Written by: Christian Artuso
Above: Guent Salzmann (photo courtesy of Glenda Jaffray)
In the fall of 2011, Nature Manitoba received a most unexpected and significant donation. This donation from Guent Salzmann established the endowment that was soon named the Nature Manitoba Bluebird Fund. I vividly recall the first phone conversations I had with Guent at that time; his desire to help songbirds was as palpable as his observations of their decline astute. The point of these discussions was not to mourn the loss of so many feathered friends (a recent estimate puts the loss at three billion since 1970. Rather, Guent had a plan to do something simple and effective. In his characteristic style, always direct and concrete in conception and impatient for positive results, Guent described his idea to provide food and shelter for the birds. By spring, the Bluebird Fund Free Tree Program was born. It was also immediately clear that there was more in store in Guent’s vision.
In the months and years that followed, Guent actively liaised with nurseries, City of Winnipeg personnel, and anyone necessary to make the program work. He was full of ideas for appropriate plantings in areas such the Brady Landfill site and along the floodway. Wherever he saw an opportunity, Guent worked tirelessly to open doors.
From its inception, Guent, with the strong support of his wife Elva, was an active and integral part of the committee rather than a passive donor; overseeing many aspects of the fund, especially the free tree program. Guent enjoyed a healthy discussion on which projects we should support with the annual revenue from the endowment. If a news item or event touched him, Guent was never slow to ask if the Nature Manitoba Bluebird Fund could help. Over the past nine years, in addition to the tree program, the Manitoba Bluebird Fund has indeed supported many excellent projects, including:
• Henteleff Park tree planting,
• The Bishop Grandin Greenway,
• The Save Our Seine Rain Garden,
• The Friends of the Bluebirds,
• The Manitoba Important Bird Area program (stewardship activities), and
• The Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative, in particular providing supporting funds for the tower now at the zoo that has produced the first successful nests of Chimney Swifts in an artificial structure in Manitoba
Above: Chimney Swift tower at Assiniboine Park Zoo (photo by Amanda Shave)
Guent was always focused on solutions. He had little time for bush-beating, and he was not shy to express his sentiments when things moved too slowly. Guent was a man of wit and humour and his manner of cutting to the heart of the matter always brought a smile. On more than a few occasions, Guent graced us with a reading of a letter he had written or correspondence received. Even in the face of obstacles, Guent was tenacious in finding other paths and the success of the fund owes much to his tenacity.
On 18 November of this year, Guenther (Guent) Ralph Salzmann passed away peacefully in St Vital; just 10 days shy of his 101st birthday. We mourn his loss with Elva and his family just as we celebrate his achievements. I for one will miss his sharp wit and forthrightness; just as nearly everyone who came to present to the committee or who discussed a project with Guent has commented: his mind was certainly younger and stronger than his body. It is somehow fitting that Guent’s 100 years coincided with the Nature Manitoba centennial. Naturally, we continue the work of the fund that he started for the benefit of birds in need of our help.
Above: Guent celebrating his 100th birthday (photo courtesy of Glenda Jaffray)