2022-2023 Board of Directors
The GCC is led by our general manager and volunteer board of directors. We come from varied walks of life and professional backgrounds. Each member contributes a broad range of skills, knowledge, and perspectives to the GCC, its programs, and its strategic direction.
Bob Haywood-Farmer, Chair
Bob Haywood-Farmer and his cousin own and operate Indian Gardens Ranch, a cattle ranch in the Thompson Nicola Region. His family has been ranching in Savona, BC for almost 100 years; the fourth generation will be keeping it in the family when Bob is ready to retire.
Bob is a member of the Interior Panel for the Agriculture Land Commission, the BC Cattlemen’s Association, and the BC Livestock Association. He represents the BCCA on the Canadian Intermountain Venture, bringing an important voice to the organization’s projects.
The late Dr. Bert Brink, conservationist and UBC professor, is credited with Bob’s passion for preserving this threatened ecosystem. “Dr. Brink was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about BC grasslands,” stated Bob, “that it was hard not to be interested.” He is dismayed with the many pressures driving the loss of grasslands. These threats include the fracturing of large lots into small holdings that result in a “mosaic of hobby farms”; and the lack of species diversity when clear-cut areas are re-vegetated.
Bob’s work as a director of GCC will include an emphasis on public engagement and education, as he feels policy change begins on the ground.
Dr. Tom Dickinson, Vice Chair
Dr. Tom Dickinson is the Dean of the Faculty of Science at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), and he has extensive experience in strategic planning and program development.
Tom came to Kamloops in 1989 to be part of the growth of TRU, and he became the first Associate Vice President of Research in 2003. In this position, he helped develop the Canada Research Chair and Leading Edge Endowment Fund Chair programs, and led the TRU Advanced Technology Centre, which helped connect the local community to the resources and services of the university. He is the current President of Venture Kamloops, which promotes economic opportunities and business investment in Kamloops
Tom has always been interested in the behaviour and ecology of animals, principally birds, and for many years he has taught a broad range of courses in wildlife biology, conservation biology, and evolution. He has served on the executive of the Society of Canadian Ornithologists for over a decade and he represented the Federation of BC Naturalists in the Kamloops LRMP planning process.
Tom was involved in the creation of the Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia in the 1990’s, and he has had a life-long passion for the wise stewardship of BC’s grasslands.
Dennis Lloyd, Treasurer
Dennis is a research ecologist with over 30 years of experience with the BC Forest Service. He played a key role in developing the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) and in using it to map the former Kamloops Forest Region. He published field guides and maps, and spent countless hours training natural resource managers and university students about BEC principles and their application.
During his time with the BC Forest Service, Dennis contributed to numerous silviculture projects aimed at improving forest regeneration and our understanding of plant succession following timber harvesting. In the 1990s Dennis co-authored the field guide, Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia, and he was the Chair of a multi-disciplinary technical team that contributed to the protected area strategy in the Kamloops, Okanagan-Shuswap, and Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plans.
Dennis was a co-founding member of the Grassland Conservation Council of British Columbia in 1999 and served on the inaugural Board of Directors until 2007. He recently returned to the Board of Directors and is a key contributor to the Priority Grasslands Initiative and the development of management plans for the Laurie Guichon Memorial Grassland Interpretative Site.
Eleanor Bassett, Secretary
100 Mile House
Eleanor is a rangeland research ecologist with the Government of BC and is currently investigating post-wildfire plant ecology in the Cariboo. She conducts applied research to support science-based decision-making on the integrated management of range, forest, and wildlife resources. In 2009 she received a NSERC scholarship while at Thompson Rivers University to fund her graduate research on the Lac du Bois grasslands near Kamloops.
Eleanor has a special interest in education and public engagement. She was the Education Coordinator at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon for 3 years, and she has published scientific reports and developed educational materials. She has leadership experience in the not-for-profit sector as past member of the Board of Directors of BC Institute of Agrologists (Okanagan Chapter) and the Food Action Society of the North Okanagan.
Eleanor has roots in agriculture as well. She has operated a small farm business in the Okanagan, and she has worked as a volunteer on farms in Turkey and Central America.
Ian Barnett, Director
Ian has been involved in land and water conservation across Canada for 40 years, over 25 years of which in BC’s Interior. He’s been a member of numerous national and international boards and committees concerned with the conservation and stewardship of important natural habitats. He brings to the GCC extensive experience in the development of program partnerships and in ensuring the financial health of NGOs.
After retiring from Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2017 as VP of Regional Operations, Ian served on NCC’s BC Board of Directors as well as on the board of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef which goal is to enhance sustainability in the beef industry from the land to the consumer. Ian was also a member of an expert committee for the Canadian Land Trust Alliance to revise standards and practices for use by over 75 Canadian conservation organizations. He retired from Ducks Unlimited Canada in 2011 after 31 years with his last position Director of Regional Operations for the Western Region. He was responsible for DUC’s conservation, education, and fundraising in Canada’s western provinces, the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Ian previously served on GCC’s board in the early 2000s and has remained a long-time supporter. He enjoys outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, hiking, biking, and birding, particularly in the grasslands of the Thompson-Okanagan region.
Toni Boot, Director
Toni entered local government in late 2014 when she was elected to the District of Summerland Council, and she successfully ran for the Mayor’s chair in October 2018.
In addition to being the Mayor of Summerland, Toni is a Director on several Boards, including the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
She is also completing her third term on the Southern Interior Local Government Association executive, currently serving as second vice president.
Toni taught at Okanagan College for several years, co-owned Kettle Valley Dried Fruit Company, and founded and operated Grasslands Nursery for ten years. Grasslands Nursery focused on products and services related to dryland (xeriscape) and food (edible) gardening.
Having grown up in the South Okanagan, Toni has a deep appreciation for the ecological values and sensitivities of this semi-arid area. Now, as an elected official, she continues to advocate for the protection of habitat and ecological services and has a keen interest in Traditional Ecological Knowledge.
Toni holds a degree in professional communications, and she brings extensive experience in public engagement and a knowledge of local government planning and development.
Kristi Gordon, Director
Kristi is a recent graduate of the Master of Environmental Science program at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). Kristi’s research tested the efficacy of targeted cattle grazing to help control the invasive plant spotted knapweed within BC’s grasslands. She also determined the effect of cattle grazing on grassland biodiversity, plant productivity, and soil carbon storage.
This fall, Kristi is excited to continue developing her skills as an environmental educator within TRU’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences, where she will instruct introductory science labs.
Kristi first became a member of the GCC in 2019 at the start of her Master’s program, where she greatly enjoyed the AGM and field tour in Summerland. In 2021, she was contracted by the GCC to develop educational materials and coordinate community outreach events. As a Director, Kristi looks forward to contributing to grasslands conservation by assisting with field-based projects and community engagement efforts.
Michael Keefer, Director
As a scientist, Michael spent the earlier years of his career as an expert on native plants from both the perspectives of Indigenous ecology and western science as a result of his work with the Ktunaxa Nation. In 2005, he began a new journey with the opening of Keefer Ecological Services (KES) in Cranbrook BC.
Michael has extensive experience as a volunteer board member both through being the former leader of the Society for Ecological Restoration Western Canada, a director at large of the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council and of the Columbia Basin Environmental Educators Network. He has been appointed as an Adjunct Professor at Royal Roads University for many years as one who actively works on developing and implementing alternate models of delivering scientific training with Indigenous peoples in BC, Yukon and beyond.
Michael has lived in the Kootenay region for over twenty years and currently lives in Rossland. Michael is an active outdoorsperson who takes great joy in hiking, skiing, paddling and other pursuits such as nature photography.
Heather Richardson, Director
Heather Richardson is a Registered Professional Biologist with the Government of BC. Her current projects include predictive ecosystem mapping and wildlife inventory data management.
She became passionate about grassland ecosystems while completing her Master’s of Science at Thompson Rivers University in 2013 -2015. During this time, she travelled through the diverse and beautiful grasslands of BC studying the mechanisms that affect soil carbon storage in grazed and non-grazed grasslands in BC.
Since then, her interest in grassland ecology and conservation has continued to grow. She enjoys working on restoration and outreach projects with the GCC.
Mandy Ross, Director
Mandy is a plant ecologist specializing in habitat assessments and ecological monitoring. She has recently completed contracts for the BC Conservation Foundation, BC Parks, and forestry consultants based in Kamloops. Mandy developed a special interest in grasslands while completing graduate research on the Lac du Bois grasslands in 2016 at Thompson Rivers University.
Before moving west in 2007, she was a forest technician with the Grand River Conservation Authority in Ontario while completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph. During this time, she also completed volunteer work in Nepal, Bolivia, and Guatemala.
Mandy has a passion for public education and outreach. She has been the WildSafeBC Community Coordinator for the Thompson-Nicola region and a leader of NatureKids BC activities. This has involved coordinating public events, preparing communication materials, media liaison, and making presentations in schools and to public groups.
Mandy enjoys as much camping, biking, hiking, skiing, and rock climbing as her young family will allow. She appreciates the beauty and importance of grassland landscapes and has spent many hours observing these unique ecosystems.
Nancy Shackelford, Director
Nancy Shackelford is an Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria in the School of Environmental Studies, and the Academic Director of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program.
Her research covers restoration ecology, stats, data, plants, mites, and landscape ecology. Her passion is to make restoration outcomes more predictable by bringing together knowledge through meta-analysis and synthesis, and by applying generalizable ecological concepts to the successes and failures we see on the ground. For more on her work and research group, please see www.restorationscience.net.
Born and raised in Texas, she has been a visitor on the traditional territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples and the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ since January 2020. Her heart is in the grasslands, and exploring how we can be better stewards of these beautiful spaces.
Brian Thomas, Director
Brian is a third-generation rancher, and his family has been ranching in Okanagan Falls for over 100 years. He is a Director for the BC Cattlemen’s Association, a Director for the South Okanagan Stockmen’s Association, and he was previously a Director for BC Livestock Producers Co-operative Association.
In 2000 his family sold a large portion of their ranch to The Nature Trust of British Columbia, to protect the land from development and to have it continue as a cattle ranch. They now lease back the ranch, and currently run 200 cow/calf pairs and sell their excess hay. On the land that wasn’t sold, they lease a portion to Arterra Wines Canada for a vineyard. Brian also runs an organically listed compost operation, using cattle bedding and grape pomace from local wineries.
Brian is very interested in the grasslands of our province because, as a rancher, he knows how much the ranching industry relies on these grasslands to raise cattle. Without healthy grasslands we don’t have a healthy ranching industry.
The grasslands of the province have come under a lot of pressure in the last few years, such as housing subdivisions and increased recreational use, and in the South Okanagan, increased pressure from other types of agriculture, such as vineyards, wineries and orchards.
Bob Peart, Honorary Board Member
Bob has been a biologist and environmental educator for nearly 40 years, living in Victoria since the early 1980s.
After working in a variety of senior roles in government and environmental organizations, he is currently semi-retired/self-employed.
Bob has been involved in temperate grassland related issues since the mid-70s, and has worked to protect and conserve them at the international, national, provincial, and regional levels.
As the Founding Chair of the GCC, Bob has been a strong voice for keeping working ranches working, and for keeping the remaining BC grasslands ecologically intact.
Mike Dedels, General Manager
Mike was inspired to go into the Range Program at UBC as grazing is one of the few ways we produce food from intact ecosystems. After six years in wholesale and retail sales he started with the Ministry of Forests in the Range Program in 1990 and worked for the Provincial government in a number of roles until 2018. He enjoyed the opportunity to work with many leaders in Range Management in government and on the land, and developed a love for the grasslands. Mike then had four years working on invasive plants with the TNRD, including leading a major prevention and control program in the Elephant Hill wildfire area.
Mike is a long time GCC member, including eight years on the Board, with terms as Secretary and Treasurer. He has been under contract as GCC General Manager since July 2022.
Mike has a passion for increasing knowledge of grasslands through outreach to the general public, and collaboration with First Nations, landowners and other NGOs.