July 9, 2020
Noni Lee Conservation Fund conserving natural ecosystems and biodiversity
Pam Wight’s love of nature began during her childhood years while exploring the Scottish countryside where she grew up. Thanks to her mother, Constance (Noni) Lee, the woods, creeks and fields around her became a fascinating classroom.
“Noni was what I would call an amateur naturalist,” Wight reminisces.“She would always encourage my brother and sister and I to be outside, and she’d teach us about the world around us.”
These formative experiences ignited Wight’s lifelong passion for environmental work. She would go on to complete a bachelor’s degree in geography at the University of Aberdeen before coming to Edmonton to complete a master’s in the same subject. She became an international consultant, with her work taking her around the world. During one of those trips, she became ill and returned to Edmonton to recover. She then happened upon an opportunity to work at the Edmonton and Area Land Trust as its executive director. The role sounded ideal.
“The Land Trust was working to conserve natural areas, which are essential for sustainable development in and around the City of Edmonton. I was encouraged to apply for the posting and I’m so glad I did,” she says.
At the time, the Land Trust was a brand new organization, with little funding or resources and a broad mandate. Over the next 11 years, Wight helped build the organization, increasing public awareness, and securing conservation lands throughout the Edmonton region.
As part of her role, Wight enrolled in Edmonton Community Foundation’s Endowment Sustainability Program. The program enabled her to speak to potential donors about the importance of endowment funds. It also inspired her to open one of her own.
“Having built the organization for more than 11 years, I really understand the need for long-term, sustainable gifts. But what many people don’t understand is that you don’t need to be a billionaire to open an endowment fund,” she says. “You can take time to build it up, and make it a family and friends’ effort, so everyone is playing a part.”
Wight decided to name her family’s fund after her mother, Noni Lee, who passed away in 2008. With this fund, her name and legacy could continue, giving in perpetuity to help the Edmonton and Area Land Trust protect natural areas for future generations to enjoy.
“Naming it after my mother just seemed like the best fit,” says Wight. “My children are far less environmentally inclined than I am, but they’re on board with this and it gives me great pleasure to see them giving to the fund and helping to continue their grandmother’s legacy.”