About the Site

Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889-1982) was an environmental leader and activist well ahead of his time, described as the “first global conservationist” by his biographer Paul Hanley. After attending the University of Saskatchewan in 1910-11, he completed forestry studies at the University of Cambridge. In 1922, after his appointment as Assistant Conservator of Forests in Kenya, he founded the Men of the Trees, enlisting the help of 9000 voluntary tree planters in an attempt to arrest the invading Sahara. This society, which grew into an international organization, became the central cause of St. Barbe's life. He was called upon to advise several nations on forestry matters, and was active in promoting international cooperation in conservation. He published extensively, not only on forestry and trees but also on spiritual and religious topics and health matters.

The Richard St. Barbe Baker fonds comprise 4.52 metres of textual material together with remnants of his library, his own published works, hundreds of photographs, film, video, and audio tapes. While the collection as a whole covers the full span of St. Barbe’s life, 1889-1982, the bulk of the material dates from post-World War II, much of the earlier material apparently having been lost to German bombs in England during the war.

The collection was bequeathed to the University of Saskatchewan, and organized after his death. St. Barbe Baker maintained life-long connections to the university. He received an honorary degree in 1971. He died in Saskatoon in 1982 (and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery), after planting his last tree near the Diefenbaker Canada Canada.

This website provides access to digitized copies of several portions of the collection. The first phase of the digitization project has focused on photographs, film, audio, and St. Barbe Baker’s books.

The site also includes material from the Christopher Chapman fonds, donated to the University of Saskatchewan in 2015. Christopher Chapman (1927-2015) was an innovative Canadian filmmaker and documentarian. He was best known for "A Place to Stand", produced for the Ontario Pavilion at Expo 67 and for which he won an Academy Award. "A Place to Stand" represented the beginning of IMAX technology, and Chapman pioneered the “multiple dynamic images” technique, used in movies including "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "Airport" and later known as the “Brady Bunch effect.” The Chapman collection includes film footage, audio recordings and other material relating to an unfinished film project about Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Thanks to Hugh Locke (St. Barbe Baker’s literary trustee) and the International Tree Foundation for their generous financial support of this project. The International Tree Foundation (founded as the Men of the Trees) will be celebrating its centennial in 2022.