Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wildlife Rehabilitation: Knowledge, Expertise, Hard Work – and Love

It’s March, and the Shadick residence is reasonably quiet. The duck ponds and aviary in the backyard are empty, but bird sounds play constantly in the basement to keep a small group of songbirds company, and a muskrat has found a comfortable hiding place in a large cupboard.

It won’t be quiet much longer. “It starts in May, and it’s insanity in June and July,” Jan Shadick explains. “August is slower, and it finally gets back to normal in September.”

When Jan started caring for injured or abandoned wild animals, there were only a handful every season, but the numbers have steadily increased. She took in 20 animals in 2005, 142 in 2009, and 152 in 2010. The numbers jumped – dramatically – to 222 in 2011, with an average of 75 animals at any one time.

The majority were birds plus approximately 35 mammals. “Birds are super intense for a short period of time as they have to be fed every 20 minutes,” Jan explains. “Mammals are less intense, but they require a longer period of care, approximately 12-16 weeks.”

Training and Expertise
People who find an injured animal are often tempted to take it in and nurse it back to health. But, unless you have specialized training, you can easily do more harm than good.

First and foremost are the health and safety concerns. Wild animals often have mange or other diseases, which can be passed on to humans. A rabies shot is a necessity.

Secondly, you have to be extremely knowledgeable and prepared to do extensive research. Each animal has different requirements. Porcupines are released in the fall, but raccoons normally over winter with their parents, so they need to be released in the spring.

It helps to be part of a network of experts. “I would have thought it would be wise to release foxes in the spring so that the young animals didn’t have to cope with the harsh Prairie winter. But that’s not the case,” Jan says. “The researchers who have been involved in the swift fox release have found that if the foxes are released in the spring, they will all die. If they are released in the fall, some will survive.”

Wildlife rehabilitation experts (rehabbers) rely on years of training and research to do their job professionally. Jan Shadick grew up in a household full of animals, but it wasn’t until she moved to Connecticut that she began her apprenticeship alongside an experienced rehabber. She had to study and pass a test before she was licensed to rehabilitate small animals and songbirds in the state of Connecticut.

After moving to Saskatoon, Jan obtained a provincial permit to rehabilitate wild animals and a federal permit to rehabilitate migratory songbirds.

Jan is the only person in the province who is qualified to rehabilitate songbirds, and the province has only a small number of qualified rehabbers: Mark in Meadow Lake works with bears; a woman in Creighton rehabilitates aquatic mammals (beavers, otters); and another woman in Moose Mountain cares for predators and deer. A Saskatoon woman has expertise working with bats.

Support Network
Wildlife rehabilitation isn’t a solitary operation. It requires the help and support of a large network. Jan founded the Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation Inc. in response to the increasing number of animals coming into care and the need to create a larger organizational body.

As a federal charitable organization, Living Sky is in a position to raise funds through grants and donations. Last summer’s rehabilitation activities cost approximately $12,000. Only $3,000 came from grants; the rest was individual donations. Jan, as an independent wildlife rehabilitator, volunteers her services to Living Sky.

Jan has also been instrumental in reactivating the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan (WRSOS). The provincial body organizes training events and is responsible for the provincial hotline (306.242.7177).

The number of calls to the hotline has grown exponentially and is proving to be an extremely valuable service. Hotline volunteers are trained to triage the calls that they receive regarding injured or abandoned animals and to carry out an initial assessment.

Planning for the Future
Jan expects the number of animals requiring care to continue to increase and believes that they are only a couple of years away from needing an external site.

“In a perfect world, we’d have some kind of central facility to do triage and stabilize the animals,” Jan explains. “Then we’d have a network of foster families who have been trained to care for the animals. For example, one person would take the young ones, but as they grew they’d move on to another foster family that had space for adolescent pens.”

Jan says that injured birds could all be kept in one large facility, but it would still be helpful to separate the songbirds from the crows and other birds of prey.

Rehabbers must carefully balance the need for nurture and teaching social skills to mammals (particularly singlets) with the risk of habituation. In the wild, mammals are normally cared for by one parent, so Jan limits their care to one or at most two people. A large facility, where the mammals are cared for by five or six different people, increases the risk that the animals will become socialized or habituated to humans.

Volunteers
Wildlife rehabilitation can be extremely rewarding. “Releasing an animal is a joyous and happy experience,” Jan says. “They’ll be able to explore their natural habitat, to climb trees and eat berries – all those phenomenally normal, amazing things they should be doing as wild animals.”

But wildlife rehabilitation is also extremely challenging. Baby ducks start out in a large aquarium with a heat lamp and a feather boa ‘mother’ and go swimming three times a day. As they grow bigger, they are moved to a pond in the backyard.

There’s a lot of preparation before animals can be released into the wild. A baby nighthawk can learn to hunt insects around a trouble light in the backyard, while Jan hides the mammals’ food, forcing them to search for their meal.

Jan suggests that people volunteer to help an experienced rehabber in order to get their toes in the water and see what it’s all about. If it feels like a good fit, the WRSOS sponsors annual training programs put on by the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.

“Volunteers shouldn’t try to do everything,” Jan says. “You can avoid burnout by working with only one species or only caring for birds for one month of the year.” Jan relies on a volunteer living on an acreage outside of town to overwinter raccoons in a large pen.

You Can Help
There are many ways in which people can help Living Sky and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan. Consider becoming a volunteer, foster a critter, donate money or supplies.

And don’t hesitate to call the hotline if you find an injured animal - 306.242.7177.

Photo credit: Jan Shadick

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

EcoSask News, March 27, 2012


Saskatoon Bike Co-op, March 31
The Saskatoon Bike Co-op launches March 31 from noon-5 pm at City Park Cycle. The Co-op will teach members how to fix their own bicycles, offer training, and promote cycling safety.

Carbonless Community Concert, March 31
Enjoy a carbonless community concert from 8:30-11:30 pm on March 31 in Browser’s Café, Upper Level Memorial Union Building, U of S campus. Musicians are Minor Matter, Chad Reynolds, and Laura Artus.

Saskatoon Unplugged, March 31
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is holding a historical ghost walk in the dark to celebrate Earth Hour 2012 on March 31 at 8 pm at the Hotel Bessborough.

Bluebird Trip to Pike Lake, March 31
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society as they look for bluebirds and other early spring migrants at Pike Lake on March 31 from 9 am-2 pm. You may wish to bring a picnic lunch. Meet at the intersection of Crerar Drive and Caen Street in Montgomery Place. For more information, contact the field trip leaders at 244-6746.

Garbology Program, April 1
Visit the Meewasin Valley Centre at 2 pm on April 1 to learn more about garbage and how we can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. There will be a game and crafts made by reusing everyday items. Call 665-6888 to register. Program cost is $2.

Gardenscape, March 30-April 1
You’ll find lots of friends and interesting booths at Gardenscape. Don’t miss the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, Prairie Master Gardener Program, Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council, Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo, Saskatoon Nature Society, and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan.

CPAWS SK AGM, April 3
Join CPAWS SK board and staff for refreshments and a presentation on their current conservation campaigns at 7 pm on Tuesday, April 3 in the J.S. Wood Library Auditorium.

SES Annual General Meeting, April 4
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society will be holding their Annual General Meeting on April 4 at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. A wine and cheese social at 7 pm will be followed by a talk by Anna Hunter on Making the Connections: Decolonization, Empowerment & Environmental Activism.

Grasslands Conservation Survey, April 5
Nature Canada is conducting a survey on grassland conservation initiatives that foster biodiversity and provide economic benefits to Prairie communities.

Congratulations!
Senator Herb Sparrow, a pioneer in soil conservation, has been inducted into the Canadian Conservation Hall of Fame.

Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures received the Tourism Saskatchewan Rookie of the Year award. Robin and Arlene Karpan received the Travel Media award for their book Saskatchewan’s Best Hikes & Nature Walks.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

EcoSask News, March 20, 2012


Fair Trade, March 21/22
Michael Zelmer, Fairtrade Canada’s Director of Communications will be speaking in Saskatoon this week:

7 pm, March 21How Fair is your Fair Trade? – presentation and fair trade fair (The Refinery)

3-4:30 pm, March 22Co-operative Solutions: How the Fair Trade and organic coffee markets support forested ecosystems on Nicaraguan coffee farms Centre for the Study of Cooperatives Lecture Series (Prairie Room, Diefenbaker Building, U of S)

Human Library, March 24
You can check out a book with a difference on Saturday, March 24, 10:30 am to 5 pm, at the Saskatoon Public Library. Rather than physical books, the Human Library provides an opportunity to talk to individuals, such as Karen, whose book is titled Growing Community with Community Gardens. An experienced community gardener, she is looking forward to discussing ways of producing healthy food and improving the local food system while also meeting new neighbours and getting more exercise.

Pelican Weekend, March 25
Visit the Meewasin Valley Centre from 2-4 pm on March 25 to discover some fascinating facts about pelicans, participate in a scavenger hunt, play pelican twister, and make a pelican craft.

Athabasca Sand Dunes Info Session, March 27
The Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association is planning an EcoTour trip to the Athabasca Sand Dunes. If you are interested, join them in person or via Skype from 6:30-7:30 pm on March 27 in the Trek School room, Sheldon Williams Collegiate, Regina. Email soeea.sk@gmail.com and indicate if you will be attending in person, via Skype (email your Skype user name), or if you cannot attend but would like more information.

Think Global Eat Local, April 13
CHEP Good Food Inc. and Health Everywhere will present the seventh annual Think Global Eat Local dinner at 6 pm, April 13, at the Hilton Garden Inn. The meal, featuring international cuisine, will be followed by a silent auction, entertainment, music and dancing. The proceeds help support CHEP’s community food programming.

Bicycle Valet Coordinator
Saskatoon Cycles is looking for a contractor to manage the 2012 Bicycle Valet program.

North American Prairie Conference, August 6-10
The North American Prairie Conference is five days of sessions, field trips and workshops on native prairie management, inventory, restoration, history, native landscaping, and more. This year’s conference is being held in Winnipeg, the first time ever in Western Canada. To participate or be a sponsor, contact info@napc2012.org

Field Guide of Medicinal Plants
The Standing People: Field Guide of Medicinal Plants for the Prairie Provinces by Kahlee Keane is back in print. Courtney Milne, photographer and author, said that Keane “offers us another way of looking at the plant world. In this comprehensive guide that combine scientific information with history, folklore, individual stories and experience, she has relocated the use of medicinal plants to the realm of personal relationship with the healing power of the natural world.”

EcoFriendly Sask shared the following articles on  Facebook  and  Twitter  this past week:
Downtown design rules overdue
Earth Hour 2012: Will giving 60 minutes for the planet matter?

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Come Out and Play: Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures

Would you like to fly – to soar high above the trees and people below you? Well, now you can. Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures opened the first canopy zipline tour on the Prairies in 2011.

As the first zipline in North America to operate inside a provincial park, Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures has deliberately chosen to hold itself to exceptionally high standards.

Jori Kirk, the zipline’s founder, wants to do more than simply provide people with a chance to enjoy Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. He’s set up a low impact, low energy operation and hopes that his business can act as an ambassador for the park and an advocate for nature.

Island Forest
Set amidst the flat sprawling grasslands of southern Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills Park is a forested oasis. As a child, Jori spent his summers at a cabin in the park. He grew to love the area and wanted to share it with others.

As part of his degree in Marketing and Tourism at the University of Calgary, Jori drew up a variety of feasibility studies for outdoor businesses. He wanted to provide an engaging activity that would empower people and help them to experience nature in a guided, controlled environment. Ziplining, originally the domain of pirates or research scientists exploring the rain forest canopy, seemed like the perfect option.

“I wanted to provide a venue where families could come and escape the daily grind,” Jori explains. “And it had to be inclusive, with something for everyone from young children to grandparents.”

Epic Adventure
The zipline includes six lines and an 80-foot sky bridge. It may appear daunting at first to climb 45 feet above the forest floor and to launch yourself into space, but the tour guides provide harnesses, helmets, and lots of encouragement. Participants during the first season ranged in age from 4 to 84. Even a dog has enjoyed the final line.

A 32-foot climbing wall and slacklines provide additional opportunities for fun on the ground. New this season will be a mini kids’ area and a ground challenge course that families, school/camp, or corporate groups can complete together.

The tours have proved so popular that the company is hiring additional staff and doubling their capacity to twelve, two-hour tours a day.

Jori also plans to offer winter tours in 2012-2013. “We’ll pick a few weeks during the winter and see if we can have some fun in the snow,” he says.

Captive Audience
On platforms high above the ground, participants learn to trust and listen carefully to their ‘hiplining zippie’ guides. It’s the perfect opportunity to share information about the park. “We want to be park experts,” Jori says. “We take our staff through the park. They walk every trail and know lengths, access points, and what to expect. Park visitors often end up sticking to the standard trails. We want to tell them about other great, undiscovered trails and make sure that the park infrastructure is being utilized.”

Low Energy, Low Impact
All the activities have been designed to be low impact. The climbing wall is on a trailer, and the slacklines are strung between trees and loosened every day so that they don’t damage the bark. The office is set up in a yurt, and there are no pilings. The zipline uses utility poles that blend in with the surrounding lodgepole pines, and the company has taken advantage of existing trails as much as possible.

Power usage during construction and operation of the site for the first season used exactly the same amount of energy as running a fifth wheel trailer for that duration. Staff walk or bike to work.

Advocates for Nature
“99% of eco tours are just greenwashing,” Jori says. “As we move forward, we’ll focus on being advocates for nature and conservation.” The first step has been to join organizations, such as Leave No Trace Canada and the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan. They’re helping to promote these groups by listing them on their website, which had over 42,000 visitors in 2011. More active involvement will follow.

“We have a duty to protect the park and to help people experience and gain a respect for nature,” Jori says. For example, Chet Neufeld, the Executive Director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, will be visiting their site this summer. He’ll go over the site with the staff, identifying native plants and invasive species, and suggesting ways in which they can improve the site.

Book a Tour
If you want to fly high and free above the forest floor, book a tour online now and take advantage of the many different options – from slackline lessons for beginners to zip and sip tours that combine a zipline tour with a visit to Cypress Hills Vineyard & Winery.

Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures will be open for business on May 1, 2012. This 12-minute video showcases the fun - and even romance - of the zipline.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

EcoSask News, March 13, 2012


Catalyzing Conversations, March 17
Catalyzing Conversations: Innovative Strategies for Engaging the Public, a two-hour workshop presented by the Columbia Centre for Civic Governance, will be held on Saturday, March 17, from 2-4 pm at the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon.

New Community Garden, March 21
The North Park/Richmond Heights Community Association has partnered with Luther Heights, CHEP Good Food, and City of Saskatoon to set up a new community garden in G.D. Archibald Park North. Residents of North Park and Richmond Heights are welcome to garden here. For more information, attend the meeting on Wednesday, March 21, at 7:30 pm in Holy Covenant Church basement (1426 Alexandra Avenue).

Native Prairie Speaker Series, March 21
Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan is hosting two presentations on March 21 in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Auditorium, Regina. Both presentations will be streamed live at www.ustream.tv/channel/native-prairie-speaker-series

Vanessa Swarbrick, University of Regina PhD candidate, will provide a technical presentation on Sources and Consequences of Organic Nitrogen Pollution in Saskatchewan Waters from 12:10-12:50 pm.

The public is invited to hear Carolyn Gaudet and Sarah Ludlow, University of Regina MSc candidates, discuss Effects of Oil & Gas Development on Grassland Songbirds at 7 pm.

Great Places, March 22
Great Places, Saskatoon’s discussion forum on current issues in the built environment, is hosting a free public lecture at 7:30 pm on Thursday, March 22, at the Frances Morrison Library. Dr. John Robinson, the Director of UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability will tell the story of this pioneering facility that has set a new standard for green building design.

Young Naturalists’ Birdhouse Workshop, March 23
Bring a hammer and join the Young Naturalists in building a birdhouse on Friday, March 23, from 1-2:30 pm. Space is limited so register in advance by calling 975-3042.

Zoo Crew PD Day Camp, March 23
Join the Saskatoon Zoo Society for a Zoo Crew PD Camp from 8:30 am-4:30 pm on Friday, March 23.

Saw-whet Owling, March 24
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society as they listen for owls calling after dark from 7:30-10:30 pm on Saturday, March 24, near Pike Lake. Wear warm clothes; bring a flashlight and a hot drink. Meet at the intersection of Crerar Drive and Caen Street in Montgomery Place.

For more information, contact the field trip leader at 242-5383.

Permaculture Research Institute Meeting, March 30
The Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan is meeting on Friday, March 30, at the Unitarian Centre (213 2nd Street East). Doors will open at 6 pm for a potluck supper to be followed by a coffee house with everyone invited to contribute to the musical entertainment.

Carrot River Valley Watershed Association, March 30
The Carrot River Valley Watershed Association Inc. (CRVWA) released its first source water protection plan in January. A presentation ceremony to hand over the plan to the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is scheduled for March 30 at 11 am in Melfort. During the ceremony, funding to assess the implementation of the plan will be presented to CRVWA. All community members are invited to attend. For further information, contact Arshad Ali, Executive Director, CRVWA at 306.920.7228 or crvwa2011@gmail.com.

Agricultural Leadership Scholarships
If you are mid-career with a minimum of 5 years agricultural or farming experience and want to expand your knowledge and travel internationally, check out the Nuffield Farming Scholarships. Applications are due by April 30.

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).

Thursday, 8 March 2012

New Directions in Saskatchewan Public Policy

There is a spirit of optimism in Saskatchewan nowadays, a growing belief “that the province has undergone an enduring and fundamental transformation. The ‘old Saskatchewan’ was centred on an unpredictable boom-and-bust grain economy that created eternal pessimism and constant fear of economic insecurity. The old Saskatchewan was concerned with living within its means and not expecting too much in the way of wealth or national and international influence. The best for which people could hope in the old Saskatchewan was a stable standard of living and moderate population loss as the province’s population hovered around one million people and its status as a ‘have not’ province seemed entrenched. On the other hand, the new Saskatchewan is the land of limitless economic opportunity and unbridled optimism headed towards significant population growth, sustained prosperity, and growing clout within Canada and the world.

New Directions in Saskatchewan Public Policy, edited by David McGrane, explores the public policies that are needed to “ensure that all residents of the province benefit from increased economic prosperity.” In the Introduction to the book, McGrane goes on to say that “Without public policy that shapes and regulates economic growth and supplements it with innovative social programs, the potential of the New Saskatchewan to create a more equal, caring and just society will remain unrealized.

The book, published in 2011 by the Canadian Plains Research Center Press, covers a wide range of different policy areas: Shaping a Poverty-Free Saskatchewan, Population Aging, Multiculturalism/Immigration, Indigenous Perspectives and Involvement in Policy Making, and Workers’ Rights.

Of particular interest to EcoFriendly Sask readers are the chapters on Climate Change Policies that Work; Constructing Sustainable, Socially Just Agricultural Policies; and Saskatchewan Taxation Policy. (The chapter on Equitable Urbanism by Ryan Walker has already been examined in It’s Our Choice: People-Friendly Urban Design.)

Climate Change Policies that Work: Finding the Right Scale in Saskatchewan
Scott Bell and Jamesy Patrick argue that, “due to the realities of appropriate scale and divided jurisdiction, the Saskatchewan provincial government should focus on small-scale environmental programs within its borders while seeking to co-operate with other Canadian provincial jurisdictions, American state governments, and the Canadian federal government to combat climate change.

They advocate strongly for the reintroduction of the Climate Change Secretariat. “The Climate Change Secretariat is a novel idea that provides a mechanism for provincial policy implementation as well as coordinating such implementation with both local scale activism and federal and international policy. It could aid in the organization of small-scale projects within Saskatchewan as well as promoting co-operation with actors in jurisdictions outside of the province. Furthermore, from the perspective of policy efficiency, such an office could ensure that provincial policies are consistent with the policies of neighbouring or larger jurisdictions and, where there is a conflict between or among jurisdictions, ensure that the Saskatchewan policy is well-defined and defended.

When Elephants No Longer Dance: Constructing Sustainable, Socially Just Agricultural Policies in Saskatchewan
Darrell McLaughlin and Daniel DeLury believe that “in this era of globalization, a strong state is required to establish and protect food sovereignty and security and to foster a culture that endorses a sustainable, socially just food system.

The authors argue that the current farm crisis “is not one of yield, production, or sales. It is a crisis of farm income due to concentration of market power off the farm” as a small number of multinational corporations “control the food system from gene to supermarket shelf.”

After reviewing agricultural policy under past governments, McLaughlin and DeLury emphasize the need for government regulations and institutions that will redress the imbalance of power.

Quoting from the Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project, they emphasize the need for agricultural policies that address all aspects of the food system. “Food citizens are ‘concerned about environmental sustainability, the health of farmers and consumers, issues of justice for farm workers and the poor, and democratic participation in determining where our food systems is heading.’” They stress the importance of local and organic production, the need for a Zero Hunger policy, a farm transfer program to assist young farmers, and transportation policies that equalize the cost of getting goods to market and reduce reliance on oil.

Balancing Conflicting Purposes: Saskatchewan Taxation Policy from 1991 to 2011
David McGrane provides an overview of Saskatchewan taxation policy during the past 20 years. Taxation serves many, sometimes conflicting purposes, from wealth redistribution and support for social programs, to attracting external private investment and increasing the competitiveness of the provincial economy.

Urban planners and municipalities will be interested in McGrane’s belief that “the attraction and retention of skilled workers depends on an aggressive international recruitment strategy, job creation, cultural vibrancy, and liveable cities with good transportation infrastructure. Large weekend farmers’ markets, ‘cool’ summer festivals, and improved systems of bike paths in Saskatchewan’s cities will do much more for retaining and attracting skilled workers than a decrease in the taxation rate of high-income earners.

McGrane also advocates for tax incentives attached to the purchase of green products and home renovations that increase energy efficiency, a carbon tax or cap and trade policy, and urges that Saskatchewan join the Western Climate Initiative.

See also:
Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally-Elected Leaders
It’s Our Choice: People-Friendly Urban Design

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

EcoSask News, March 6, 2012


Even the Rain, March 7
There will be a film screening and panel discussion concerning Even the Rain/También la Lluvia at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 7, at the Broadway Theatre. The film looks at Christopher Columbus’ arrival in America and plans to privatize the water supply in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Transition Saskatoon, March 8
Transition Saskatoon is meeting at 7 pm on Thursday, March 8, at The Broadway Roastery to plan reskilling workshops/events/networking for the year ahead.

Wildlife & Wilderness Protection Grants, March 15
Apply by March 15 to nominate a non-profit organization involved in the protection of Canada’s wildlife and wilderness for a grant from Jamieson Labs.

Saskatoon Nature Society - Members’ Images, March 15
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society as they view members’ images at 7:30 pm on March 15 in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan.

Power Shift: A Sustainable Future for Saskatchewan’s Electricity, March 17
Dr. Mark Bigland-Pritchard will give an overview of the options available to green our grid and set out a rough framework for transition from our present fossil-dependent system to a fully renewable-based generation mix at 1:30 pm, March 17, at St. Peter’s Abbey, Muenster (presented by the Council for Canadians).

Refrigerator Recycling Program
SaskPower will pick up and recycle your old refrigerators and freezers – and give you $50 for each unit they collect. The offer is available for a limited time and space is limited so sign up early. Register online to schedule a pickup.

I Love Saskatchewan
I Love Saskatchewan by Kelly-Anne Riess is a board book that takes children on a whirlwind tour of the province – from the pelicans in Saskatoon to the crooked trees of Alticane, to Scotty the T. Rex in Eastend. It’s available at McNally Robinson and SaskMade Marketplace.

If you love Saskatchewan, you may want to participate in the We Wish You Were Here social media campaign, an opportunity for us to get together and tell the world what a great province we live in.

Upcoming DIY Workshops
Learn to Build a Cob Oven, June 24
Earthen Plaster Workshop, June 29-July 1
Straw Light Clay Workshop, July 6-8

Facebook Articles
Here are two articles that EcoFriendly Sask posted on Facebook and Twitter this past week:

Solar Energy Research - Dr. Ron Steer and his research team at the University of Saskatchewan have received $492,000 to develop cheaper, durable, organic solar batteries.

Greater Short-Horned Lizard - This inhabitant of Grasslands National Park is less than 10 cm. long and gives birth to 10 to 15 live young at a time.

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).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Stewardship: A Critical Role for Landowners

Millions of plains bison used to roam at will on the Prairies, but they were brought to near extinction in the late 1800s. The Canadian government purchased one of the last remaining herds, and some of the animals founded the herd at Elk Island National Park, Alberta.

In 1969, 50 plains bison from Elk Island were released north of Prince Albert National Park. They moved southwards and, while most were relocated, some remained within the Park becoming the only free-ranging herd within the historic plains bison territory.

By 2008, there were 400 animals (the herd is currently half that size), and they began to move out of the park and onto the neighbouring farm land causing damage to fences and crops. A group of representative landowners sat down with Parks Canada and Ministry of Environment representatives to develop a strategy so that bison and local residents could co-exist.

Bison Stewardship
Rather than simply responding to government plans, the landowners saw an opportunity to organize themselves and lead the stewardship initiative. “We didn’t think of ourselves as environmentalists,” explains Gord Vaadeland, Executive Director for the Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards. “We just saw something that needed doing.”

Vaadeland explains that the Stewards’ primary purpose is to build tolerance. “The bison have a mind of their own,” he says. “We can monitor their movements and try to steer them, but they’ll go where they want to go.”

The Stewards work with the local landowners to address problems. The bison move out of the park from mid-August to mid-October, creating extra work for the farmers and ranchers who have to stop what they are doing to mend fences. The Stewards hope to establish a Fence Team. A phone call or text message from the landowner, and the fence would be fixed.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been of assistance by purchasing parcels of land and creating easements so that the animals can move more freely.

From a high point of 400 animals, the herd has dropped to 200, and the Stewards are concerned about maintaining a large enough herd to protect its genetic diversity.

Diseases, such as anthrax, tuberculosis and brucellosis, can be a significant problem. The bison aren’t handled, so they can’t be vaccinated. Instead, the Stewards work with ranchers to vaccinate the cattle and to maintain a really high level of cattle health so that they don’t spread disease. When there was an anthrax breakout, the Stewards disposed of all the carcasses that they could find, both burning and burying them.

Local landowners are actively discouraged from owning sheep as sheep carry a disease that’s fatal to bison. The Stewards also try to ensure that no domestic bison are loose in order to protect the wild herd from genetic contamination.

The local First Nations harvest bison annually, often for their Elders. Unfortunately, they are under the impression that there are 400-500 animals, but this isn’t the case. The Stewards are talking to individual hunters and are setting up meetings with the band councils in order to provide them with accurate information. “We want to give the First Nations the correct information,” Vaadeland explains. “Once they know how few bison remain, they quit hunting.” The Stewards are also talking to landowners as First Nations aren’t allowed to hunt without permission.

The Stewards hope to establish a landowner/First Nations caucus that will meet once or twice a year to develop an unofficial plan. “At the moment we never meet face to face,” Vaadeland explains. “It’s good to create opportunities for dialogue.”

Additional Stewardship Opportunities
The Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards recognize that they have a very workable model that can be applied to other land stewardship situations. It’s all about getting organized and getting involved, Gord Vaadeland says. “Don’t complain about not having a voice,” Vaadeland says. “Government will be delighted if you present them with a plan.”

Vaadeland is sharing his knowledge as a Farm Stewardship Advisor with the Provincial Council of Agriculture Development. The provincial government provides funding to individual farmers and groups wanting to establish beneficial land management practices (establishing buffer zones to protect stream banks, improved water management systems, etc.).

Vaadeland encourages farmers to set up a group plan. He finds a few local champions, shows them what they can do, and helps them with the paper work. The plan can be tailored to meet local needs and a local person is hired to operate the group.

Gord Vaadeland is a rancher himself so farmers believe him when he tells them that land stewardship will benefit them as well as the environment. “The government will pay 50% of the costs of fencing off the river and establishing off-site watering,” Vaadeland says. “The cattle now have clean water, will grow better, and will yield a higher profit.”

In addition, the knowledge remains permanently in the community leading to long-term change. “The Plains Bison Stewardship program has transformed the community of Big River,” Vaadeland says. “It’s very subtle, but we’re more aware. It’s opened our minds to new ideas.

Vaadeland also encourages the farmers to work towards self sustainability so that they can generate their own funding and be completely self directed. “You can’t be reliant on one government program,” he says, “as programs change.”

International Land Stewardship
In 2008, Gord Vaadeland attended the World Landscape Sustainability Forum, sponsored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “I met some coffee farmers from India. They resolved their problems with elephants in exactly the same way as we did with the bison. Their ways of getting organized and working together were almost exactly the same as ours,” Vaadeland says.

The Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards realized that their model could be applied internationally. With the support of the Prince Albert Model Forest, Gord Vaadeland is working with reindeer herders in Sweden and ranchers in Chile.

“Chile has a huge issue with overgrazing in the forest,” Vaadeland explains. “We’re hoping to set up a grazing management model using my ranch as an example. We can hopefully then take this to Chile and show the local ranchers how they can take charge and set up a plan that will increase their profitability (e.g. through revenue from non-timber forest products).”

In Sweden, the Sami reindeer herders have found their traditional migratory routes blocked by new development and are having to transport their reindeer by truck between their summer and winter locations. “It would be great if we could give the Sami a voice in the development process as more stakeholders move into the area,” Vaadeland says.

Banff Bison Project
Parks Canada hopes to introduce plains bison into Banff National Park. Unlike Saskatchewan, Parks Canada doesn’t always have good relationships with the neighbouring landowners in Alberta. Gord Vaadeland is working with Parks Canada and the local ranchers and farmers to establish a board of directors and agreements with the Park and other parties based on the Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewardship model. “It’s starting out as a knock off of our plan, but it will develop unique aspects to fits is circumstances,” Vaadeland says.

Gord Vaadeland is a rancher, and he proudly wears his cowboy hat on all occasions. But he is also a conservationist. In fact, he says that conservation and his ranch have become so intertwined that he couldn’t imagine without the other. “Ranchers and First Nations are critical stakeholders,” Vaadeland says. “We must be engaged in conversations about protecting the land.”

Further information:
Sturgeon River Ranch
Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards website
Sturgeon River Plains Bison Stewards Facebook page
Gord Vaadeland’s CPAWS-SK blog