Established in 2006, the John Hind-Smith Environmental Achievement Award honours a worthy local citizen who has demonstrated their dedication and commitment to the environment and preserving wildlife.
The award was last presented in 2008 to Brad Benson.
Rick O’Neill is deeply dedicated to the environment and like John himself, toils away quietly, never for self recognition, but on behalf of our natural environment. Whether sampling for forage fish along intertidal areas, identifying amphibians on Mount Elphinstone or photographing the natural world as a way to bring the forest ecosystems into focus for others, Rick does it all with only the environment in mind. (Several of Rick’s photos appear on this website.)
He has devoted countless hours to protect biodiversity on the coast and he has taken many groups out for walks to teach about mushrooms, amphibian, birds and trees. As a founder of Elphinstone Living Forest, Rick was the driving force behind developing a comprehensive ecosystem plan.
He has made formal complaints to the Forest Practices Board about clearcuts in sensitive areas and has spent long days alone in the rain, flagging land as important riparian zones. Recently he took it upon himself to publish a pamphlet describing the amphibians of the Sunshine Coast.
Although a mild man, Rick does not back down from controversy, delivering eloquent speeches about the need to protect our forest environment from destruction.
Here are some excerpts from letters of support for Rick’s nomination for this award:
“Rick doesn’t just go for the sexy high profile cute and cuddly. His work on identifying amphibian habitat on Mt Elphinstone is just one example. His understanding of the ecosystem requirements of such species and his ongoing efforts to educate and advocate have been truly inspirational.”
“Rick was a founder of Elphinstone Living Forest and the driving force behind a comprehensive ecosystem based plan for the mountain that was developed back in the 90s and sadly never shown the light of day by MOF. … When Weyerhaeuser came to the community of Roberts Creek to negotiate some development opportunity in exchange for some community benefit, Rick became part of a group of people determined to get the largest and most important part of Weyco’s holdings protected. To that end, he spent days in the rain alone to flag a 75 m buffer either side of Clack, Roberts and Gough creeks in the hopes that the company would agree to set that riparian area aside. Another disappointment came when the company sold the lands to Island Timberlands who had no interest in such a trade.”
– Donna Shugar, SCRD Representative, Roberts Creek
“In 1992 or so I invited Rick to show his Kitlope [brown bear] pictures to ‘Friends of the Earth, Tokyo’ visiting the Sunshine Coast. They revered him, calling him ‘the bear man’. Rick once told me that when the loggers were attacking conservationists on the Elaho River, he used the same attitude with them as he did with the Kitlope Bears. He was relatively unmolested and got his pictures of the assault out for all to see.”
“Rick has consistently enhanced habitats and species on his property, defended public lands and supported conservation in the Region. I am convinced that the work he does is invaluable. Ricks amphibian brochure and website is only the most recent of accomplishments. One of my favourite campaign illustrations of Ricks is the forest timeline titled; a tree farm is not a forest. Above all, Rick is true to his convictions; there is no politics, wavering or illusion in his activism.”
– John Dafoe
“He has been sampling EVERY time for the past 2 years with our Friends of Forage Fish group at both Bonniebrook and Roberts Creek Estuary, with the exception of one weekend. Pretty amazing indeed.”
– Dianne Sanford, Streamkeepers
Photo with plaque: Tella Sametz
Other photos: Veronica Alice