Tuesday, 18 December 2018

EcoSask News, December 18, 2018

raven

Upcoming Events
Makerspace Play Date, Dec. 27 (North Battleford)
Kids can make robots, video games, circuits, and more at North Battleford Public Library’s Makerspace Play Date at 2 pm, Dec. 27.

Enviro Collective, Jan. 10 (Regina)
Regina’s Enviro Collective will meet at 7 pm, Jan. 10. Participants will hear about and get a chance to become involved in various projects.

Meet a Sloth, Jan. 11-13 (Regina) 
Enjoy a natural history exhibition with over 30 live animals from Jan. 11-13 in Regina.

Below Zero/Project Wild, Jan. 19 (Regina)
Join SaskOutdoors for a one-day workshop introducing educators to the Project Wild and Below Zero interdisciplinary activity guides on Jan. 19 in Regina.

Below Zero, Jan. 19 (Saskatoon)
SaskOutdoors and Wildernook Fresh Air Learning are holding a one-day workshop from 9 am-4 pm, Jan. 19, in Saskatoon to introduce educators to the interdisciplinary Below Zero activity guide.

Saskatoon Young Naturalists
Jan. 19, 1 pm – Tracks and Scats
Feb. 2, 1 pm – Chickadee Pishing
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

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

In the News
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society proposes a practical path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatchewan.

The aviation industry is responsible for approximately 4.6% of human-caused climate change.

South of the border, Friends of the Wild Whoopers are concerned about the loss of whooping crane stopover habitats: “These habitats are being diminished and degraded due to a variety of factors, including intensified management on agricultural lands, construction of wind energy facilities and power lines, wetland drainage and reduction in river flows. Changes in agricultural programs are continuing to further reduce the stopover habitats available for whooping cranes.”

Energy-positive buildings: if you can do it in Norway, you can do it anywhere.

Patagonia’s new company mission is to save the planet.

raven

Merry Christmas
This is the last issue of EcoSask News for 2018. We’ll be back on January 1, 2019, with a New Year’s Day Special. Happy holidays!

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, 11 December 2018

EcoSask News, December 11, 2018

traces of last summer

"Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. In reality it is about changes in our very way of life." - Paul Polman

Upcoming Events
Sustainability on Campus, Dec. 14 (Saskatoon)
Join the U of S Office of Sustainability from 12-1 pm, Dec. 15.

Repair Café Prince Albert, Dec. 15 (Prince Albert)
Share and learn skills to repair things at Repair Café Prince Albert from 1-4 pm, Dec. 15. Supplies will also be available to remake mitts from old sweaters.

Saskatoon Enviro Collective, Dec. 18 (Saskatoon)
Saskatoon Enviro Collective will be discussing how we can support a healthy, environmentally-oriented community from 6:30-8 pm, Dec. 18.

Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program, Dec. 19 (webinar)
Participate in a webinar about Manitoba’s burrowing owl recovery program at noon, Dec. 19.

Sacred Birds, Dec. 21 (Saskatoon)
Lyndon Penner will discuss the ways in which birds are honoured and worshipped at Wild Birds Unlimited at 5 pm, Dec. 21.

Looking Ahead
Passive House Design & Construction, Jan. 24-27 (Saskatoon)
Passive House Canada is offering a 4-day course on passive house design and construction in Saskatoon from Jan. 24-27.

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

In the News
If you’re concerned about farmland drainage, consider signing this petition to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

The Government of Saskatchewan is providing financial assistance to the oil industry by introducing a Waterflood Development Program. “Waterflooding is a secondary recovery oil production technique that re-pressurizes an oil reservoir to boost total oil recovery from the reservoir.”

The City of Saskatoon is looking into ways to reduce the number of birds that fly into windows and die using strategies such as decals and reduced lighting at night.

Xcel Energy, one of the biggest utilities in the US, has committed to going completely carbon-free by 2050 (and 80 percent carbon-free by 2030).

In a democracy, should nature have a vote?

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

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

Sunday, 9 December 2018

2018 Christmas Bird and Mammal Counts in Saskatchewan

Bald eagle

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 15 – Craven (contact Chris Harris at chrisgharris2013@gmail.com, call 306-569-5300, or text 306-515-0195; or contact Nature Conservancy of Canada)

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

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

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

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

Dec. 26 – Saskatoon (contact Stan Shadick at trips@saskatoonnaturesociety.sk.ca or 306-652-5975)

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 6 December 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of the Citizens Environmental Alliance - Saskatchewan

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

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

EcoSask News, December 4, 2018

canada geese on snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

goose prints

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

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

Denmark is considering food labels that indicate environmental impact.

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

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

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

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