Briony Penn

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Briony Penn (born October 16, 1960, Saanich, British Columbia) is a Canadian environmental activist, adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria, and the Liberal Party of Canada's candidate for Saanich—Gulf Islands in the 40th Canadian federal election. Penn was narrowly defeated by Conservative incumbent Gary Lunn in the federal elections in 2008.

Early life and career[edit]

A fifth-generation islander, Penn was born and raised in Saanich, British Columbia. She graduated from the international baccalaureate program in Victoria (Norfolk House) in 1977. In 1981, she received her BA in Geography/Anthropology from the University of British Columbia. She then studied in Scotland, and in 1988 received her Ph.D in geography from Edinburgh University.[1]

In 1986, Penn opened her own small business, working in consulting for environmental education and museum design in Scotland, then later in British Columbia. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria and has lectured in the School of Environmental Studies and Restoration of Natural Systems Program since 1991.[2]

She wrote the award winning illustrated “Wild Side” columns in various regional publications which won her best columnist in the Western Magazine Awards. She hosted the TV show “Enviro/Mental” for three years, which was nominated one of the top three magazine shows in Canada. For this program, she taped, field produced and edited episodes ranging from the natural death movement to humpback whale research, and she conducted interviews with diverse personalities like philosopher John Ralston Saul, Haida political leader Guujaaw and author Tom Robbins.[citation needed]

A pioneer of barefoot mapping, she has created maps and led workshops assisting communities for more than a decade, culminating in several books including Islands in the Salish Sea: A Community Atlas, which was nominated for the BC Book Awards. Her book "The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and shortlisted for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize at the 2016 BC Book Prizes [3] and won the inaugural Mack Laing Literary Prize.[4] She also is an award-winning natural history feature writer with her writings for magazines such as Canadian Geographic[5] and explore. Her book A Year On the Wild Side was a BC Books bestseller.[6]


Penn currently lives on Salt Spring Island, in a large heritage home brought from Victoria. She has raised two sons, Ronan and Callum, with her husband Donald.

Environmental work[edit]

Penn has worked extensively with both local groups and provincial organizations, such as The Land Conservancy of British Columbia, which she co-founded in 1997. She has been giving natural/cultural history and stewardship workshops and lectures held in communities in British Columbia since 1991. She has also been a naturalist on the BC coast for ecotour and educational operators since 1980.[citation needed]

Penn has volunteered as the director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation since 1999. She was also a member of the provincial working group on private land stewardship, Stewardship Pledge, and the co-chair of the Environment Advisory Committee, Islands Trust Saltspring Island Local Trust Committee. For 2006-2007, Penn helped developed the media campaign for Land Trust Alliance of BC, on conservation leaders throughout British Columbia. She has written environmental guides and handbooks for elementary teachers in British Columbia, the topics ranging from forest ecosystems and biodiversity to the natural and cultural history of the Georgia Basin. She received a national Environment Learning award for her work from Canadian Geographic in 2003.[7]

In January 2001, Penn got international attention for her nearly-nude horseback ride as Lady Godiva to protest against logging on Saltspring. Along with other riders, Penn rode past the offices of the logging company, and in so doing she raised interest around the world in protection of endangered ecosystems and helped mobilize support for the protection of thousands of hectares of land. In 2006, Penn established an academic study program using the sandhill crane to develop the Canadian Species at Risk Act. The project continues under the aegis of the geography department in the University of Victoria, with active research based on Denny Island and supported by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, as a research project.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

After supporting the Green Party for more than a decade, Penn announced in March 2007 her intention to run as a Liberal candidate for Saanich—Gulf Islands in the 2008 federal election. She was defeated in a close race by the incumbent Conservative Gary Lunn, who was the Minister of Natural Resources. Penn said she had been approached to run for the federal Green Party and New Democratic Party as well. She intends to retain her Green Party membership provincially.[citation needed]


External links[edit]