Thursday, 26 April 2012

Eco-Warriors Club Receives First EcoFriendly Action Grant

A few weeks ago, we set up the EcoFriendly Action Grants, small monthly grants to support concrete, tangible environmental activities by individuals or small groups. We were so pleased by the response and have already received a number of grant applications.

We decided that there was no need to wait until the end of May to award the first grant, particularly as one of the projects had an April start date. So, we are awarding the first grant immediately and will award another at the end of May.

Eco-Warriors Club
The Eco-Warriors Club is a new initiative of the Friends of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

It is a club for kids ages 9-12 and will run every second Sunday from April 29 to June 24. The program combines field trips (e.g. the compost facilities at the RCMP Training Depot) with speakers (e.g. from the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre).

We really liked the hands-on approach and the fact that they were supporting sustainability by using public transit for all their field trips. There’s also a really good mix of program topics.

The Eco-Warriors Club will eventually be self supporting as are their other programs, but it’s difficult to get full participation (and full fees) in the first year of a new venture. We’re delighted to be of assistance and will publish a report of the Club’s activities on EcoFriendly Sask in July.

Saskatchewan Cares
We are delighted to learn of small environmental initiatives all over the province. Do continue to send in your applications as we will be awarding EcoFriendly Action Grants on a monthly basis. Tell us who you are and what you hope to achieve. Tell us what you need and provide us with some financial information (other sources of funding, etc.). We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

EcoSask News, April 24, 2012

Environmental news and events from Saskatoon and area - from dancing grouse to green teachers, urban agriculture, and dirt

Sharp-tailed Grouse Dance, April 28 
 You’ll have to get up early for this field trip with the Saskatoon Nature Society from 4:30-8:00 am, April 28. Meet at the west end of the Westgate Plaza. Meet at the NW corner of the parking lot for the Centre at Circle and 8th. Call 955-3954 for additional information up until 9 pm on night before to check for possible cancellation (or check the Field Trips page online).

Wildlife Rehabilitation Society AGM, May 9
The annual general meeting of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is on May 9 at 7 pm in Room 2102 of the Veterinary College, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. Mark Dallyn of Healing Haven will speak about the challenges he has faced in rehabbing bears.

Enhancing Saskatchewan’s Biodiversity 
The Nature Conservancy of Canada, SK Region, in partnership with the Government of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, and Environmental Systems Assessment Canada, has a received a Go Green grant from the provincial government. They will be developing a land connectivity model to assist conservation agencies in identifying and securing land corridors in order to enhance wildlife habitat conservation and protect species biodiversity.

Green Teacher Webinar, April 26 
Green Teacher is offering a webinar on Sustainability as a Context for Literary Skills and Social Studies Content on April 26. More webinars will be announced shortly. (via BH – thanks!)

Urban Life
Season Change Walking Tour, April 29
Check for signs of spring on the Meewasin trails on April 29 at 2 pm with interpreters from the Meewasin Valley Centre.

Saskatoon Cycles – Bike Valet 
Saskatoon Cycles will be running the Bike Valet at festivals and events this summer. It’s an important, much-appreciated service, but they need your help – either financially or as a volunteer.

Renovate or Replace? 
The Regina Public School Board is considering demolishing Connaught Community School. This article provides a list of resource materials that make the case for restoring and reusing older schools.

I Went to the Woods, April 12 – May 10
The Gallery at the Frances Morrison Library is currently displaying works by Kathy Bradshaw that are inspired by Thoreau’s belief that we need solitude and nature to experience truth and spiritual renewal. 

Plants & Gardens 
Making More With Microbes, June 14-17
Get the dirt on dirt and become the smartest person you know when it comes to soil, compost, and compost tea. The Making More with Microbes workshop, from June 14-17, is presented by Doug Weatherbee, Soil Foodweb Advisor. The registration deadline is May 1.

Food and the City
Food and the City, by Alberta author, Jennifer Cockrall-King, explores urban agriculture initiatives around the world. The resource page on Cockrall-King’s website will give you a good idea of the breadth of the book.

International Permaculture Day, May 6

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, 19 April 2012

Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary

A Safe Refuge for Migratory Birds

Millions of birds travel through Saskatchewan every year as they make their way between breeding grounds in the North and winter quarters in the South.

One of their most prized resting areas is the Migratory Bird Sanctuary at the north end of Last Mountain Lake.

The north end of the lake is extremely shallow, providing a combination of islands, mudflats, and marshes. “It’s mucky mud with lots of insects and worms,” explains Kerry Hecker, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, who manages Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary and Wildlife Refuge. “The water is quite shallow and warm, with lots of minerals. The waterfowl really like it.”

“The number of geese during the fall migration is staggering,” Kerry says. “A whirlwind of snow geese spirals up into the area. It’s almost deafening.” There were 450,000 snow geese, 200,000 ducks, plus innumerable songbirds and shore birds in a recent day’s observation.

Over 340 bird species have been recorded at Last Mountain during migration, including 60 species that nest here. They range from Meadowlarks and Robins to Red-Tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, and Swans. The lake provides a refuge for nine endangered species, including the Peregrine Falcon, Piping Plover, Whooping Crane, Burrowing Owl, Ferruginous Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Baird’s Sparrow, Caspian Tern, and Cooper’s Hawk.

A Long History
Deep wagon wheel ruts are still visible at the north end of the lake, remnants of the Touchwood Trail, which was a busy thoroughfare during the fur trade. John Macoun, one of Canada’s earliest botanists, described the Last Mountain Lake area as “The Flower Garden of the North West.” Like other early visitors to this area, he was surprised and delighted by the number and variety of birds, exclaiming that he couldn’t walk along the shore without stepping on nests and eggs.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, everything, from bison to birds, was fair game for hunters, with large plots of land being set aside in Western Canada as public shooting grounds.

But Last Mountain Lake was different. Prominent individuals, such as Edgar Dewdney, then Lieutenant Governor of the North West Territories (of which Saskatchewan was part), lobbied Prime Minister John A. MacDonald to set this land aside. In 1887, it became the first officially protected area in Saskatchewan and the first bird sanctuary in North America.

The federal Migratory Birds Act was passed in 1917, and Last Mountain Lake was designated as a migratory bird sanctuary in 1921.

In the 1950s and ‘60s activities around the Sanctuary began to have an impact, and the government purchased land in order to create a buffer zone. This area, which is home to a number of rare provincial plants that thrive in salty soil, became a National Wildlife Area in 1994.

For Birds, not People
Visitors to the bird sanctuary are sometimes disappointed. There are no interpretive staff and no points of interest. “We have a mandate to protect and conserve this area for migratory birds and wildlife,” Kerry explains. “We monitor people quite closely. There is a driving tour, and there are good spots for birdwatching, but there are only a couple of trails. We like to give the birds privacy to nest and raise their chicks, so we may restrict some access, particularly at the height of the breeding season.”

Kerry’s job is to manage the site and to ensure that it remains a good habitat for birds. In the past, wildfires and herds of bison grazing on the land maintained the grasslands ecosystem. The National Wildlife Service now mimics these earlier, natural forces by using prescribed burns and herds of cattle (and occasionally horses, sheep or goats) to maintain the natural habitat.

Kerry pays close attention to the grazers. “You can get them to selectively eat certain weeds if you choose your time, location, and density very carefully,” she explains. Some of the cultivated land is being reseeded with native prairie plants. Prescribed burns are very specifically timed for the few days when the weather is perfect and they can keep the burn exactly where they want it. Kerry also monitors the water quality, particularly the creeks which pass through industrial/agricultural lands.

“I’m a generalist biologist,” Kerry says, “which is good, as I need to know a little about a lot of things and have the ability to call on experts when needed.”

If you are interested in visiting the Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary, Kerry suggests coming during the fall migration as the sheer number of birds passing through is spectacular. You may also want to visit Last Mountain Bird Observatory, Last Mountain Regional Park, which is operated and maintained by Nature Saskatchewan.

Further Information:
Saskatchewan’s Environmental Champions: John Macoun
John Macoun, Dean of Canadian Naturalists
The Field Naturalist, W.A. Waiser (available from the Saskatoon Public Library)
Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, Environment Canada
Saskatchewan’s Environmental Champions: Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary
Last Mountain Bird Observatory

Photo Credits: Native sunflowers, 2011 Environment Canada; Kildeer eggs, 2011 Environment Canada, Kerry Hecker; Three-flowered avens, 2011 Environment Canada, Kerry Hecker

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

EcoSask News, April 17, 2012

Eco-Warriors Club, April 29 to June 24
Friends of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum have started an Eco-Warriors Club for 9-12 year olds from April 29 to June 24. Sunday afternoon field trips (by bus) will look at compost, recycling, shopping locally, and burrowing owls.

Moving the Trash Mountain
Delila Jahn-Thue’s son urged her to stop burning trash. Not only did the family change their waste practices, but they are promoting a recycling facility in their rural municipality. In addition, Jahn-Thue wrote an ecological fairy tale for children – Advice between Kingdoms: How the Hays moved Trash Mountain.

Field Trips
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society for two field trips:
April 21, 1-5 pm - Waterfowl at Brightwater Marsh - meet at NW corner of the Centre at Circle & 8th parking lot (955-5028)
April 22, 1:30-4:30 - Crocus Hike - meet at Kinsmen Park parking lot across from the Mendel Art Gallery (665-0987)

Spring Clean-up
Meewasin River Clean Up, April 19
Brainsport is holding their annual Meewasin River Clean Up on April 19. Meet at Brainsport at 6 pm. Bring work gloves and comfortable shoes.

Clean-Up Campaign, April 22
Stop by the Meewasin Valley Centre at 2 pm on April 22 to pick up an information package and some bags so you can help spring clean Saskatoon.

Summer Travels
Athabasca Sand Dunes Info Night, April 25
Greg Fenty, Education Coordinator, Saskatoon Zoo Society, is leading a trip to the Athabasca Sand Dunes offered by the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education, University of Saskatchewan, from July 8-14. An information night will be held at 7 pm on April 25 at the Williams Building on Cumberland Avenue.

Eco Museums
Eco museums foster a sense of place, local participation, and local community development. Two Saskatchewan examples are the Prairie Wind & Silver Sage Museum at Val Marie and Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve.

Prairie Wind & Silver Sage, operated by the Friends of Grasslands, includes museum exhibits, an independent bookstore with a focus on Prairie authors and stories, an espresso bar, and several art exhibition spaces.

Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve offers educational events, works with local landowners, and provides a wonderful spot to hike or be on the lake.

Environmental Activism
Spread the Word: Native Prairie Restoration Week
The Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (PCAP) is looking for volunteers to help promote Native Prairie Restoration Week. You’re encouraged to download and distribute posters, plan events and displays, or post information in your newsletter or on your website.

PCAP SK has also prepared a downloadable checklist of 20 ways we can enjoy native prairie.

EcoFriendly Action Grants
EcoFriendly Action Grants are small, monthly grants designed to support concrete, tangible environmental projects in Saskatchewan. Apply now.

Working Together
Foodies can Eclipse (and Save) the Green Movement

Butterfly Gardens
Find out all about caterpillars, butterflies, and butterfly-friendly native plants with this handout on Butterfly Gardens.

A two-day workshop for educators on Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies will be offered in Regina on July 10 and 11.

Urban Living
Bike Boulevard, April 24
The City of Saskatoon is holding an open house from 7-9 pm on April 24 to provide information about Saskatoon’s first “Bike Boulevard.” The boulevard will provide a safe cycling route from downtown to Blairmore.

Street Lighting
Barcelona reduced power consumption and light pollution by installing LED lights that come on when people or cars approach and turn off as they move on.

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, 12 April 2012

EcoFriendly Action Grants

Small Monthly Grants to Support Concrete, Tangible Action

Crocus Power
When we look at the world around us, it’s all too easy to feel depressed and powerless.

How can one person or even a small group of people make a difference in the face of political decisions that put money and power above long-term sustainability for all living creatures on the planet?

But it’s spring, the season of birth and renewal. A fragile crocus is undaunted in the face of fierce prairie winds. Grains of wheat will soon be transformed into tall, sturdy plants. If they can do it, so can we – one small step at a time.

Prairie People Power
Prairie folks are pretty wonderful. In fact, Saskatchewan leads the country in volunteer hours, and much of that effort goes to protecting our environment.

Native plant lovers spend hot, sweaty hours digging up invasive weeds. Wildlife rehabbers feed orphaned baby birds every 20 minutes until they are strong enough to feed themselves. Small groups of people plan an environmental film festival, a winter cycling workshop, or a Park(ing) Day event. Others share their love of nature by taking groups of children out to hunt for crocuses or tadpoles.

There are bigger gestures as well. A farmer hires a researcher to study the impact of the gas and oil industry on his farm. A family builds a straw bale house and then holds a workshop to teach other people the technique. A community group sets up a volunteer fruit harvesting program.

EcoFriendly Action Grants
Sometimes people have a great idea, but they need additional financial resources. We want to help.

EcoFriendly Sask will provide a grant of up to $500 every month to support a local project that will benefit the environment.

Send us an email outlining your dream project and explaining what you need to help make it happen. Tell us why it’s important, and keep it practical; we’re interested in concrete, tangible actions. We’ll consider environmental projects from across the spectrum: from cleanup, recycling and habitat restoration; to plants and gardening; environmental education; planet-friendly urban design; wildlife and energy conservation.

Grant recipients will be expected to start working on their project within a month of receiving the funding. You will be asked to write a short report on the outcome of your project, which may be posted on EcoFriendly Sask’s website so that others can learn from your experience.

Individuals or groups can apply. You don’t have to have charitable status. You just need energy and a commitment to protecting and promoting the world around us. You can apply more than once, but new applicants will have precedence over applicants who have recently received funding. If there is more than one eligible proposal in a particular month, the ones that don’t receive funding will be considered in future months.

EcoFriendly Sask will accept proposals on a continuous basis. Email us at when your proposal is ready. At the end of each month we’ll report back on the entries we’ve received and tell you which one has been selected. Then we’ll send a cheque to that month’s grant recipient.

The first grant will be awarded at the end of May.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

EcoSask News, April 10, 2012

Urban Living
Pelicans Have Landed
The first official sighting of the pelicans was  at 7 am, April 4, at the weir.

The City of Regina is considering establishing an urban pesticide ban. The decision has been delayed as they wait for the release of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society’s report on the effects of pesticides, which is due April 30.

Recent research indicates that pregnant women with higher exposure to agricultural pesticides have babies with slightly lower birth rates. The researcher says that pregnant women can reduce their exposure to organophosphate pesticides by choosing organic foods; washing fruits and vegetables carefully; and choosing not to use pesticides in and around their homes.

Meewasin’s New Projects
The Meewasin Board reviewed the annual operational budget for the year ending March 31, 2013 at its meeting on April 4. New projects during the coming year will include a second Ecoblitz of the Northeast Swale, a Monarch Butterfly conservation program at Beaver Creek, and extending the Northwest Meewasin Trail from Adilman Drive to Kinnear. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix article has additional details)

Plants & Gardening
Hike in the Hills, April 15
Join folks from the Craik Sustainable Living Project as they go for a hike on Sunday, April 15 at 1 pm. Meet at the entrance to Craik Regional Park.

Crocus Field Trip, April 19
Join the Saskatoon Young Naturalists in looking for Prairie Crocus from 6-7:30 pm on April 19. Meet at the Peturrson Ravine parking lot (on Central Avenue, approximately 100 m. north of Somers Road). Pre-register by calling 975-3042 or send an email to

Garlic Self Sufficiency
We Are Many Saskatoon is gearing up for spring garlic planting. This year, they plan to distribute garlic to anyone who would like to plant and grow it. Planting instructions and volunteers are available if requested. Return plot owners will be offered Saskatoon berry bushes to grow alongside their garlic. Contact if you are interested in donating land.

Plant ID
Nature Saskatchewan has just published Sedges of Saskatchewan. They have a number of additional publications to help you identify Prairie plants, including Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan; Lilies, Irises and Orchids of Saskatchewan; and Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens.

Science and Education
Redberry Lake / University Partnership
The Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve (RLBR) and the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS), University of Saskatchewan, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their existing partnership.

As part of the agreement, SENS students will be offered regular field trips to RLBR.

Impending Death of the Solar Cycle, April 19
George Sofko will discuss The Impending Death of the Solar Cycle at the April 19 meeting  (7:30 pm) of the Saskatoon Nature Society in Room 106, Biology Building, U of S campus.

Public Policy
Two papers from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives discuss current political strategies:

A cure for Dutch disease: the consequences of a heavy reliance on primary resource exports and the need for a more balanced, sustainable industry mix

What a Wildrose victory may mean for Saskatchewan: future directions in Alberta could lead to accelerated environmental deregulation in Saskatchewan

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A Change of Scene

It's spring - with longer days and warmer weather. We hope you enjoy this wallpaper, designed to give your computer screen a fresh new look - and to remind you to head outside and enjoy the beauty of the world around us.

Windows Instructions
  1. Click on one of the links below (NOT the small image above)
  2. Right click on the displayed image
  3. Choose "Set as Wallpaper" or "Set as Background"
Mac Instructions
  1. Right click on one of the links below ( NOT the small image above)
  2. Choose "Download Linked File" or "Save Link As"
  3. Right click on the download and choose "Show in Finder"
  4. Right click on the file in the Finder and choose "Set Desktop Picture"

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

EcoSask News, April 3, 2012

Easter Break, April 9-13
The Meewasin Valley Centre has a full line-up of fun activities for children at 2 pm every day during the Easter Break: April 9 - Growing Buddies, April 10 & 11 - Sun Catchers, April 12 & 13 - Kite Making.

Or you can head out to the Beaver Creek Conservation Area (9 am to 5 pm on weekdays, noon to 5 pm on weekends and holidays).

Reducing Pests without Chemical Pesticides, April 11
Sara Williams will be talking about her book, Gardening Naturally: A Chemical-Free Handbook for the Prairies on April 11 at 7 pm at the Cliff Wright Library. The event is co-sponsored by the Saskatoon Public Library and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.

Rio+20, April 12
Stephen Stec, Center for Environment and Security, Central European University, will speak on “Rio+20: Choosing the future we want” at 2 pm, April 12 in the Prairie Room, Diefenbaker Building.

Gardiner Dam Birding, April 14
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society to look for migrating hawks and waterfowl at Gardiner Dam from 9 am to 5 pm on April 14. Bring a lunch and meet at the Co-op Service Station south of Stonebridge Mall on Clarence Avenue. For more information, contact the field trip leader at 374-8571.

Zoo Run, April 22
Help raise funds for the Saskatoon Zoo Society’s Zoo Club program by participating in the 5 km fun run or 2.5 km walk on April 22 at 9 am. The deadline for applications is April 13.

Environmental Film Festival, April 20-22
EcoFriendly Sask is pleased to be one of the sponsors for the SEN Environmental Film Festival. Films to be shown at the Roxy Theatre, Saskatoon, from April 20-22, include: If a Tree Falls, To Make a Farm, Land of Oil and Water, On The Line, Mad City Chickens, People of a Feather.

University of Regina Edible Garden
The University of Regina is adding a new garden plot to its edible campus. Vegetables are donated to help feed residents in need.

The Future of Food
Four Futures of Food, from the Institute for the Future, outlines four possible future scenarios by 2021:

Growth: “Consumers can get practically anything they want, whenever they want, and without much concern for cost.”

Constraint: “A food poisoning outbreak triggers massive loss of confidence in internationally traded food and meat, as the global rallying cry becomes ‘Know your farmer. Eat local. Eat plants.’ ”

Collapse: Previously ignored stresses on pollinator bee populations cross a critical threshold to cause widespread crop failure and scarcity.

Transformation: People embrace lab-grown meats and domestic 3D-food printers which are networked to share recipes. Food supply chains and restaurants are reinvented.

Interesting Articles
As big boxes shrink, they also rethink
Can Saskatoon sprawl and increase its density?
Fruit-bearing shrubs for dual-purpose shelterbelts
Home energy savings: Drain water heat recovery
Imagining an alternative to the parking lot

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).