mammals.  Send Jordi ideas for collaboration by contacting him at jordivanoort (at) 

Developing your leadership skills...

positively effect on people, accomplish goals, inspire others, build team chemistry, gain support for ideas, make decisions, build trust, and handle responsibilities, among other results. Some of the primary qualities leaders have in common include character, vision, focus, and persistence.

Build a solid reputation of integrity and strength, develop these over time. Stand for something, it will help guide your path in life.

See a possible outcome, set plans in motion, communicate with and motivate people to accomplish what they may not have thought was possible.

Set aside distractions, and concentrate on priorities and the task at hand.
An individual with great focus is Michael Jordan, who won multiple basketball championships, and willed his team to win by making those difficult last second shots.

The ability to continue working on a mission or goal until it is achieved, regardless of obstacles or setbacks, is needed for leaders who are challenged by their stand.

Protected Areas in Malaysia
From Siti Zuraidah (Aida) Abidin

Protected areas have long been established in Malaysia (beginning with the Chior Wildlife Reserve in 1903) and since then, the number of protected areas has grown with some established and managed by the Federal government while others are administered by the individual states. This growth has also led to an increase in the different legal instruments used for establishing protected areas.

Taman Negara Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan by Siti Zuraidah (Aida) Abidin
Taman Negara Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan by Siti Zuraidah (Aida) Abidin

With the adoption of the CBD Programme of Work for Protected Areas in 2005, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) is increasingly seen as the government body that could provide the much needed coordination for protected areas. One of the necessary planning tool is the Master List of Protected Areas which was started in 2008.

This will be the first attempt to first, form a consensus on what constitutes a protected area in Malaysia and consequently, compile an official national list for all categories of terrestrial and marine protected areas in Malaysia.

Through preliminary analysis, the total count of protected areas in Malaysia is 404 areas with breakdown as follows: Peninsular Malaysia (242), Sabah (131) and Sarawak (31). The size of each area varies from a diminutive 4ha to 431,000ha of Taman Negara. Also, depending on the legal instrument that was used to gazette the area, there are variations on the degree of protection, approaches in management of natural resources, local community rights and privileges, and allocation of resources for management authorities. With 13 States and three Federal Territories empowered by their own legislative process, some of these variations are substantial and measures need to be put in place to set national standards of management performance to ensure the integrity of the protected areas.

Already extending into the third year of the project, the Master List has yet to be finalized as there remain outstanding issues to be resolved. These include issues of overlapping areas between protected area and production forest reserve/stateland/alienated land, erroneous data reported in gazette notifications (hence affecting the size and location of the protected area), and translating text-based protected area boundary descriptions into map data.

Although in draft form, the Master List is already being referred to by government agencies in national planning process in line with the government efforts to integrate biodiversity conservation into mainstream planning development. This project is a crucial element in the long-term goal of establishing a comprehensive and effective national protected area national system in Malaysia.

Opportunities and Grants

Global Environments Summer Academy
GESA 2011 will provide a platform for students to learn, discuss and reflect upon the most pressing, controversial and planetary challenges of our time. The course will combine lectures, round-table discussions, small group work, student presentations and hands-on exercises.  Students will gain an understanding of policy matters and acquire skills in research design, fieldwork methods and data analysis related to documenting local environmental knowledge and community institutions.  More information >

Sirius Scholarship for Environmental Leaders, UK
The Wilderness Foundation (UK) with the Tellus Mater Foundation is offering almost fully funded wilderness-based development programmes in Scotland, where the participants, together with leaders from the WFUK and highly trained and experienced guides, explore the impact that we have on the environment.  Learn more and apply >

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, AmeriCorps VISTA Youth Program Coordinator
Position includes volunteer conservation projects with various youth groups during the spring, summer and fall and the Cairn Youth Program, our school-year environmental education and service learning experience for teenagers. Learn more >

WWF South Africa Position Openings
There are several positions open with the World Wildlife Fund South Africa >

NWF 2011 Campus Climate Fellowships
NWF Fellowships allow students to pursue their vision of an ecologically sustainable future through tangible projects to confront global warming on campus and in the community. Fellows gain practical experience in the conservation field and first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities inherent in successful conservation efforts.  Learn more >


Reminder for contributions.  Please send contributions to me (send to by the first of each month.  Contributions can include:

  • Update on a project you are working on,
  • Call for collaboration or assistance,
  • Job/grant/scholarship opportunity that you have seen posted or have been awarded,
  • News on intergenerational collaboration or discussion on this important topic,
  • Announcements of conferences or other events.

I am open to other ideas for the digest as well!  Each submission should include your contact information and/or information where readers can find out more.  It can also include a photo (encouraged).

You can download the form for submitting a contribution here >

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