Thursday, 21 June 2018

Noise Pollution

Kelowna Japanese Garden

“Next time you go for a walk in the woods, pay attention to the sounds you hear – the flow of a river, wind through the trees, singing birds, bugling elk. These acoustic resources are just as magnificent as visual ones, and deserve our protection” (Rachel Buxton, Colorado State University)

Listen – what do you hear – a baby crying, a motorcycle roaring, a siren, footsteps, a refrigerator humming? Animals developed ears before vocal cords and “hearing is far more universal than vision.” Noise alerts us to danger, helps us to communicate with each other, and provides pleasure. It’s vitally important for all living beings and yet we’ve taken it too far. One in four adults in the United States show signs of noise-induced hearing loss and noise pollution is causing stress and damaging the health and well-being of humans and animals.

Our ears are exceptionally sensitive. Microscopic hairs detect vibrations and relay sound to the brain. But if the sounds are too loud, the hairs can bend or break and can never be repaired. Humans can tolerate noise up to 85 decibels (vacuum cleaner 81.1-94.5, weed whacker 94-96) without damage, but anything over 65 decibels (city street corner 70, office noise 70) affects blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones in the blood. It’s important to also take into account intensity (loudness), frequency (pitch), and duration.

in taxi in traffic

Let’s take traffic noise as just one example of the health problems caused by noise pollution. The risk of heart disease is 20% higher if you live on a noisy street, and 50,000 people in the European Union die prematurely from heart attacks caused by traffic noise. You may think you’re getting used to the noise, but that doesn’t change your risk of a heart attack. Often ignored but equally unhealthy is in-vehicle noise pollution experienced daily by commuters, often for extended lengths of time.

The sounds we aren’t even aware of may affect us the most. Our ears are processing background noises while we sleep. “Even if you don’t wake up, it appears that continual noise sets off the body’s acute stress response. . . . It is this response that can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health issues.”

It’s not just humans that are affected by noise pollution. From spiders and grasshoppers to birds, prairie dogs, and whales, all living beings are suffering from an excess of man-made noise. Animals use sound to avoid predators, find food or mates, and maintain social relationships. Loud noises can scare animals off their territory, but even low-level noise has a significant impact. European robins have learned to time their singing to correspond to quieter times of the day, while great tits have changed the frequency of their call so it can be heard over low-frequency urban noise. Frogs change their pitch. This helps the animals to make themselves heard, but it may make them less desirable to mates who are judging their virility based on their call’s pitch or complexity.


Background noise may stop baby birds from picking up on auditory cues to sit up and beg when their parents approach with food or crouch down and hide when predators appear. Prairie dogs spend less time looking for food and more time checking for danger when they’re in a noisy environment, and bats, who rely on sound to detect prey, may struggle to find food.

A study in New Mexico found that natural gas compressor sites had far fewer insects than sites without compressors. The number of wolf spiders, who rely on vibrations to detect prey, decreased by 44% for every 10-decibel increase in sound. Even animals that choose to remain in a noisy area may be suffering: “Many animals are living on the knife edge of an energy budget, particularly small animals who work to get enough food and not be eaten . . . . Seemingly small perturbations might just shift things in one direction and could put them on the wrong side of this knife edge."

We may think of oceans as a silent environment, but that’s not the case. Ship noise makes it hard for animals to communicate and to distinguish natural sounds from ship noises. This results in accidental collisions, a significant cause of death for right whales. The oil and gas industry uses very loud pulses of sound to detect oil or natural gas, and these can chase animals away from the area. Pulses of high frequency sound from military sonar are so powerful that “whole groups of whales and dolphins can beach themselves to escape the auditory assault. They can also disrupt communication and feeding behaviours and cause temporary hearing loss and permanent tissue damage.”

Parks and wildlife areas aren’t immune from noise pollution. A study of 492 protected areas in the US found that “human-caused noise pollution was twice as loud as natural sounds in 63 percent of the areas surveyed — in 21 percent of the areas, some of which were home to endangered species, it was ten times as loud.” The noise can have a major impact on the ecosystem as a whole. If it scares away large predators, the population of smaller prey will increase. If it results in less birds and pollinators, there will be fewer plants and without plant shelter the insect population will decline.

gardens & highrises

Addressing the Problem
There are many solutions to noise pollution. We tend to address the problem on a case-by-case basis – a neighbour’s leaf blower or nearby road construction, but that may not be the best approach. “Targeting the noise of individuals is ineffective, antisocial, and fails to eradicate the noise that really hurts people: environmental noise. Solutions to that problem must be systemic, requiring a large-scale, collective response across many different targets.” For example, Germany has banned lawn-mowing on Sundays, and the European Union has placed noise restrictions on household appliances, such as dishwashers and refrigerators. A return to low-tech tools, such as brooms, can significantly reduce noise levels. Bike lanes and rapid transit reduce traffic noise as do different types of road surfaces.

Limiting use of motorized boats and other recreational vehicles in wildlife areas and encouraging canoeing and hiking will protect wildlife. Shuttle services in popular parks will cut back on vehicle traffic, and noise can be confined to specific corridors by restricting aircraft to routes over roads. Quiet areas off the major coastal shipping routes could be set aside as wildlife refuges. Sound-reduction methods (sound barrier walls, mufflers, submersed oil pumps) on drill sites could reduce stress in birds.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 19, 2018

Red-spotted Admiral

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste Day, June 22 (Regina) 
City of Regina is holding Household Hazardous Waste Days on June 22 (4-7 pm) and June 23 (9 am-3:45 pm).

YXE Solar Power Plant, June 26 (Saskatoon) 
Find out more about a proposed solar power plant in Saskatoon from 6:30-7:30 pm, June 26.

Bicycle Tune-Up Workshop, June 28 (Saskatoon) 
Bridge City Bicycle Co-op is hosting an Intro Bicycle Tune-up Workshop from 6:30-8 pm, June 28.

24 Hours of Science, June 29/30 (Regina) 
Buy your ticket for the Science Centre Sleepover, June 29-30, with new activities every hour.

Looking Ahead
Nature Conservancy Volunteer Opportunities, July
Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada maintain their properties by volunteering at one of their summer events.
July 7Maymont Clean-up Crew – Clean up old fencing and garbage at Maymont
July 14Here Comes the Burdock Brigade – Help remove burdock at Fairy Hill

Wild Roots: A Summer Camp for Girls, July 30-Aug 3 (Saskatoon) 
SaskOutdoors and Wildernook Fresh Air Learning are offering a camp for 9-11 year-old girls who would like to spend more time outdoors from July 30 to Aug. 3.

Greater Short Horned Lizard Monitoring, August (Grasslands National Park) 
Volunteers are invited to look for Greater Short Horned Lizards and identify areas of invasive plants at Grasslands National Park in August.

Connecting Kids with Nature, Aug. 14-16 (North Battleford) 
Learn to adapt the school curriculum to outdoor learning at a 2-day camp with SaskOutdoors, Aug. 14-16.

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

In the News
Wascana Solar Co-operative says the time is now for solar power in Saskatchewan.

It’s time to protect the wilderness in Canada’s national parks.

Sharing our cities with urban wildlife - lessons from the skyscraper-scaling raccoon.

The pipeline project we're not discussing - Line 3 crosses Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

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, 14 June 2018

The Transition to Renewable Energy in Saskatchewan

Columbia River wind farm

The University of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund Canada, hosted two renewable energy panel discussions on May 28, 2018. The following article summarizes some of the key points raised by presenters.

Meeting Saskatchewan’s Long-term Energy Needs
Douglas Opseth, Director of Generation Asset Management and Resource Planning at SaskPower, started off the morning’s discussion by outlining the challenges the company faces in meeting Saskatchewan’s long-term energy needs. There is a growing demand for electricity; however, Saskatchewan’s coal and natural gas plants and wind farms are aging and SaskPower is spending a lot on maintenance and building new facilities. The company plans to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 with 50% renewables (30% wind, 15% hydro, 5% solar and biomass), but the other half of the mix is more uncertain. SaskPower would like to continue using coal, which is available in province. It’s still unclear whether this will be allowed under federal regulations. Natural gas is a good fit with renewables as it’s flexible; however, there are concerns about a sufficient supply if everyone switches to natural gas and/or if there is increased concern about fracking.

Guy Lonechild, CEO, First Nations Power Authority, pointed out that many First Nations communities have no reliable source of power and continue to use diesel. Opseth explained that the northern transmission line is completely separate and is only connected to the south through Manitoba. It is a long line over rough terrain and experiences a great many lightning strikes. In addition, northern residents are more vulnerable to power outages as the majority heat their homes with electricity.

Solar Reserve

Lonechild would like to see the Small Producers program expanded to 1 megawatt as this could help relieve power fluctuations in many communities. He sees lots of opportunity for geothermal, which is expensive but could also supply heat and be used in conjunction with greenhouses. Lonechild views partnerships on renewable energy projects as a valuable opportunity for First Nations people to obtain education, training, and jobs. He pointed to SIGA’s success, identifying renewable energy as a new opportunity for Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people to be involved in the provincial economy. Lonechild also raised the possibility of increased self-government that would include environmental assessments and monitoring, wildlife management, and community energy. In closing, Lonechild emphasized bold thinking as we look to 2050 and beyond. He stated that Saskatchewan was a pioneer in carbon capture: why not look at battery storage?

Lonechild’s interest in community energy planning was shared by Ray Orb, President, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities. Orb stated that rural residents recognize the climate is changing but are strongly opposed to wind farms. People on acreages moved to the country to enjoy the wide-open prairie view and don’t want to live across from a wind farm. There is more support for solar farms on wasteland and SARM has identified an opportunity for rural municipalities, such as Corman Park, to provide power to nearby cities. Orb also suggested looking at new hydro projects with their spin-off benefits of irrigation, drinking water, recreation, and flood mitigation.

Opseth explained that renewables present new challenges. SaskPower currently has full control over power generation. They’ll lose that control as they introduce variable energy sources such as wind and solar. This is particularly challenging in Saskatchewan which has a very flat load demand as most electricity is sold to commercial customers that operate 24/7 (as opposed to a more residential region where there are peaks at different times of the day). SaskPower was set up to be the province’s sole energy provider. Individuals and groups are now introducing self-generation; however, they all want SaskPower as a backup.

A member of the audience emphasized the need for increased efficiency and energy conservation. Opseth noted that Saskatchewan has more transmission lines than anywhere else in North America. SaskPower is looking at ways to reduce losses that are inherent in moving energy over large distances to a dispersed population. One option is greater regional production. The company is also doing more work with industrial customers to enhance efficiency and energy conservation.

Sandhill cranes

Habitat-Friendly Renewable Energy
The goal of World Wildlife Fund Canada is to work with key partners in all sectors to advance science-based, solutions-oriented approaches to conservation problems. The organization recognizes that a large-scale transition to renewable energy will require new uses of landscapes and seascapes and have started developing a tool that maps both sustainable energy potential and areas with significant conservation value. The tool isn’t intended to bypass the regulatory process but is instead a broad brushstrokes approach to identifying potential sites, saving time and money by avoiding conflict with community and wildlife interests and enabling developers, governments, and communities to make better and faster decisions.

The tool was initially developed for New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy and is now being rolled out to Alberta and Saskatchewan. Using a high conservation value framework (previously used by the Forest Stewardship Council), the tool maps species diversity, ecosystems, threatened habitats, ecosystem services, community and cultural values. It combines regulated (Saskatchewan’s wind directive, Alberta’s solar directive, historic sites) and non-regulated elements (important bird areas, endangered species, intact forests, potential for agriculture) with additional factors such as wind speed, hours of sunlight, distance from transmission lines. The focus in Alberta and Saskatchewan is on identifying opportunities for large-scale wind and solar farms.

The World Wildlife Fund is looking for partners, such as the University of Saskatchewan, to help them enhance the tool. For example, the community and cultural values need to be strengthened and they see potential for enhancing the tool’s predictive value based on past projects and shifting land use.

Photos: Esmeralda, Nevada, Solar Reserve; Columbia River Wind Farm

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 12, 2018

gophers (Richardsons ground squirrels)

Upcoming Events 
The Taxing Issue of Climate Change, June 16 (Vanscoy) 
Join Rosetown Elrose NDP for a panel discussion on climate change from 2-5 pm, June 16.

Butterfly Count, June 16 (Fort Qu’Appelle) 
The Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society is holding its annual butterfly count on June 16. Call Keith Stephens for additional information.

Mapping Sustainable Development, June 16 (Regina) 
SK Council for International Cooperation will discuss what organizations are doing to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals from 1-4:30 pm, June 16.

Natural Pest Control, June 16 (Saskatoon) 
Find out how to manage pests without using pesticides from 1-3 pm, June 16, at the Garden Patch.

Birds, Flowers, Butterflies at Buffalo Pound, June 16 (Regina) 
Nature Regina will be looking for birds, flowers, and butterflies from 8 am-4 pm, June 16.

Wildlife Rehab Volunteer Orientation, June 16 (Regina) 
Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan (WRSOS) is holding a volunteer orientation session at 10 am, June 16, in Regina.

Household Hazardous Waste Day, June 16 (Saskatoon) 
Dispose of household hazardous waste in Saskatoon from 8 am – 2:30 pm, June 16.

Native Prairie Appreciation Week, June 17-23 (Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current) 
Join Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan in celebrating Native Prairie Appreciation Week.
June 17, 10 am-3 pm – Saskatoon Farmers’ Market
June 20, 9 am-1 pm – Regina Farmers’ Market
June 21, 9 am-3 pm – National Aboriginal Day, Regina
June 23, 9:30 am-2:30 pm – Swift Current Market Square

North Saskatchewan River Basin AGM, June 19 (North Battleford) 
RSVP by June 15 for the North Saskatchewan River Basin Council AGM on June 19.

Saving Rainwater, June 20 (Saskatoon) 
Learn how to save rainwater for your garden from 6-8 pm, June 20, at the Garden Patch.

Wilderness First Aid Training, June 21/22 (Lumsden) 
Register by June 15 for Wilderness First Aid Training, June 21 & 22.

Nature Regina AGM, June 21 
Nature Regina is holding a strawberry shortcake social and AGM from 7-9 pm, June 21.

Partners for the SK River Basin AGM, June 22 (Saskatoon) 
Partners for the Saskatchewan River Basin will hold their AGM at 12 noon, June 22.

Pop Up Nature Play Family Event, June 23 (Saskatoon) 
Join SaskOutdoors and Place for Wonder for family nature play from 10 am-12 pm, June 23.

Build Your Own Rain Barrel, June 23 (Herbert) 
Register with Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards by June 18 to make your own rain barrel from 10-11 am, June 23, in Herbert.

What’s that Critter?, June 23 (Saskatoon)
Learn to identify good and bad bugs from 1-3 pm, June 23, at the Garden Patch.

gophers (Richardsons ground squirrels)

Native Plant Society Field Tours 
Join the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan for the following tours of Nature Conservancy of Canada properties:
Reed Lake - 8:45-11:45 am, June 16 
Dundurn - 8 am-12 pm, June 23 
Fairy Hill - 8:30 am-12:30 pm, June 24

Native Prairie Appreciation Week Field Trips
Nature Saskatchewan and its local societies, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan are celebrating Native Prairie Appreciation Week with a series of field trips
Reed Lake - 8:45 am, June 16
Dundurn - 8 am, June 23
Fairy Hill - 8:30 am, June 24

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Saskatoon Young Naturalists 
July 19, 1:30 pm – Butterflies & Other Insects
Sept. 22, 9:30 am – Sandhill Crane Field Trip
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.
Golden Eagles 
June 21, 8 am – Heritage & Lakewood Parks
June 28, 9:30 am – Diefenbaker Centre
Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
June 17, 1:30-5 pm – Butterfly Walk
June 24, 8-11 am – Lakewood & Heritage Parks
July 1, 9:15 am-2 pm – Wild Orchids Field Trip
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

In the News 
Mixing solar power and agriculture - from pollinator-friendly native plants to crops.

Should our cities provide a refuge for endangered plants and animals?

Finding a compromise to the pipeline debate - is financial support for retraining + diversification the answer?

Clean-up costs make all Saskatchewan's oil and gas wells an eventual liability.

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, 5 June 2018

EcoSask News, June 5, 2018

wild rose

Upcoming Events
Multi-Unit Waste Collection, June 3-22 (Saskatoon)
Saskatoon residents living in multi-unit buildings are invited to share their thoughts on recycling, waste, and organics through surveys and pop-up events June 3-22.

Mending Meet Up, June 9 (Saskatoon)
Library of Things is hosting a Mending Meet Up from 12-4 pm, June 9.

Northern Leopard Frog Bioblitz, June 12 (Saskatoon)
Join Meewasin Valley Authority to search for the Northern Leopard Frog at the Northeast Swale from 7-9:30 pm, June 12.

Comparing the Population Benefits of Habitat Restoration Options, June 12 (webinar)
Julie Heinrichs will present a webinar on comparing the population benefits of greater sage-grouse habitat restoration options at noon, June 12.

Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative AGM, June 12 (Saskatoon)
The public is invited to attend the Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative’s AGM at 7 pm, June 12.

Climate Justice Saskatoon & Council of Canadians Meetings, June 13 (Saskatoon)
Climate Justice Saskatoon and the Council of Canadians – Saskatoon Chapter are holding back-to-back meetings on June 13 (Council of Canadians at 6 pm, CJS at 7 pm). The two groups often collaborate.

wild rose

LEED Tour & Networking Social, June 13 (Regina)
Join the SK chapter of the Green Building Council of Canada for a tour of the LEED Gold-certified Seven Stones Community School from 5:30-6:30 pm, June 13.

LEED Tour & Networking Social, June 14 (Saskatoon)
Join the SK chapter of the Green Building Council of Canada for a tour of the LEED Gold-certified Academic Health Sciences E-Wing from 5:30-6:30 pm, June 14.

Build Your Own Rain Barrel, June 14 (Shaunavon)
Make your own rain barrel from 7-8 pm, June 14, in Shaunavon. Pre-registration is required. Call Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards by June 8.

Grassland Bird Survey, June 14 (Saskatoon)
Meewasin Valley Authority is hosting a grassland bird survey at Beaver Creek from 4-8 am, June 14.

U of S Lunch & Learn Series, June 15 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability from 12-1 pm, every third Friday of the month, for presentations and discussions on sustainability.

U of S The Fix, June 15 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability and university sustainability professionals over a pint at 5 pm, every third Friday of the month, to fix some of sustainability’s most complicated issues.

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

In the News
Waste more, pay more - Regina is planning changes to curbside pickup.

Dark sky guidelines for urban areas - wouldn't it be great if Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale was designated as an urban night sky place!

Reduce your impact on the earth: even the very lowest impact meat and dairy cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable cereals and vegetables.

Restaurants and coffee shops in Scottish government buildings will no longer provide single-use coffee cups, preventing 450,000 cups from being thrown away.

A new poll shows Canadians want to end government subsidies for oil and gas companies.

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, 31 May 2018

Nature Conservancy of Canada: Protecting Natural Areas in Saskatchewan

Dundurn property

“We envision a world in which Canadians conserve nature in all its diversity, and safeguard the lands and waters that sustain life.” (Nature Conservancy of Canada)

For the past 55 years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been securing and managing properties in order to protect natural areas and maintain biodiversity. They secured their first property in Saskatchewan, the Qu’Appelle Coulee, in 1982 and now have approximately 68 properties and 206 conservation easements. 

The Conservation Process
Cameron Wood, Program Director for Central and Southeast Saskatchewan, outlined the steps the Nature Conservancy takes to identify, plan, and execute protection for the best of Canada’s natural habitats and species.

Identify need by evaluating opportunities and threats. A Conservation Blueprint for Canada’s Prairies and Parklands, published in 2007, covers parts of 3 provinces and 2 states and is intended to “identify and map conservation targets, map existing protected areas and conservation lands, analyze the current protection of particular target species and ecosystems, and identify the best areas required to meet shortfalls in achieving conservation goals set for those targets.” Cameron explains that the NCC is looking for areas of relatively high concentrations of biodiversity while taking into consideration the factors threatening this biodiversity to determine where their activities can be most effective.

Take action. Once NCC has mapped conservation targets on a large scale, they proceed to break it down by ecoregion. They are now ready to consider obtaining properties. Landowners with a deep connection to their land who want to ensure that it will be protected after they are gone may approach the Nature Conservancy to see if it would be interested in purchasing the land. The NCC then looks to see if there is a match between opportunity and biodiversity potential. They refer back to their regional reports identifying biodiversity hotspots and undertake a combination of desktop review and walk around/discussion with the property owner to see if the data is correct and the property would be a valuable addition to the NCC’s natural areas conservation program.

If it’s decided that the property will be a good fit, the land is either purchased or donated. Purchases are supported by corporate and private donors as well as federal (Natural Areas Conservation Plan) and provincial (Fish & Wildlife Development Fund) funding. In some cases the land is donated; however, there are still costs as the NCC contributes to a stewardship endowment fund to support long-term land management expenses.

Conservation easement. Landowners can also choose to keep their land in private ownership but set limits on how it can be used. A conservation easement is a legal agreement registered to the land title in perpetuity that restricts certain activities, such as draining wetlands or farming on native prairie. 

Dundurn Property

Dundurn Property
One of the Nature Conservancy’s most recent provincial acquisitions is 160 acres of rolling stabilized sand dunes near Dundurn. Sand dunes of this sort are rare in Saskatchewan, particularly on private land. 53 acres are covered by hardwood forest, 13 acres by shrubs and wet meadows, and the remaining acres are native prairie. The property is potentially home to a number of rare species, including the Hairy Prairie-clover and Gibson’s Big Sand Tiger Beetle, and provides excellent habitat for deer, moose, and elk. The property is adjacent to the Dundurn military base, also native habitat, thereby extending the property’s reach and biodiversity value.

Once a property has been purchased, NCC staff carry out a close inspection, compiling a baseline inventory of all the species found on the property as well as the species they expected to find but didn’t. They invite volunteers, whose expertise and time are a valuable addition to staff resources, to participate in a bioblitz (June 2 at Dundurn, June 22 at Pasqua Lake).

The inventory sets the stage for the property management plan. Protecting the site from outside interference isn’t always enough. Disturbance (cattle grazing or prescribed burns) also plays an important role in trying to match the natural balance. The Gibson’s Beetle, for example, requires a mix of open exposed sand as well as vegetated areas. Another priority is managing invasive species – whether it’s weeds, wild boar, or insects that have moved in from another habitat.

Planting trees at Meeting Lake

Conservation Volunteers
Volunteers are a valuable part of NCC’s activities and play an active role in land conservation. As a non-profit, the Nature Conservancy of Canada doesn’t have the staff to complete all the actions outlined in the management plan. They rely on volunteers, working alongside staff, to protect and maintain NCC properties through a wide variety of activities – from removing shoreline debris and old fencing to pulling up burdock or installing nest platforms. Anyone can volunteer, including families, students, and landowners. Some people return year after year. Carpooling to the day-long events is usually an option and you don’t have to be an expert to participate. One or two events are planned in each eco region every summer.

Humans are part of the natural ecosystem and the NCC recognizes the importance of people visiting their sites to develop a love of nature and an appreciation for the NCC’s conservation activities. The properties are intended to remain wild areas. Most of the sites don’t have paths or other recreational facilities, but the public are welcome to wander over the properties on foot (permission for larger groups to visit the Dundurn property may be required due to its proximity to the military base).

A full list of conservation volunteer opportunities is available on NCC’s website. For additional information about volunteer events or corporate opportunities, contact Kayla Burak, Engagement Manager, at

Erecting a bat box on Edenwold property

Photo credit: Nature Conservancy of Canada - Saskatchewan

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

EcoSask News, May 29, 2018

Wood frog

Upcoming Events
Repair Café, June 2 (Prince Albert) 
Work together to repair household items and on bicycle maintenance at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, June 2.

Low-Water Gardening Workshop, June 2 (Saskatoon) 
Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre’s Garden Patch is hosting over 30 workshops this summer. They’ll be discussing low-water gardening from 1-2:30 pm, June 2.

SaskOil Revisited, June 3 (Saskatoon)
Join Briarpatch Magazine and Climate Justice Saskatoon from 3-5 pm, June 3, to discuss whether Saskatchewan could resurrect the idea of a Crown-owned oil company to combat climate change and colonialism.

SES Fun Run, June 3 (Saskatoon) 
Support the Saskatchewan Environmental Society by participating in a trail fun run from 9 am-12 pm, June 3.

Birding Blitz, June 5 (Yorkton) 
Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail is hosting a birding blitz on June 5 to contribute to the SK Breeding Bird Atlas. All birders of all expertise welcome. Contact Paula (306 782-7287) or or Akusib (

Wood Products & Building Systems, June 6 (Saskatoon) 
Adam Robertson, Canadian Wood Council, will discuss Wood Products and Building Systems: Climate Change Benefits at the June 6 meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

Wascana Solar Co-operative, June 7 (Regina) 
Wascana Solar Co-operative is meeting from 8-9:30 pm, June 7, to gauge members’ interest in purchasing shares in a large-scale solar installation. Contact the Co-op if you are interested in becoming a member and attending the meeting.

Blue, June 7 (Saskatoon) 
Celebrate World Oceans Day at a screening of Blue at 7 pm, June 7, in Saskatoon.

Birds of a Feather, June 7 (Saskatoon) 
Meewasin Valley Authority is hosting a grassland bird survey at Cranberry Flats from 4-8 am, June 12.

Project Wet, June 9 (Regina) 
Project Wet, to be offered in Regina on June 9, offers K-12 classroom teachers resources and activities about water.

Wood frog

Looking Ahead
Prairie Dog Ecosystem Research, June/July/Sept (Grasslands National Park) 
Help Calgary Zoo with their Prairie Dog ecosystem research project on one of the following dates: June 10-15, June 24-29, July 15-20, or Sept. 2-7.

Photography Workshop, June 15-16 (Grasslands National Park) 
Practise taking night-sky photographs at a workshop in Grasslands National Park, June 15-16.

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

In the News
The human impact on the natural world is immense. 96% of mammals are livestock and humans. Poultry make up 70% of all birds. We've destroyed 83% of wild mammals.

Should we fight for public lands because they provide us with recreation opportunities or because they support biodiversity? Should we only protect those plants and animals that directly benefit us or that we find beautiful — or should we fight for the entire community of life?

The City of Vaughan’s urban design guidelines are worth imitating. They cover dark sky lighting, bird-friendly design, wildlife corridors, pedestrian amenities, urban forest, green stormwater management, and climate change mitigation.

The City of Prince Albert is offering free public transit on National Clean Air Day, June 6. Are any other cities doing this?

For many municipalities in SK oil-producing regions, the costs of servicing the oil boom can outweigh the benefits and they’re relying on oil industry philanthropy for essential services.

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, 22 May 2018

EcoSask News, May 22, 2018

Golden bean

Upcoming Events
Grandfather’s Teachings of the Meadowlark, May 19-June 23 (Saskatoon)
Artist Claude Morin explores his connection with nature in a Saskatchewan Craft Council exhibition entitled Grandfather’s Teachings of the Meadowlark from May 19-June 23. There will be an artist talk at 2 pm and a public reception from 7-9 pm on June 9.

Celebrating & Protecting our Oceans, May 24 for June 7 (Regina, Saskatoon)
Buy your tickets by May 24 for Blue in Regina and Saskatoon on June 7. It’s an on-demand film and won’t be shown if not enough tickets are sold.

Shorebird Field Trip, May 26 (Regina)
Nature Regina will be visiting the Chaplin Shorebird Reserve and Ducks Unlimited Marshes from 8 am-5 pm, May 26.

Misaskwatomina Planting Day, May 26 (Saskatoon)
Help re-Indigenize Riversdale through the planting of misaskwatomina (Saskatoon berry shrubs) from 12-3 pm, May 26.

Spring Plant Walk, May 26 (Regina)
Join Edible Landscapes Permaculture Design for a walk on May 26 to identify local wild edible and medicinal plants.

Repair Café, May 27 (Regina)
Learn how to fix broken items from 1-4 pm, May 27, Regina Central Adult Library.

Indigenous Cultural Knowledge Share, May 27 (Grasslands National Park)
Join Elder Joseph Naytowhow for an introduction to Indigenous culture and the ways of the land on May 27 at Grasslands National Park.

Household Hazardous Waste Day, May 27 (Saskatoon)
Dispose of household hazardous waste in Saskatoon from 8 am-2:30 pm, May 27.

Moose Jaw Nature Society AGM, May 28 (Moose Jaw)
The Moose Jaw Nature Society is holding its annual general meeting and members’ slide night at 6:30 pm, May 28.

Update on the Downtown Cycling Network, May 28 (Saskatoon)
Representatives from the City of Saskatoon will provide an update on the downtown cycling network at 7 pm, May 28.

Blue Dot Meeting, May 28 (Regina)
The Regina Blue Dot Movement will meet at 7 pm, May 28, following the screening of Green Rights.

Renewables for Nature, May 28 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S School of Environment and Sustainability and World Wildlife Fund Canada for a panel presentation and discussion regarding habitat-friendly renewable energy in Saskatchewan from 9 am-12:30 pm, May 28.

Tree ID Tour, May 30 (Moose Jaw)
Learn to identify the trees in Moose Jaw's Crescent Park from 6-7 pm, May 30.

Green Cleaning Goddess, May 31 (Regina)
Learn to make earth-friendly cleaning products from 7-8 pm, May 31, Glen Elm Branch Library.

Nature Conservancy Bioblitzes, June 2 (Saskatoon) & June 22 (Regina)
Help create a baseline inventory for a new Nature Conservancy of Canada property near Dundurn on June 2 and at Pasqua Lake on June 22.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Saskatoon Young Naturalists
May 30-July 14 – Help monitor the bluebird and tree swallow populations
July 19, 1:30 pm – Butterflies & Other Insects
Sept. 22, 9:30 am – Sandhill Crane Field Trip
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.
Golden Eagles
June 7, 9 am – Biddulph Natural Area
June 14, 8 am – Rosthern Area
Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
June 13, 7-9 pm – Richard St. Barbe Baker Park
June 16, 7-10 am – Sask Breeding Bird Atlas Point Counts
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

In the News
A new study conducted in Alberta indicates that livestock isn’t a significant part of the diet of coyotes and wolves. Listen to a podcast with one of the authors.

Recycling electronics isn't enough. We need to cut the waste from mining, manufacturing, and usage.

Managing protected areas for just one species may harm other wildlife.

Wildlife evolves astonishingly fast in cities (i.e. different species of mosquitoes on different subway lines).

The City of Whitehorse’s draft downtown plan addresses light pollution.

Dark Matters: Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (youth fiction)

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).

Monday, 21 May 2018

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Water, Wildflowers, and Grasslands: Saskatoon's NatureCity Festival

With over 50 events spread over 7 days, there’s something for everyone at Saskatoon’s sixth annual NatureCity Festival. We’re highlighting just a handful of activities that connect us back to nature.

Free Wetland Field Trips at Chappell MarshMay 23, 12:30-2:30 pm (a half-day session of experiential learning in the conservation area)

An Intro to CanoeingMay 24, 6-9 pm (a come-and-go workshop to learn the basics of canoes and safety equipment)

Chief Whitecap Waterway Voyageur TrekMay 27, 2-6 pm (feel the exhilaration of paddling and see the dynamic interplay of land and water)

Wildflower Identification WorkshopMay 23, 7-9:15 pm (learn about the native violets, lilies, and irises in the Saskatoon region)

Path to Wild FoodMay 25, 10:30 am-12 pm (explore native plants, wild foods, and “nature’s pharmacy” on a walk at Wanuskewin – please note time change)

Spring Wildflower WalkMay 27, 9-11 am (see early season wildflowers at Cranberry Flats)

Reclaim Our Prairie IMay 22, 7-8:30 pm (a presentation on our native prairie ecosystem, followed by an opportunity to plant native prairie seeds and seedlings)

Reclaim Our Prairie IIMay 26, 3-3:45 pm (tour the St. Joseph Grassland Demonstration site at St. Joseph High School)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

EcoSask News, May 15, 2018

pretty pigeon

Upcoming Events
Recycling, May 16 (Regina)
A lunch and learn on recycling will be held at noon, May 16, at Innovation Place Regina.

Zoom, May 17 (Regina)
View nature up close in the new exhibit at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum opening May 17.

Best Places to Bird in the Prairies, May 19 (Saskatoon)
Alan Smith will be signing copies of Best Places to Bird in the Prairies at 1 pm, May 19, at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Management Targets for Grassland Songbirds, May 21 (Regina)
Join Nature Regina at 7 pm, May 21, for their AGM and a talk by Philip Rose on developing management targets for grassland songbird species at risk on native rangelands.

The Climate Crisis and its Solutions, May 23 (Regina)
Jared Clarke will speak on what can be done to address climate change in Saskatchewan from 7-8 pm, May 23.

Our Nationhood, May 23 (Regina)
Join Cinema Politica Regina for a screening of Our Nationhood on the Mi'gmaq people's ongoing struggle to maintain control over their natural resources at 6:30 pm, May 23.

Build a Bathouse, May 23 & June 11 (Saskatoon)
Nutana Community Association is hosting bathouse building workshops at 7:30 pm, May 23 or June 11.

Bicycle Tune-Up Workshop, May 24 (Saskatoon)
Bridge City Bicycle Co-op is hosting an Intro Bicycle Tune-up Workshop from 6:30-8 pm, May 24.

Greater Sage-Grouse Volunteer Event, May 24-27 (Grasslands National Park)
Help plant sagebrush as part of a Greater Sage-Grouse enhancement and restoration project at Grasslands National Park, May 24-27.

Nature Needs Half, May 25 (Saskatoon)
Harvey Locke will be explaining why nature needs half at 7 pm, May 25. An article in Planet S explains that keeping ecosystems healthy means giving them enough space to thrive.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Golden Eagles 
May 24, 8 am – Warblers at the Forestry Farm
May 31, 7:30 am – Shorebirds in the Perdue Area
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate in Golden Eagle field trips.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
May 19, 8 am-9 pm – Quill Lakes Area Birding
May 20, 7-9:30 am – MVA Trail Bird Walk
June 2, 9 am-late evening – Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

In the News
Members of Nature Regina spoke out about the importance of urban wildlife: “The animals make Regina what it is — and we’re going to have to find a way to share our city.”

Andrew Garn, author of The New York Pigeon, views pigeons as a gateway drug to nature as they are some of the only wildlife many city dwellers see.

The City of Saskatoon has published feedback from residents, businesses, and non-profits concerning Saskatoon’s climate action plan. Top priorities for all groups included energy efficiency and waste management.

The University of Saskatchewan has released its 2017 Sustainability Report.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Max Foran, author of The Subjugation of Canadian Wildlife: Failures of Principle and Policy. Foran argues that, “wildlife policies are as much – or more – about human needs, priorities, and profit as they are about preservation.”

Congratulations to municipalities looking for and finding new markets for recycled materials - but the long-term solution remains using less plastic and other waste materials.

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, 8 May 2018

EcoSask News, May 8, 2018

trees flowering

Wow! What a line-up – from a garden tool swap in Saskatoon to birds, bees, and dinosaurs in Regina, compost in Yorkton, and a Moose Jaw road trip.

Upcoming Events 
Local Bats & Surprise Plants, May 8 (Saskatoon) 
Enjoy a surprise class about local bat rescue and a mystery plant family at the U of S from 7-9:30 pm, May 8.

Release the Bats, May 8 (Regina) 
The Saskatchewan Science Centre is releasing its overwintering bats at 8 pm, May 8.

U of S Lunch & Learn Series, May 11 (Saskatoon) 
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability from 12-1 pm, every third Friday of the month, for presentations and discussions on sustainability.

U of S The Fix, May 11 (Saskatoon) 
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability and university sustainability professionals over a pint at 5 pm, every third Friday of the month, to fix some of sustainability’s most complicated issues.

Saskatoon Wildlife Tour, May 12 (Moose Jaw) 
Join Moose Jaw Nature Society on May 12 for a tour of two Saskatoon wildlife rehab. facilities and Beaver Creek Conservation Area.

Wildlife Rehab Volunteer Orientation, May 12 (Saskatoon) 
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is holding a volunteer orientation session from 11 am-12:30 pm, May 12, in Saskatoon.

Garden Tool Swap, May 13 (Saskatoon) 
Bring your unneeded garden tools to swap with or donate to other gardeners from 12-1 pm, May 13, at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

Oil Well Noise & Songbirds, May 15 (webinar) 
Paulson Des Brisay will present a webinar on studies regarding the impact of oil well noise on songbirds at noon, May 15.

EV Enthusiasts Meetup, May 15 (Saskatoon) 
EV drivers and enthusiasts are invited to a meetup from 7-9 pm, May 15, in Saskatoon.

National Energy Code for Buildings, May 15 & 16 (Regina, Saskatoon) 
The Canada Green Building Council is hosting Lunch ‘n’ Learns on the National Energy Code for Buildings in Regina on May 15 and in Saskatoon on May 16.

Bike to Work Day, May 16 (Saskatoon) 
It’s Bike to Work Day in Saskatoon May 16 with food, prizes, and other activities.

Birds, Bees, & Dinosaurs, May 16 (Regina)
Cory Sheffield and Ryan McKellar, curators at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, will discuss birds, bees, and dinosaurs at 6:30 pm, May 16, at O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub, Regina.

Harvesting & Using Compost, May 16 (Saskatoon) 
Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre’s Garden Patch is offering a workshop on harvesting and using finished compost from 6-7:30 pm, May 16.

Everybirdy Deserves a Home, May 17 (Edenwold)
Join Nature Conservancy of Canada in installing birdhouses on their Edenwold property from 10 am-3 pm, May 17.

Beyond the Big Dipper, May 19 (Grasslands National Park) 
View the stars and learn more about them from Royal Astronomical Society volunteers at Grasslands National Park on May 19.

larch flowers

Looking Ahead
NatureCity Festival, May 22-27 (Saskatoon) 
There are over 50 activities to choose from at this year’s NatureCity Festival in Saskatoon. Teachers, be sure to register your class for one of the school programs - bus subsidies are available.

Compost Field Day, May 29 (Yorkton) 
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is hosting a Compost Field Day in Yorkton on May 29.

Dundurn Bioblitz, June 2 (Dundurn)
Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada create a baseline inventory for a new property near Dundurn on June 2.

Tree Planting, June 3 (Saskatoon) 
Alchemy Salon, Better Good, and Green Tree Beauty will be planting 3,000 trees near Saskatoon on June 3. Contact Melissa at Alchemy if you’d like to help.

SES Fun Run, June 3 (Saskatoon) 
Support the Saskatchewan Environmental Society by participating in a trail fun run from 9 am-12 pm, June 3.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
May 12, 9 am-12 pm – Beaver Creek Conservation Area Birding
May 13, 7-9:30 am – MVA Trail Bird Walk
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

In the News 
City of Regina to study whether City-owned buildings could be fitted with solar panels.

Small strips of prairie can reduce erosion and run-off & provide bird/pollinator habitat.

Praise, admiration + respect for the wildness in coyotes.

Native bees would be better off with fewer honey bees.

The federal environment minister has reaffirmed ecological integrity as the first priority in all aspects of national parks management.

Combining business and political activism - Patagonia v. Trump.

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, 3 May 2018

Jared Clarke: Naturalist and Climate Change Advocate

When he was 5 years old, Jared Clarke was given a birdfeeder. And that simple act changed his life. When a Spotted Towhee landed at the feeder, Jared and his parents weren’t able to identify it, so they purchased a bird guide. Jared, despite his young age, was soon a backyard birding expert.

Jared joined Nature Regina when he was 10 or 12 years old and his mother accompanied him on all the group’s field trips. “I was definitely a lone wolf,” Jared says. “There was no one else my age on those trips.” It was the same at school where none of the other students shared his fascination for birds and nature. Jared wasn’t deterred. He now bands birds and is actively involved in the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas project.

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Jared worked as a park naturalist at Wascana Centre for 5 years. It was around this time that he and his wife, Kristen Martin, a biologist with a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Management, purchased a quarter-section of land northwest of Edenwold. Their goal was to put the land back to grass and create a patch of prairie.

“Healthy prairie needs a grazer,” Jared says, so they started investigating their options. A neighbour raised goats. That sounded interesting, so they purchased 5 does. Over time their herd expanded to 48 does and 93 kids. Jared took advantage of his flock in his work at Wascana Centre, transporting some of the animals to graze on the caragana growing in the natural area. “But we won’t do that again,” he says. “It was too intensive. We had to sleep in the conservation area, staying with the goats 24/7.” The birth of twins of their own has led them to downsize their herd, and it has become more of a hobby than a business.

Jared returned to university and obtained a degree in Education. A Grade 6/7 teacher at Regina’s Lakeview School, Jared tries to incorporate the environment and outdoor education into the classroom program as much as possible. The first day of school is reserved for a Beetle Blitz. The students are sent home with a small container to collect 5 beetles from their yard or cabin. They go on to donate their collection during a visit to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. “It’s an opportunity to talk about what we learn from collecting and studying,” Jared says.

Jared also shares his love of nature through a weekly radio program, The Prairie Naturalist, on CJTR Radio in Regina. He’s hosted over 100 episodes since beginning the program in February 2016, holding over 180 conversations with more than 135 people. It’s a one-man show and Jared is responsible for finding and booking guests, writing the script, and producing the audio. “It takes about 3-3 ½ hours’ commitment before the ½ hour show, but I really enjoy it,” Jared says.

A woman Jared had interviewed on his radio program suggested that he attend Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training. It sounded interesting, but it was a big commitment – 5 days off work and away from his family. Nonetheless, Jared applied, was accepted, and spent 5 days in Pittsburgh in October 2017. “It was really energizing,” he says. “There were 1400 people from 32 countries who were doing amazing things. We heard from 7 scientists whose work demonstrates that climate change is real.”

Jared points out that some areas are already experiencing climate change in a very real way. “Miami is spending millions to raise roads and add pumps because of flooding,” he says. Saskatchewan weather has always been variable, so it’s easy for residents to overlook the impact of climate change. However, the Regina/Yorkton/Moose Jaw region has just experienced the driest 15-month period in 130 years.

Convinced that we need to start talking about climate change, Jared set out to share what he had learned in presentations to over 1,000 people to date. The presentation provides evidence that the climate is changing and the solutions that are already on hand today. “As a biologist and scientist, I’ve looked at evidence from around the world, and I’m convinced that climate change is real and caused by humans but that we have everything we need to deal with it,” he says. Jared encourages his audiences to go home and start talking to family, friends, and politicians about what they’ve learned. “We need leadership from government at all levels to set policy to ensure we’re all moving in the same direction,” he says.

Jared says he and his family make decisions through a climate lens. They’ve installed solar panels on their house, drive a Prius C, and grow a lot of their own food. “I want to leave the world in a better way than I found it so that my kids can see just as many birds as I did when I was a kid.”