Environment Alarm over lichen loss
Newspaper ad united people in fight for environment
NNSL (OCT 16/96) - Two environmentalists who put their money where their mouths are have built a 25-year legacy of environmental awareness in the North.

Bob Bromley and Helga Lurtz formed the group to deal with arsenic pollution near the Giant Mine in May 1971. They didn't envision the organization would last as long as it did.

"I never thought it would last 25 years when we started," Bromley says. "But I'm pleased by the strength of the group today. You'll be hearing from them for awhile."

Lurtz recently came back to Yellowknife for the anniversary celebrations from Florida -- for the first time in 23 years.

She left the North to relocate with her family to the States after getting the environmental group on its feet.

"I've never come back, but I had to come back for this," she says.

Bromley and Lurtz are old family friends -- he was a high school student during the early 70s and she was a friend of Bromley's mother, Barbara.

While working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studying the lesser scaup (a species of diving duck), he noticed the complete loss of lichen ground around the Giant and Con Mine areas.

Out of this concern, Bromley placed an ad in the paper to bring people together on the issue.

A quarter-century later, Ecology North boasts more than 50 members.

"I feel like a bit of a catalyst, but there have been so many people involved in the real work of keeping it going over the years," he says.

It's to Lurtz in particular that he attributes the success of the group.

"I would leave every fall to go to university," he says. "Helga is really the one who got it off the ground and kept it going for the first few years."

Bromley left Yellowknife after high school and studied wildlife science. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Calgary, a master's from the University of Alaska, and a doctorate from Oregon State University.

After 10 years, he returned to the capital and the Ecology North fold.

With him, he has brought some new direction for the group.

In the early days of Ecology North, the group worked actively with the government for environmental legislation. In recent years, with legislation now in place, the group focuses on broader issues like global warming.

Today both Bromley and Lurtz still feel just as strongly about environmental issues.

"It's important to preserve as much of the wilderness as possible," Lurtz says. "We all need it for our health and well-being."

Bromley agrees.

"I have a deep personal concern for wildlife and wilderness areas," he says. "I have a desire to want future generations to have exposure to the Northern experience."