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County resident earns national award for connecting wildlife and people

Nina-Marie Lister – Johnny CY Lam photo

A County resident who advocates for co-existence of wildlife and people in healthy, connected landscape design has won a national award.

On Tuesday, Nina-Marie Lister won the Margolese National Design for Living $50,000 prize issued by the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of British Columbia for being “a Canadian who has made a significant contribution to the built environment, and the people within it”.

She is known for her contributions to designing spaces that make a difference, such as “safe passage” for wildlife crossing infrastructure and for linking ecology with planning and design.

The award website notes her leadership was instrumental in the launch of an interdisciplinary partnership dedicated to reconnecting North American landscapes – one that grew out of the world’s first International Wildlife Crossing Design Infrastructure Design Competition in 2010, directed by Lister, which engaged new thinking, methods, materials and solutions for wildlife crossing structures.

Her work has resulted in several innovative wildlife crossing projects across North America from fibre-reinforced plastic bridges to dual use concepts for people and wildlife including most recently, contribution for the world’s largest wildlife bridge, a “super crossing” in Los Angeles at Liberty Canyon to provide safe passage for the endangered California Mountain Lion and other species at risk across 10 lanes of the Pacific US-101 highway, scheduled to break ground in December 2021.

Lister first came to the County about 17 years ago, and lives with her family on the south shore of PEC and has lent her knowledge and skills locally to a broad number of organizations and citizen groups in PEC. Her Plandform studio, which focuses on working within landscapes and communities for climate resilience, has also worked with the municipality.

Lister leads the Ecological Design Lab at Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning.

In 2020 the City of Toronto ordered her to cut down the garden in her front yard for violating the city’s long grass and weeds bylaw, the award website notes. Citing her defense of biodiversity, she refused, and launched a year-long campaign of research and public advocacy. Designed and maintained as a meadow that is home to pollinating insects, bees, butterflies, moths, birds and mamals, her Hillcrest meadow is populated with perennial plants and shrubs native to the Toronto area. Her work was instrumental in the 2021 revisions to the city’s bylaw which now includes as-of-right natural gardens on private lands, connecting urban citizens to local landscapes and the biodiversity in their own yards.

The jury citation for the award states: “This recognition will hopefully contribute to the dissemination of her work and ideas, bring to light our unbalanced relationship with other species and their habitats and help to develop sensitive solutions for the future.”


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  1. James Dobbin says:

    Dear Nina-Marie,
    Congratulations on your well deserved award for your re- connecting landscapes work and for your pioneering work with urban natural gardens in Toronto.
    I am a landscape architect located in Washington, DC (formerly Toronto, FCSLA, OALA, ASLA)
    involved mainly in large regional diversification projects internationally and wondered if you would like a copy of my work on resource corridors (a la Phil Lewis) for PEC that I did in 1969 as a summer student for OMNR while at UofT? It might provide some useful historic context for your current work in PEC.
    If so please send me your email address and I’ll be pleased to forward.

  2. Dee says:

    In conversations yesterday and over the past few years I have spoken with members of community and groups and have heard positive things about Prof. Lister, her willingness to provide fact, resources and information to assist them in their mandates-initiatives. I did not truly grasp the breadth of her work until I read this article and subsequently looked deeper into her work.

    Prince Edward County should be proud that she is actively part of our community, and is respected on a broader basis by not only other Canadians but the international community as well. Her work is not just academic but manifests itself in reality. It is refreshing to see a busy, multi talented professional willing to volunteer her/his time, skills and resources to their small rural community, for its benefit, despite continuous demands from a broader international perspective.

    A tip of the hat to Prof. Nina Marie Lister, the human being – fellow resident, for this achievement – flannel shirt, jeans and all!

  3. CountyProud says:

    This is an incredible and well deserved honour for this amazing woman and we are truly blessed here in the County to share in her wisdom, knowledge and forward thinking. When Nina-Marie speaks, we should all be listening, very carefully, she cares deeply about the world around us.

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