Our Story

UrbaNature Education (UNE) has always been about protecting urban spaces and learning from nature.

Our story is very much linked with that of Sauvons la Falaise!

In 2015, concerned citizens formed the group to protect the falaise Saint-Jacques (St. Jacques Escarpment), a 49-acre wooded area between the Montreal neighbourhoods of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and the Southwest. The woodland was recognized by the City of Montreal as an eco-territory, but this afforded no real protection.

When two hectares of the falaise were clearcut and bulldozed, Lisa Mintz founded  Sauvons la Falaise! to try to save the rest of this urban forest from development.

Hundreds of people supported her as she wrote op-ed pieces, spoke to media and lobbied government.

Falaise devotees became self-appointed guardians of the escarpment. They cleared pathways, removed hundreds of tires and other trash by hand, documented wildlife and filled bird feeders.

All of Lisa’s lobbying efforts paid off.

The City of Montréal announced in 2020 that the escarpment would be turned into a nature park (Montreal’s seventh grand parc). The following year  the MTQ created a green corridor along the base of the falaise. The size of the falaise’s urban forest nearly doubled when MTQ workers planted 2,800 trees and more than 60,000 shrubs and grasses across 13 hectares.

In 2021, the Canadian Museum of Nature named Lisa the winner in the adult category of its Canada-wide Nature Inspiration Awards. That same year, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce MNA Kathleen Weil awarded Lisa a Medal of the National Assembly of Quebec for her work protecting urban green spaces, fostering civic engagement and environmental education.

And in 2022, Montreal’s executive committee approved an $8-million loan bylaw. The city earmarked funds for landscaping work (including picnic areas and trails) and the acquisition of buildings. The falaise Saint-Jacques now has a new, more accessible entrance than the previous chainlink fence.

Growing interest in the falaise led Lisa to expand her work to focus on educating the public about the value of urban green spaces. In 2018, with Holly McIntyre, she co-founded environmental education non-profit, UrbaNature Education, where she’s now the Executive Director.

From spring to fall, UrbaNature hosts cleanups, nature tours and workshops in the escarpment.

With the falaise Saint-Jacques protected, connecting citizens with nature while keeping the forest wild are crucial goals for UrbaNature.

As Lisa told Readers Digest UK,

“We see the falaise being left alone and just used for educational purposes.”