Leora Berman was born is South Africa during the years of Apartheid, and so (as she states) it would be impossible for her not to be obsessed with water, wildlife and social politics: “Water was precious in Africa, and I always found it magical- and so I studied water. Too, the land came alive in the early morning with the sounds of birds and singing hippos -and so the wildlife become my animate friends. And Native Africans could be heard singing in 4-part harmony across the Veld. But amidst all this beauty was a strange oppression that was based solely on colour. I saw how Apartheid affected the souls and spirit of both the black-oppressed, but also the white-oppressors- and so I have always been consumed by socio-politics. Here I don’t mean the politics of modern manipulation, but the true politics that is concerned with the arrangements and relationships of people and the responsibilities to one another.”
Leora the Co-founder and CEO of The Land Between charity. She took the reigns from Peter Alley after his passing and used his foundation of interest to grow and develop a unique and dynamic organization. She extended the focus from simply nature, to include all aspects of culture, economics and of course, socio-politics.
Leora is so dedicated to the vision and goals of the organization: She donates a significant portion of her time (and therefore potential income), her office space and even utilities to the organization. In fact she has been offered high paying government positions which come with benefits and security, but Leora has turned them down each time. There are years where The Land Between may not have full financial capacity through grants or support, but Leora will persist. You can often hear her expressing “I don’t worship money. If needed, I can always find basic employment that is flexible so that I can continue with The Land Between.”
Leora has a background in Economics, Fine Arts, and Environmental Science. She has worked in hydrogeology, hydrology, and restoration ecology in both private and public sectors, for governments, large NGOs, and consultants. But Leora has a propensity for gathering and relating issues, sectors, and peoples in strategic alliances. And so Leora has built large programs in Ontario: She took a small project to restore wetlands in Aylmer and grew into a regional effort in partnership with six counties and all levels. The award-winning Wetland Drain Restoration Project has re-hydrated agricultural lands across southern Ontario benefitting wildlife and farmers alike. Leora, through her zeal, savvy and grassroots approach has changed the Drainage Act in Ontario to ensure that the draining of valuable wetlands are not subsidized. She has negotiated agreements and formed initiatives to conserve water through the International Joint Commission between Canada and the U.S.A…..and she has been an advisor, lecturer, or team player for large initiatives. She has worked with and provided value to Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ontario Drainage Superintendents Association, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, on the Elgin Landscape Stewardship Plan, and for the Spotted Turtle and American Badger Recovery Teams….and the list continues. Too, Leora is also involved in her community: She builds and supports local initiatives from deterring geese in public spaces, to creating spaces for children, championing cultural and First Nations issues, to, and of course, saving all reptiles.
Leora is an honest and rare ally and friend.
- Submitted by The Land Between Council
Peter Alley was the Forefather of The Land Between effort. Peter was not only determined, but he was pioneering. A retired business professor at York University, Peter dedicated the last 10 years of his life to making sure The Land Between region would be recognized and also valued. Peter’s formidable dedication not only ensured that the region received attention from the conservation sector, but his resolve that the region’s ecological function be fully understood, created a spirit of determination that is still animate in our work and initiative today. It was during the Ontario Living Legacy years, and as Peter had a summer cottage in Gravenhurst, that Peter began to sense that there perhaps existed a unique area situated between the Shield and St. Lawrence Lowlands; Peter saw simply that here were rock barrens, and that these were the only rock barrens in the province. Peter began to surmise what other features in this belt of “stepping stones” as he called them that were also unique. With remarkable persistence and perseverance Peter spent years in researching and gathering information but too, in his fortitude, Peter also inspired a swell of support. He spoke to hundreds of individuals across all of southern Ontario. Peter’s wife describes him during that time as a “dog at the bone”. It is clear that Peter’s rare and remarkable dedication inspired not only interest but also dedication in kind. In addition to collecting many champions, Peter persuaded two land trust leaders, Ron Reid of The Couchiching Conservancy and Ian Attridge of the Kawartha Land Trust to take on a project that would characterize the ecological features of this landscape. It was shortly after this time, in early 2006, that Peter passed. Leora Berman was hired only three months prior to his passing, “Peter was the rock, without which I could not have carved and crafted the incredible initiative that we have today.”
- Submitted by Leora Berman
I feel it most necessary to recognize this Nation and my friends therein as co-Founders in this initiative. If it were not for their openness, charity, and willingness to trust me The Land Between organization would not have the heart and strength that it does today. I feel humbled by this friendship and the kinship that has emerged. I feel humbled by it all. Miigwetch.
- Submitted by Leora Berman