Sunday, 9 December 2018

2018 Christmas Bird and Mammal Counts in Saskatchewan

Bald eagle

Join a century-old tradition by participating in the 2018 Christmas Bird and Mammal Count in Saskatchewan. No experience is necessary. Count birds at a feeder on your property or join a team that is covering part of a count circle. Organizers ask that you register as soon as possible.

Christmas bird counts are for all ages! Check out the Christmas Bird Counts for Kids in Regina and Saskatoon (see below).

Moose Jaw Nature Society plans to hold a search, but the date is not yet set. Contact them if you’re interested in participating (Lorna Arnold, 306-690-8739).

Dec. 14 – Fort Qu’Appelle (contact Keith Stephens at 306-334-2862 or 306-332-3070)

Dec. 15 – Clark’s Crossing – Warman, Martensville, Osler, North Saskatoon (contact John Patterson at or 306-249-0468)

Dec. 15 – Craven (contact Chris Harris at, call 306-569-5300, or text 306-515-0195; or contact Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Dec. 16 – Qu’Appelle – Elbow (contact Michael Williams at 306-242-5383)

Dec. 17 – Gardiner Dam (contact Guy Wapple at or 306-249-3280)

Dec. 18 – Shell Lake (contact Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Dec. 21 – Borden/Radisson (text Kyron Giroux at 306-281-6996 or email

Dec. 26 – Saskatoon (contact Stan Shadick at or 306-652-5975)

Dec. 29 – Regina (contact Brett Quiring at or 306-551-8729)

Jan. 5 – Balgonie (contact Brett Quiring at or 306-551-8729)

Jan. 5 – Pike Lake (contact Murray Morgan at or 306-290-4078)

Christmas Bird Counts for Kids
Dec. 27 – Saskatoon – Saskatoon Zoo Society is hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at Beaver Creek Conservation Area. No registration is necessary. For more information, contact Greg Fenty ( or 306-343-6943).

Jan. 5 – Regina – Nature Saskatchewan is hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at Wascana Centre. For more information, contact Lacey Weekes ( or 306-780-9481).

Thursday, 6 December 2018

We're Losing our Wetlands - and That's a Big Problem

Illegal drainage causing flooding of a downstream yardsite and sending water into the Quill Lakes

“Wetlands provide us with water, they protect us from floods, droughts and other disasters, they provide food and livelihoods to millions of people, they support rich biodiversity, and they store more carbon than any other ecosystem. Yet, the value of wetlands remains largely unrecognized by policy and decision makers.” (The Global Wetland Outlook, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands) 

The world’s freshwater supplies are threatened as never before says Jay Famigletti, Executive Director of the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security. World-wide, wetlands are being destroyed at 3 times the rate of forests (35% losses since 1970) and one-quarter of wetland plants and animals are at risk of extinction. Improved water management and governance are essential if we want to ensure future water and food security.

When the glaciers receded after the last Ice Age, they left behind an array of shallow depressions providing the Prairie Pothole Region with a wealth of small wetlands storing water and providing habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. In the past, farmers worked around the wetlands, but large farms, massive equipment, and a drive for greater efficiency and productivity have led to farmers draining the potholes.

There’s a strong sentiment among landowners that they can do what they want on their own land and that they should be applauded for their contributions to feeding the world. However, the farmers’ short-term interests are at odds with the long-term interests of the general public. Draining wetlands leads to flooding downstream, increases erosion, lowers the water table, and reduces the supply of water in times of drought. It also fails to recognize wetlands’ important role in carbon sequestration.

Illegal drainage on Van Pattens Creek, a major fish spawning creek

Saskatchewan’s Agricultural Water Management Strategy 
In 2015, the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) implemented the Agricultural Water Management Strategy in an effort to support responsible drainage. All existing and new drainage now requires WSA approval. To streamline the process, the agency has adopted a network approach working with all the farmers in a specific drainage area.

The Water Security Agency approved the first drainage network at Dry Lake northeast of Weyburn in 2017, issuing approvals for the 73 farmers in the network to drain a total of 586 acres of wetlands or 90% of the wetlands in the area. Mitigation in the form of restoring or retaining wetlands accounted for less than 10% of the loss area. No other efforts were made to mitigate for the impacts to water quality and loss of habitat. There was no evaluation or monitoring of the immediate or cumulative impact on water quality and loss of wetland habitat. The Saskatchewan public as a whole and Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people were not consulted.

More than 8 additional farmland drainage projects are now underway. Wetland loss in the Blackbird Creek and Saline Lake network is expected to exceed 90%.

Large ditch draining a 100-acre wetland along with bush clearing to turn the area into cultivated land

Focus & Fragmentation 
A recent article pinpoints the problem with the government’s Agricultural Water Management Strategy as follows: “The Province has drawn a clear line around drainage management, one focused on land and infrastructure owners and operators, and where the goal is to control the movement of water within a specific area. Unfortunately, this approach has isolated drainage from other related sectors. Perhaps most obviously, drainage is directly linked to general watershed management, as both are managed by the WSA, which is the hub for all water issues in Saskatchewan. Despite sharing an institution, presently there are no explicit links between drainage and other branches of water management.”

The authors go on to state, “The challenge with Saskatchewan’s Agricultural Water Management Strategy is not so much what is included, but what is not. . . . It is also unclear what, if any, role there is for conservation groups, water stewardship groups, agricultural associations, local governments, and others in drainage planning and decision making. So, despite the connection between wetland drainage, watershed management, and conservation, these links are not explicitly recognized in the regulatory process. The drainage approval process ‘informally considers’ water quality and wetlands, but there are limited policies and no formal ties between these informal considerations and existing source water protection plans or watershed management plans.”

The lack of a comprehensive approach to farmland drainage pits farmers against those downstream who face flooding and loss of water quality. The water level in the Quill Lakes has been rising for over a decade and, as a terminal basin, there is nowhere for it to go. The water is high in inorganic salts that could damage fisheries, wildlife habitat, and water quality if introduced into nearby freshwater systems, affecting cottage-owners’ water supply as well as Last Mountain Lake, an important migratory bird sanctuary. Proposed solutions to date have been inadequate as they didn’t meet the needs and concerns of all the interested parties.

Urban residents tend to view farmland drainage as a rural issue, which doesn’t affect their lives. And yet the impact can be significant. The City of Des Moines, Iowa, has taken several upstream farmland drainage districts to court claiming that the release of nitrates from farmland into the Raccoon River has resulted in unacceptably high nitrate levels in the city’s water supply. The city has been forced to introduce a variety of treatment techniques to purify the water and expects to be forced to build a new treatment plant to deal with the issue in future.

Drainage into a slough that then drains into the Quill Lakes watershed

Farmland Drainage Roundtable Initiative 
In June 2018, a group of concerned citizens met to discuss and develop an action plan to address concerns around farmland drainage. A report has been published documenting the findings of the two-day roundtable and covers perceptions of land ownership and farmland drainage; environmental impacts; farmland drainage policies, legislation and enforcement; and a call to action in addressing the key challenges.

Subsequent to the two-day get-together, a not-for-profit organization, the Citizens Environmental Alliance – Saskatchewan, was established to address the issues and actions coming out of the Farmland Drainage Round-table Initiative. The non-profit organization plans to facilitate communication, resource sharing, and coordination of actions to eliminate duplication of efforts.

Photos courtesy of the Citizens Environmental Alliance - Saskatchewan

Further Info 
Protecting and Constructing Urban Wetlands
Call to Action: Findings from Farmland Drainage Roundtable Initiative
When a Water Problem Is More Than a Water Problem: Fragmentation, Framing and the Case of Agricultural Wetland Drainage
Quill Lakes Water Crisis Receives International Attention

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

EcoSask News, December 4, 2018

canada geese on snow

Upcoming Events
Pesticides in the Prairie Pothole Region, Dec. 7 (Saskatoon)
There will be a discussion of ecological risk assessment of pesticides in the prairie pothole region at 3:30 pm, Dec. 7, as part of the WildEcol Seminar Series.

Winter Wonder, Dec. 9 (Great Blue Heron Provincial Park)
Join SaskOutdoors at Sundogs Excursions from 10 am-3 pm, Dec. 9, for a wildlife scavenger hunt, snowshoeing, and more.

Community Climate Conversation, Dec. 9 (Regina)
There will be group discussions following the short presentations at the Community Climate Conversation in Cathedral, Dec. 9, 6:30-9:30 pm.

Hogs on the Lam, Dec. 13 (Saskatoon)
Professor Ryan Brook will discuss wild pigs and the rapid rise in their numbers at the 7:30 pm, Dec. 13, meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

Looking Ahead
Outdoor Education (Regina, Saskatoon)
If you’re interested in outdoor education, take a look at the workshops being planned for the new year by SaskOutdoorsProject Wet (Regina & Saskatoon), Project Wild (Regina & Saskatoon), Below Zero (Regina & Saskatoon), NaturePlay (Saskatoon), and Flying Wild (Regina & Saskatoon).

Edible Foraging Tours (Regina)
Edible Landscapes Permaculture Design & Consulting will be offering two series of seasonal foraging tours (one urban) in 2019.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Energy Transitions
This week brought a number of excellent articles about the future of coal and the transition to a coal-free future.

Climate Justice Saskatoon published a report entitled Bridging the Gap: Building bridges between urban environmental groups and coal-producing communities in Saskatchewan based on their conversations with local residents in Coronach and Estevan.

Life after Coal looks at the situation in Alberta. A parallel article looks at why oil communities in Alberta need a transition plan, not new pipelines.

The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why is it so hard? looks at the situation globally.

goose prints

In the News
Germany’s plan to fight plastic waste includes eliminating unnecessary packaging and replacing existing packaging with environmentally friendly alternatives.

What is the best way to save nature – to cordon off areas for parks and open space or to integrate conservation measures on working lands? Or should we do both?

Denmark is considering food labels that indicate environmental impact.

The Netherlands is pioneering a new approach to generating and sharing energy through neighbourhood microgrids.

Spanish people support banning cars in the centre of any town over 50,00 residents.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

EcoSask News, November 27, 2018

Common Goldeneye

Upcoming Events
Permaculture Regina, Nov. 27 (Regina)
The Permaculture Regina board is meeting tonight at 6 pm at 2138 McIntyre Street (use side door). Everyone welcome - bring your ideas and enthusiasm.

Gardiner Dam Birding, Dec. 1 (Saskatoon)
Join Saskatoon Nature Society on a birding trip to Gardiner Dam from 9 am-5 pm, Dec. 1.

Storytime at the Zoo, Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12 (Saskatoon)
Enjoy a story in the company of an animal at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo from 1:30-2:30 pm, Dec. 4, 5, 11, & 12.

Lakeview Community Climate Conversation, Dec. 4 (Regina)
Jared Clarke’s grade 6-7 class is hosting the second Lakeview Community Climate Conversation at 6:30 pm, Dec. 4, in the Lakeview School gymnasium. They’ll be showing An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Check out this video where the students share the importance of solar power to Saskatchewan.

Enviro Collective Regina, Dec. 5 (Regina)
The Regina Enviro Collective will be meeting at 7 pm, Dec. 5, at the Artesian.

Outdoor Educator Social, Dec. 5 (Saskatoon)
SaskOutdoors invites all outdoor educators to a social from 3:30-7 pm, Dec. 5, in Saskatoon.

Energy Efficiency Alberta, Dec. 5 (Saskatoon)
Peter Love will discuss Energy Efficiency Alberta at the Dec. 5 breakfast meeting of SK Energy Management Task Force.

Winter Commuter Cycling Workshop, Dec. 6 (Regina)
Bike Regina is hosting a winter cycling discussion at 7 pm, Dec. 6.

Climate Alarm March, Dec. 8
Citizens for Climate are inviting communities around the world to join with people in France in holding a climate alarm march on Dec. 8 to to encourage COP24 world representatives to adopt important measures limiting global warming.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Art & Nature
Artist Gerald Beaulieu's road-killed crows are too large to ignore - they say what most roadkill never get the chance to say - notice me.

An exhibit of 3 centuries of American art at Princeton University uncovers relationships between art, nature, politics, slavery, national parks, and more.

In the News
Saskatchewan lakes and dugouts act as carbon sinks - one more reason to stop draining our farmlands

Birds of Saskatchewan is available for pre-order. Order your copy now.


A useful overview of the history of Alberta's oil industry. If it's in trouble now, it's because of past choices. Should government intervene now when companies rejected intervention in the past?

Pedestrianized streets are kid-friendly - and everyone benefits.

What makes a transit system great? An excerpt from Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit by Christof Spieler.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

EcoSask News, November 20, 2018


Upcoming Events 
Why We Should Listen to the Plants, Nov. 20 (Saskatoon)
Dr. Prakash Venglat will discuss what we can learn from plants about stress, adaptability, and thriving in new environments at the 7:30 pm, Nov. 20, meeting of Café Scientifique Saskatoon.

Human-Polar Bear Conflicts, Nov. 23 (Saskatoon)
There will be a presentation on Human-Polar Bear Conflicts at 3:30 pm, Nov. 23, as part of the WildEcol Seminar series.

Ferruginous Hawks, Nov. 24 (Fort Qu’Appelle)
Ryan Fisher will discuss ferruginous hawk research on the Prairies at the 7 pm, Nov. 24, meeting of the Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society. Meetings are held at the Fort Qu’Appelle Train Station.

Species at Risk: Grasslands National Park, Nov. 26 (Val Marie)
Parks Canada ecologists will provide an update on species at risk in Grasslands National Park at 7 pm, Nov. 26, in Val Marie.

Greater Sage-Grouse Update, Nov. 27 (Glentworth)
Ministry of Environment will provide an update on their work with Greater Sage-Grouse at 7 pm, Nov. 27, in Glentworth.

Forestry Farm Park & Zoo, Nov. 27 (Saskatoon)
The City of Saskatoon is hosting an information session to share the new Master Plan for the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo at 7 pm, Nov. 27. The Plan will be available online effective Nov. 28.

DIY Green Cleaners, Nov. 27 (Regina)
Learn how to eliminate toxins from your home and create natural cleaning products from 7-8:30 pm, Nov. 27, at the Sunrise Branch, Regina Public Library.

Storytime at the Zoo, Nov. 27/28 (Saskatoon)
Enjoy a story in the company of an animal at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo from 1:30-2:30 pm, Nov. 27 & 28.

Sea of Life, Nov. 28 (Regina)
Sea of Life, a visit to the world’s oceans, will be screened at 6:30 pm, Nov. 28, in Regina.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, Nov. 29 (webinar)
Brandon Burda will discuss Sharp-tailed Grouse: Tools for Managing in a Changing Environment in a noon-hour webinar hosted by SK PCAP on Nov. 29.

Christmas in Who-scana-ville, Dec. 1 (Regina)
Wascana Centre is hosting an outdoor nature program for kids from 12-3 pm, Dec. 1.


Looking Ahead
Climate Alarm March, Dec. 8
Citizens for Climate are inviting communities around the world to join with people in France in holding a climate alarm march on Dec. 8 to to encourage world representatives during the COP24 to make serious commitments to adopt important measures limiting global warming.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
Kristen Martin and Jared Clarke are fighting climate change with conviction and native grasses.

The City of Regina set a new record this year by collecting over 800 tonnes of leaf and yard waste. Due to increased volumes, they’ll be replacing current depots with a single site open from April-November with additional operating days.

Congratulations to Max Abraham on receiving the Meewasin Conservation Award 2018.

Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale Watchers are sharing information from panelists who presented at their last event – MORE Than an Urban Park on their Facebook page.

How will Saskatoon’s George Genereux Urban Regional Park be affected by development plans for the surrounding area?

The plastic backlash - what’s behind our sudden rage and will it make a difference?

Pathways to zero-energy buildings need to focus on energy efficiency as well as renewable energy options such as solar.

Both parks and cemeteries support bird diversity. More trees and a larger site contribute to greater species richness.

Conflicting priorities - grand old trees vs affordable housing.

World Climate Simulation game players come away with a strong desire to learn and do more about climate change.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Alternate Voices: Reconnecting Humans with Nature

It’s easy to get caught up in the mainstream flow of media, but there are alternate voices. Here are just a few that we enjoy reading. Let us know what you read when exploring the connections between humans and nature.

Beside magazine out of Montreal prides itself on “bridging the gap between humans and nature.” The magazine is printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper produced at a Quebec mill that runs on biogas, purifies the water it uses, and ships its waste to nearby farms to feed the soil. Printing and distribution are also as environmentally friendly as possible.

The articles range from invisible roads and wildlife crossings to raptors, technology, and back-to-basics living. The most recent issue, released November 15, explores the ways in which we are building our future with nature. You can purchase a paper copy, sign up for a monthly email newsletter, or receive some of their articles via RSS feed. There’s also a quarterly dispatch of audio stories.

Earth Island Journal
Earth Island Journal’s goal is to “highlight the subtle but profound connections between the environment and other contemporary issues.” As the media arm of the Earth Island Institute, their goal is to “make a passionate argument for defending Earth.” Their most recent issue includes articles on noise pollution in the wild, breaking down the barriers (women climate scientists, queering the environmental movement), and dogs that are sniffing out killer whale scats. The Journal is a quarterly paper publication. Many articles are available on their website.

New Nature
New Nature is a digital youth nature magazine out of the UK. It’s written, edited, and produced entirely by young people under 30. The current issue includes articles on social media as a resource for ecological research, sundews, shrews, and prescriptions for nature. You can subscribe to or download the magazine from their website.

Orion is an American magazine exploring the connection between nature and culture. The current issue includes articles on climate adaptation and new ways of thinking about medicine, witnessing a solar eclipse, and a piece by Wendell Berry. Paper and digital subscriptions are available and some articles are available online.

Resurgence & Ecologist
Resurgence & Ecologist is a British magazine offering “positive perspectives on a range of engaging topics covering ecology, social justice, philosophy, spirituality, sustainable development and the arts.” The current issue includes articles on hope despite extinction and deforestation, a rewilding project in the Netherlands, and tips on how to minimize waste in the holiday season. Subscribers have access to articles online as well as PDF and paper versions of the magazine as a whole.

The Ecological Citizen 
The Ecological Citizen is a digital, peer-reviewed ecocentric journal “confronting human supremacy in defence of the earth.” Recent articles discuss humans’ relationship with the biosphere, dying ecologically, and a critique by George Monbiot of the belief that everything has a price.

You May Also Enjoy
Alternatives Journal - Alternatives Journal says its mandate is to “promote an understanding of ‘environment’ in the broadest sense of the word, including social and political dimensions, and stimulate dialogue about environmental issues”

Anthropocene - Anthropocene is a print and digital publication explores “how we can create a sustainable human age we actually want to live in”

Ensia - Ensia is a “a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet” and motivating people to create a more sustainable future

The Narwhal - The Narwhal is a digital publication by a team of investigative journalists dispelling myths about Canada’s natural environment

The Nature of Cities - The Nature of Cities is an international platform for discussing ideas about “cities as ecosystems of people, nature, and infrastructure”

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

EcoSask News, November 13, 2018

sunrise across the park

Upcoming Events 
Smarter Science, Better Buildings, Nov. 13-16 (Prince Albert) 
Grade 7 students and the general public are invited to view the Smarter Science, Better Buildings exhibit in the foyer of Prince Albert’s City Hall from Nov. 13-16.

East Africa Trip, Nov. 19 (Regina)
Dale Hjertaas will present on his recent trip to East Africa at the 7:30 pm, Nov. 19, meeting of Nature Regina.

Hidden Bird Song, Nov. 20 (Prince Albert) 
Join Nature Prince Albert for a talk on bird song from 7-9 pm, Nov. 20.

Man of the Trees Book Launch, Nov. 20 (Saskatoon) 
Join Paul Hanley at McNally Robinson Booksellers at 7 pm, Nov. 20, for the launch of his new book, Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist.

Indigenous Green Energy Forum, Nov. 21 (Saskatoon) 
First Nations Power Authority is hosting the 4th annual Indigenous Green Energy Forum from 8 am-4 pm, Nov. 21, in Saskatoon.

Trash Talk, Nov. 22 (Saskatoon) 
You’re invited to attend a waste reduction workshop offering tips and tricks on how to reduce your waste footprint from 6:30-9:30 pm, Nov. 22.

Saskatoon Cycles AGM, Nov. 23 (Saskatoon) 
Saskatoon Cycles is holding their annual general meeting at 5 pm, Nov. 23, at Venice House on Central Avenue.

EcoHack, Nov. 23-25 (Saskatoon) 
Participate in EcoHack, Nov. 23-25 at the U of S, and help solve local environmental and sustainability challenges.

Carbonless Concert, Nov. 24 (Saskatoon)
Enjoy local music at a carbonless concert from 6:30-9 pm, Nov. 24.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

sunrise through the trees

In the News
Minneapolis is stepping up enforcement of sidewalk snow removal to increase walkability. 

Our wilderness areas are often noisy places.

“Those of us who study insects are passionate about them in a way that can seem incomprehensible to outsiders. People get why Jane Goodall loves chimps; they are less sanguine about my fondness for earwigs.”

Owls, hares, and butterflies - three great new nature reference guides.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).