ST. GEORGE- A passion for the outdoors led the new executive director of Conserve Southwest Utah to give up her career and move to St. George. Although a successful civil engineer specializing in water resources engineering in California, Holly Snow Canada felt something was missing.
“It was intellectually challenging work, but I felt like I lacked the passion for what I was doing,” Canada said. “I’ve always felt connected to the outdoors and felt this desire to want to protect outdoor spaces and natural and cultural resources.”
At first, Canada and her husband Spencer came to southern Utah for a year-long sabbatical. Then she found a job with young people and the outdoors. Five years later, the couple is still in the region. Canada has worked in several different organizations and has developed communication skills to complement her engineering abilities.
“I guess you’re not surprised to learn that as an engineer, I felt like I didn’t develop the communication and interpersonal skills that I wanted,” Canada said. “So when I moved here, I was able to take on more positions with people.
“I learned to give feedback in an employment context. And in my personal life too, I learned to communicate better with others. In addition, I learned to manage people and large budgets.
Moving to the desert allowed him to learn more about the natural resources of southern Utah. She wanted to learn the names of plants and animals, as well as understand the history and context of the area. So she decided to get certified as a Utah Master Naturalist from Utah State University through its extension program.
“I like to be curious about the world around me,” said Canada. “I think it’s a great way to introduce people to the outdoors and get them excited about protecting places. So, by taking this certification course, I learned a lot of things around us that I could share with others in my daily life and my different jobs. Thus, I could create enthusiasm for the world around us.
Haines said she manages day-to-day operations and sets policies and strategies to move the nonprofit forward.
“Holly has a wonderful mix of rigor and real winning ways,” he said.
The organization’s role in the community has grown considerably over the years. They have three internal employees, including Canada.
“We have reached where we are a strong voice in the use of public lands, and in particular the Northern Corridor Highway, advocating other alternatives to paving a road through the National Conservation Area” , Haines said. “We brought in professional staff who are good at communicating and understanding the issues.”
He added that the office team has an understanding of the issues that are decided not only locally, but also in Washington DC.
Another experience Canada credits for giving her insight into how to run organizations is the small business she and her husband founded. Superbloom Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee shop in Santa Clara. They also use their business to benefit the local environment, public lands and their community.
While dating, the couple often enjoyed going out for coffee. On their third date, Spencer made the most delicious cup of coffee Holly had ever had. Whenever they travel, they always enjoy discovering local cafes. They also enjoy camping and exploring the landscape.
Superbloom Coffee Roasters is an established Benefit LLC. The company is focused on people, the planet and ultimately, profit. Canada said his company strives to give back to the community and emphasizes public lands. She hopes to show people how to be advocates for the trails and public lands that are unique to southern Utah.
Canada said they were grateful to have the opportunity to work with a great team at Conserve Southwest Utah. The non-profit group’s mission is to promote the conservation and stewardship of the region’s natural and cultural resources. They also advocate smart growth policies that enable conservation for the benefit of present and future generations.
“I think living in St. George, Utah is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I appreciate the austere vastness of the desert environment,” said Canada. “I love that the beauty here is subtle in a way that is different from other landscapes and environments. To appreciate it, you really have to get out and be there in nature.
In tune with nature, one can see the little wonders that one would not expect to see. Sometimes they are small, like a bird’s nest nestled in a spiky plant. And sometimes it’s a beautiful sunset at the end of the day, she says.
Canada encourages people to get out, experience these moments and share them with friends and family.
“The more we understand what precious place we live in, hopefully it will lead our community to come together and decide that they want to take action to protect these places,” Canada said.
Conserve Southwest Utah is committed to protecting the public lands and water of Southwest Utah for future generations. Canada has said it opposes projects that could endanger local resources, such as the Northern Corridor Highway and the Lake Powell Pipeline.
Canada said the mission of the non-profit group is to advocate for smart growth policies. According to the group’s website, smart growth refers to urban and regional planning principles that create livable communities and avoid sprawl.
The main principles of smart growth are:
- Protect natural and cultural resources, encourage walkable neighborhoods, provide housing options, promote alternative transportation and maximize economic prosperity.
- Smart Growth is the comprehensive approach that guides Conserve Southwest Utah’s public land and water programs.
“As the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country, St George must adopt smart growth strategies to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability,” Canada said.
The group also offers volunteer opportunities on public lands. Some of the activities include replanting vegetation that has been lost in fires and watering plants. There were also wildlife viewing hikes and forest fire prevention workshops.
“You can come together and meet like-minded people who would like to protect these places. I think we individuals can make a difference,” Canada said.
Conserve Southwest Utah is Washington County’s only nonprofit conservation organization advocating for the protection of local public lands.
“We cannot do it alone. We rely on volunteers to help with community events and our wonderful donors for financial support. Membership is a fantastic way to meet others who are passionate about protecting beautiful Southwestern Utah,” said Canada.
To learn about upcoming events, volunteer, or receive crucial action alerts, sign up on the Conserve Southwest Utah website.
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