Tuesday, 23 February 2021

EcoSask News, February 23, 2021

frost on grass

This Week’s Highlights 
Participants in a virtual roundtable on unleashing Regina’s energy-efficient economy agreed that the renewable energy, energy efficiency, and net-zero building sectors represent significant opportunities in terms of local job creation, economic diversification and growth, and are critical in building a thriving, more inclusive and sustainable economy. 

Kairos Regina is hosting an online discussion on creation, climate, and you at 7 pm, Feb. 23. 

Upcoming Events 
Renny Grilz, Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company, will discuss how to grow native plants successfully in an online workshop at 1 pm, Feb. 27. 

Permaculture Regina will hold a brief online AGM followed by a discussion on starting seedlings and getting ready for spring planting at 2 pm, Feb. 28. 

Nathan Tedford will discuss the future of small modular reactors in Saskatchewan and Canada at the virtual breakfast meeting of the SK Energy Management Task Force. 

Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards are holding a virtual annual general meeting at 1 pm, Mar. 4. 

Nature Saskatchewan is hosting an online nature trivia event at 7 pm, Mar. 4. 

Outdoor Education 
SaskOutdoors will be hosting 3 virtual workshops in March offering a host of outdoor education resource materials: 

Overview of the Natural Curiosity pedagogical framework for environmental inquiry and associated Indigenous lenses – 6:30-8:30 pm, Mar. 15 


Online training to introduce educators to Project Wild – 7-9 pm, Mar. 17, 24, and 31 

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

Any guesses as to what made the indentations in the sand pile?

Local News 
Listen to a one-hour conversation with Passive House pioneer Harold Orr

Indigenous communities and environmental activists are speaking out against peat moss mining near La Ronge. 

Congratulations to Paul Loewen whose photograph of a peary caribou can be found on a new series of Canadian stamps

Rethinking Transportation 
Freight emissions are expected to surpass passenger vehicle emissions by 2030. Pembina Institute sets out 10 actions to ramp up adoption of a zero-emission freight sector

“As we envision a society that is less reliant on driving, who better to learn from than people who already don’t drive?” 

Major automakers are increasingly betting that the future of their business lies with electric cars, but consumers, who prefer large trucks and SUVs, aren’t there yet


A growing number of studies say that roads containing waste plastic have the potential to perform as well or better than traditional roads – and yes, they can tolerate wide temperature swings. Other options – make waste plastic into tiles or bricks.

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). 

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it. Thank you! 


Did you know? Tiger salamanders don't need to drink. They absorb water by sitting in puddles or on dew-covered rocks. Follow the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Plan on Facebook or Twitter for more interesting information about tiger salamanders. 

Nature Companion is a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Thursday, 18 February 2021

It's Okay to Go Wild! The Restoring 71 Project


Katie and Aaron Suek wanted to raise their three kids in a rural setting and were looking for an acreage close to Saskatoon. They were looking for 10-15 acres, but plots that size were “crazy expensive,” Katie said. They looked at some Ducks Unlimited properties with conservation easements, but they were too far from the city. Then they found an 80-acre plot just 10 minutes from Saskatoon at half the price of smaller acreages. The land close to the road was a former crop field and full of weeds, but there was a really lovely wetland further into the property. The site had originally been crop and hayland but massive flooding had cut the land in half, severing access to the back 40 acres. 

The land was purchased and Katie and Aaron knew they wanted to use a few acres for a yard site. But what could they do with the rest of the land? They waited for inspiration and it appeared one day in the form of a whooping crane. “We started to see rare species on our land,” Katie says. “There are loggerhead shrike, badgers, common nighthawk, tiger salamander, Canadian toad, Cooper’s hawk, bald eagles, porcupine, deer, and coyote. Just the number of species and individuals is really impressive.” It was an easy decision to not farm the land. They decided to allocate 9 acres to their yard site and the remaining 71 acres to the Restoring 71 Project

With no formal training in the natural sciences, Katie and Aaron took their lead from the land which began to rejuvenate itself. There was a small patch of native prairie in a corner that couldn’t be reached by large agricultural equipment. They are slowly mowing and disturbing the hay field near it to encourage the native grasses and plants to re-emerge. The Sueks are applying strategic mowing in key areas, adding in organic matter, and planting native grasses, trees, and flowers in an effort to encourage restoration, but in general they are letting the land look after itself. 


The Sueks joined Nature Saskatchewan’s Stewards of Saskatchewan program after identifying endangered species such as loggerhead shrike on their land. It’s proved valuable as they’ve received resource materials and have someone they can phone whenever they have a question. Unfortunately, they’re not eligible for any financial assistance from organizations such as Nature Saskatchewan as the grants are reserved for large-scale agricultural operations or for projects designed to restore very specific habitat features for key species at risk that have been observed on the land. 

Katie and Aaron strongly believe that acreages are a missed opportunity as they have so much potential for positioning the protection and restoration of natural areas as a convenience rather than an added effort. “People want a large enough property to feel rural, but then they believe they have to create manicured, pristine, evenly-mowed yard,” Katie says. “It’s so much less work and you’ll see so much more wildlife if you let it go wild.” The Sueks encourage people to preserve what’s already there and support regrowth of native species that used to thrive there. They are happy to help people find resources. 

There have been some challenges. The wetland crosses one of their property lines and a neighbour chose to plough it without the proper permits and approvals (any wetland that crosses property lines is considered provincial property). It’s hugely disappointing as, although most of the wetland is on the Suek’s land, the deepest portion was on the neighbour’s land where frogs are known to overwinter and breed so it is likely that frog populations have been significantly impacted. The Sueks believe that removing the wetland will lead to generalized flooding, which they hope will eventually restore the original wetland. They have been in talks with the province to determine an appropriate path forward for protecting the wetland. 


Katie, Aaron, and their kids really enjoy getting out on the land. “In the spring, it’s almost an obsession,” Katie says. “We want to get out there and see what new species we can spot.” In October 2018, they decided to share their pleasure with the general public. They set up a Facebook page to share Aaron’s photographs and invited the public to come visit. At first, there was limited interest, but then Covid hit, playgrounds and conservation areas were closed, and people longed to be outdoors while staying safe. A booking system means that you can have the trails to yourself and you don’t have to worry about ensuring social distancing with kids and dogs. There is no charge. “It’s a niche opportunity for people who need a mental health break,” Katie says, one taken advantage of by 450 people by the end of 2020. Aaron maintains 4 km of mowed trails and they have installed some interpretive signage. When Covid permits, Katie offers guided tours, and they provide an orientation for new visitors to help ensure their safety while exploring the trails. 

Katie says that keeping the trails open has helped her get through the pandemic as she is able to socialize briefly with visitors while social distancing across the parking lot. The number of visitors is monitored and adjusted weekly depending on Covid restrictions, nesting or fledgling seasons, weather and trail conditions, and family or work priorities. 

This past fall, Katie and Aaron set up an outdoor classroom as they were hearing so much talk around outdoor education and home schooling. “We felt we were close enough to the city and flexible enough to provide a space and wait and see if it was used,” Katie said. Initially there was a lot of interest from teachers, but then they learned that field trips were unlikely to occur due to Covid. 


The Sueks are also working with students from Montgomery School through the One School One Farm program. Students will be planting plugs of native seeds donated to the project by the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan. Hopefully the students will be able to come out to the site this spring to plant their seeds. If not, Katie will plant them and send photographs to the students. 

Katie says the message they really want to get across is that you don’t have to own 71 acres to restore it or use environmentally friendly practices. “Look for opportunities where you can,” she says, “whether it’s a small backyard or an apartment balcony. You can do it in small pieces and you don’t need a lot of resources.” 

Resource Materials
Resources for Stewards, Nature Saskatchewan 
Acreage Living, Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan 
Restoration/Revegetation Resources, Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan 
Wildlife Friendly Gardening Guide & Certification Program, Canadian Wildlife Federation Landscaping with Native Plants (Saskatchewan) Facebook group

Photo credit: Aaron Suek, Restoring 71 Project Facebook page

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

EcoSask News, February 16, 2021

juvenile beaver

Good day! We’ve made a few changes to the newsletter this week. If you’re looking for additional information about one of the events, you’ll find it on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar. We’ve also tried a new approach of grouping articles around a theme. We try very hard to find meaningful articles you might otherwise miss. Let us know what you think and have a good week. Andrew & Penny 

This Week’s Highlights 
Conscious consumerism: “Keep sustainability, love, and gratitude for the earth and all people at the centre of everything you do” 

The Let’s Talk About Water virtual film festival will be showing two films about groundwater (access, resource management, over-consumption) at 7:30 pm, Feb. 25, with a community discussion forum on Feb. 26

Upcoming Events 
EnviroCollective Regina will hold its monthly online meeting from 7-10 pm, Feb. 18

The WildEcol Seminar Series presents an online talk on tropical birds and forest fragmentation/restoration at 3:30 pm, Feb. 19

Join Saskatoon Nature Society on a birdwatching outing in City Park from 2-3 pm, Feb. 21
 
There will be an online panel discussion on creating a supportive policy environment for renewable energy co-operatives from 4-5:30 pm, Feb. 24

Children ages 6-12 are invited to register for Nature Regina's Get Outside! Kids’ Club at 10 am, Feb. 24 or Mar. 3

SaskOutdoors will train participants to become certified Growing Up WILD and Getting Little Feet WET Education facilitators from 7-9 pm, Feb. 25, Mar. 4, and Mar. 11 (online). 

Join Regina Public Library online to learn inexpensive strategies for building and living in an environmentally friendly way at 7 pm, Feb. 25

Find out all about burrowing owls in a Nature Saskatchewan webinar at 7 pm, Feb. 25

Explore Les Sherman Park with Nature Regina at 10, 11:15, 1, or 2:15 pm, Feb. 26

You’ll find information on these and other events on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

beaver

The Urban Environment 
Bird-friendly urban design makes for healthier and more pleasant cities for humans and other animals [interview with Timothy Beatley, author of The Bird-Friendly City

Construction projects threaten the urban forest by displacing trees and by damaging them during the construction process [more information is available from SOS Trees


Feeding pet cats meaty food and playing with them to simulate hunting stops them killing wildlife, according to a study 


Municipalities of Saskatchewan will lobby the provincial government for a water policy similar to Manitoba and Alberta and the publication of quarterly water test results [We’re Losing our Wetlands and That’s a Big Problem

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). 

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it. Thank you! 


Thank goodness for our year-round avian friends who brighten our winter walks. One of our favorites is the magpie. [Nature Companion]

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Dragonfly Selfies & Powerful Discussions

dragonfly

Just for Laughs 
A pair of dragonflies offers lessons on the perfect Valentine’s Day selfie.

Upcoming Events 
Feb. 15 – role of small modular nuclear reactors in Saskatchewan
Feb. 18 – EnviroCollective Regina 
Feb. 19 – tropical birds & forest fragmentation/restoration 
Feb. 24 – support for renewable energy co-operatives 
Check the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar for full details 


Did you know? Dragonflies can only fly when it's warm, but some species can live for up to a year if they migrate away from the cold (Nature Companion)

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Community Highlight: Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative


1. How and when did you form your group?
 
The Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative started in 2014. Beginning with the purchase of one car, the CarShare's fleet of six vehicles is designed to complement our members’ active transportation habits and improve affordable access to vehicle ownership. Working with several partners, we are proud to have been the first 100% solar-powered carshare in Canada. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
Our principal activities are providing and maintaining a network of vehicles to residents in Saskatchewan's core neighborhoods (and beyond). 

It’s a win for individuals because you save money by not having to own a car. Being a CarShare member helps you save money. A typical car owner spends an average of $6,400 per year. That comes out to about $533 per month or $17.64/day to maintain and operate an efficient vehicle. By making simple changes to integrate walking, biking, busing, and CarSharing into your traveling habits, you can save some serious cash. 

It is a win for the environment, the City of Saskatoon, and our community. For every CarShare vehicle out there, another five cars are taken off the road. That means fewer vehicles need to be driven, fuelled, and maintained. Less vehicles on the road also means less traffic on our streets. 

4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
In 2021, we'd like to expand the number of CarShare members, to make being a member even more affordable, and to convince more residents to consider giving up their car (or 2nd car) by using the CarShare to complement their active transportation habits. 

5. If you could have 3 wishes for improving your community, what would they be? 
We would like to see less cars on the road, more people using active transportation and shared transportation modes, and for more people to use CarSharing for any of those times when you simply just need to have your own car! 


6. Are there volunteer opportunities with your organization? If so, please describe them and indicate how people can contact you. 
The CarShare is always looking for volunteers to help expand the use of our CarShare network. 

Board Members: We are always recruiting board members to help with planning, decision-making, and monitoring the performance of the CarShare. 

Vehicle Maintenance: We recruit volunteers to help with regular light vehicle maintenance (including checking on vehicles, cleaning, fueling, and taking vehicles for car washes and servicing). 

Promotions and Engagements: We are looking for help in spreading the word about CarSharing through social media and through member engagement activities. 

You don't have to be a member to volunteer with the CarShare, and volunteering comes with perks like driving credits. If you are interested in volunteering with the CarShare, please email scc.coordinator@gmail.com

If you live in Regina, be sure to check out the services provided by the Regina CarShare Co-operative

We’re planning to highlight the work of volunteer organizations in our communities on a regular basis over the next year. Do email us if you would like your organization to be profiled on EcoFriendly Sask. 

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

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

EcoSask News, February 9, 2021

Red shouldered hawk

This Week’s Highlights 
Join SaskOutdoors at outdoor events for all ages in your bubble in Rosthern (Feb. 21), North Battleford (Feb. 28), and Prince Albert (Mar. 7). 

Join the Pembina Institute for an online discussion of passive house retrofits from 6-8 pm, Feb. 15

Upcoming Events 
Women & Water, Feb. 11 (online) 
Global Water Futures is offering an online series on women and water with a discussion on sustainable ecosystems at 12:30 pm, Feb. 11.

Get Outside – Lakeridge Park, Feb. 12 (Regina)
Explore Lakeridge Park with Nature Regina at 10, 11:15, 1, or 2:15 pm, Feb. 12. 

Eco-Scavenger Hunt, Feb. 13, 18, 19 & 27 (Saskatoon) 
Meewasin Valley Authority is hosting self-directed eco-scavenger hunts to help track wildlife at Beaver Creek Conservation Area on Feb. 13, 18, 19 & 27. 

Train the Trainer, Feb. 13 (Regina) 
Nature Regina is looking for volunteers to learn more about the birds, wildlife, and plants at Les Sherman Park from 10 am-12 pm, Feb. 13, in order to lead a public event. 

Gardening with Nature, Feb. 15 (online) 
Nature Regina will host an online discussion on organic and ecological gardening with nature at 7 pm, Feb. 15. 

Genetic Diversity & Food Security, Feb. 16 (online) 
The importance of maintaining genetic plant diversity as well as farmer-led and public plant breeding will be discussed at 7 pm, Feb. 16, as part of the Sustainable Speaker Series. 

Dessiner des Insectes, Feb. 16 (online) 
Learn about and draw insects, a program in French for 6-12 year olds, at 4 pm, Feb. 16, Regina Public Library.

Untitled

Ferruginous Hawks, Feb. 18 (online) 
Janet Ng will present highlights from her research on ferruginous hawks at the 7:30 pm, Feb. 18, online meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society. 

North Saskatchewan Heritage River, Feb. 18 (online) 
Find out about Alberta’s plans for designating the North Saskatchewan as a heritage river at noon, Feb. 18. 

Sustainable YXE, Feb. 18 (online) 
Saskatoon Public Library is hosting an online discussion for teens about making our community more sustainable from 6-7 pm, Feb. 18. 

Get Outside – Wascana Lake, Feb. 19 (Regina) 
Explore Wascana Lake with Nature Regina at 10, 11:15, 1, or 2:15 pm, Feb. 19.

Looking Ahead 
Nature to the Rescue, Feb. 27 (online) 
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan’s annual general meeting on Feb. 27 will discuss how we can be more involved with nature on a local scale. 

Building Operator Training (online) 
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is helping building operators to lower their utility bills and make their buildings more comfortable through online training. 
Mar. 5 or 26, 9 am-noon – lighting & electrical equipment and water 
May 7 or 28, 9 am-noon – heating, ventilation, and cooling 

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
The first stage, including environmental consultation, of the Lake Diefenbaker irrigation expansion project will be conducted by Regina-based Clifton Associates. 

A new study has found that exposure to glyphosate and its commercial Roundup formulation has potentially serious effects on human health

Clearing started on a peat mine in Manitoba before applying for an environmental licence

hawk

From Information to Action 
“If deforestation in the Tropics were a country, it would be the third-biggest polluter in the world, after China and the US.” 

Plans to improve carbon-credit markets include better standards and more transparency and oversight but also weigh in on the trickier issue of the best variety of carbon offset. 

Good News 
A Mayan beekeeper who led a coalition that stopped Monsanto from planting genetically modified crops in seven states in southern Mexico was recently awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. 

A California teenager helped install seed libraries in all 50 states

The Ecological Society of America and the British Ecological Society are marking Black History Month with a series of blog posts by and about black ecologists, their work, and their experiences in ecology. 

 All-electric delivery vehicles – more storage space with a smaller vehicle footprint


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). 


Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Thursday, 4 February 2021

You Don't Have to Leave the City to Connect with Wildlife


What happens to wildlife when humans build cities and move into the animals’ territory? As more and more people move into urban centres, the question has become increasingly important. As a partner in the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN), Saskatoon is contributing to the largest international study on urban wildlife. Katie Harris, a Master’s student at the University of Saskatchewan, has been responsible for setting up Saskatoon’s research project. We talked to her in September 2019 when she was just getting started and talked to her again very recently to find out how things were progressing. This is a long-term study and the results are still in the preliminary stage, but they are interesting nonetheless. 

Getting Started 
In order to obtain comparable data, UWIN members all follow a similar procedure. In Saskatoon, trail cameras were set up in random locations along north-south and east-west transects with a distribution of urban, peri-urban (transitional areas), and rural sites. Saskatoon’s boundaries extend beyond the built neighbourhoods, so this is where the 9 rural sites are located. The 9 peri-urban sites include the riverbank, parks, and wooded areas, while the 12 urban sites are more built up with a higher proportion of impervious surface (roads, concrete, bridges). 

Once the proposed camera sites had been identified, Katie started contacting the landowners to obtain their permission for installing a trail camera. “I was really lucky,” Katie says. “I got an awesome reception from most landowners. Only one landowner said no and we were able to move the camera to a next-door property owned by the City.” The process did, however, involve a lot of cold calling. “With large corporations, I’d start with the receptionist and work my way up the ladder,” Katie explains. 

All the necessary permissions were in place and a date had been set for installing the cameras when Covid hit in March 2020 and the university put a hold on all non-essential fieldwork. It would be six long months before Katie obtained a permit and could get started. On September 8, 2020, Katie and her supervisor, Ryan Brook, spent 3 days putting up the cameras. “I’ve been very fortunate as Ryan is very knowledgeable and has done a lot of work with trail cameras and wildlife monitoring,” Katie says.
 

The cameras are enclosed in metal security boxes and attached high up in trees. Some of the locations needed to be modified once the data started coming in to reduce the number of human triggers (all photos of humans are deleted). Only one camera has been stolen and this was unfortunately expected with replacement cameras on hand. Responses from people who have spotted the cameras has been favourable, but Katie urges people not to touch the cameras as this can change the camera angle and they are very carefully positioned to catch animal activity. 

Katie goes out every week, collecting the memory cards from half the cameras on each trip. The trips are the highlights of Katie’s week as she’s exploring places she never knew existed and relating wildlife to those areas. The major snowstorm in November made her task a little more challenging. Katie went out right before the storm and switched out all the memory cards. When Katie reviewed the photos taken after the storm, there was, unsurprisingly, a 2-to-3 day gap in animal activity. “The animals acted just like humans and dug into shelters until it was safe to come out,” she explains. 


Preliminary Results 
Katie has collected and tagged 8000 photographs in the first 4 months of the project. These are still early days, but there have been some interesting results. “I’m seeing more foxes than anything else,” Katie says. “They’re in more places and in more parts of the city and they outnumber jack rabbits, coyotes, and deer.” Early results indicate that foxes are highly adaptable and are thriving, even in highly urban areas. 

Mule deer and white-tailed deer are very closely related genetically, but 99% of the urban and peri-urban deer photos are of mule deer. White-tailed deer have only been observed in the rural locations. “Mule deer are coming into the city and establishing themselves in wooded park areas,” Katie says. “There are some real hotspots and we’ve got images of young so they’re breeding, living, and surviving in our city.” 

All the animals captured on the wildlife cameras look very healthy. “In the wild, we’d see coyotes that look diseased with poor coats and mangy,” Kate explains. “The animals are clearly finding food sources and resources thanks to decreased competition in the urban environment.” 

The cameras take bursts of three photographs at a time and there have been some great shots of a beaver taking down a willow near the river and dragging it off, of a moose running through the downtown core towards the river, and of a deer being chased by 2 coyotes – the final shot shows a big splash and the coyotes watching from the shoreline. 

Approximately 85% of the photographs display nocturnal activity, whereas in the wild many animals, such as deer and foxes, would be most active at dusk. “The animals are obviously adapting to human activity, light, and noise pollution by becoming most active at night,” Katie says. 


Foxes and Coyotes 
Katie had planned to study people’s values and their response to urban wildlife but had to switch plans due to Covid. She will now be doing some in-depth study on coyotes and red foxes, two animals with a significant overlap in food sources and spatial requirements, to see how their behaviour and resource selection in an urban setting compares to their behaviour in the wild. Early data indicate a larger number of foxes in highly urban habitats with larger numbers of coyotes in rural and peri-urban sites. “Foxes are very adaptable,” Katie says. “In the wild, they’re the sub-dominant species and will change where they live and what they eat to avoid coyotes. Will this continue to be the case in an urban setting?” 

Coyotes are the dominant predator in urban areas, which wouldn’t be the case in the wild where bears and wolves dominate. However, bears and wolves are highly specialized and it’s harder for them to adapt to the urban environment. In addition, they must contend with human bias as humans don’t want cougars, bears, and wolves in their cities. “There have been cougar sightings in and around the city, but they’re rare,” Katie says. “They try to go around the city if possible and to avoid humans.”
 

Connecting with Wildlife 
“So many people think they have to leave the city to see wildlife,” Katie says. “But that’s not the case. We can connect with nature in the city; the wildlife is already here. We can help them to have a full life without impeding humans. We can co-exist and interact with urban wildlife and there are so many benefits, from pollination to maintaining biodiversity.” 

It’s amazing to observe wild animals, but Katie wants people to remember that the animals are wild. We need to keep our distance and should never feed them. 

Katie is still in the initial stages of her project. We’ll be checking back in with her in September 2021 to find out more about her results and conclusions.


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