Thursday 29 December 2011

2011 Highlights

EcoFriendly Sask is now six months old! Like every new publication, we’ve been on a steep learning curve to build our readership and to uncover interesting stories that are relevant to residents of Saskatoon and area.

So many individuals and organizations have encouraged and supported us as we grew. Thank you.

We look forward to continuing to provide you with ideas and information as we work together to promote and protect our natural habitat.

Top Five Posts for 2011
1,200 people have visited EcoFriendly Sask’s website since we started in July 2011. Below is a list, in order, of the five most popular articles:

Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan

Sean Shaw: Opportunity to Make a Difference

CHEP Good Food – Community Gardens

Meewasin Valley Authority

LichenNature: Salvaging and Reclaiming our Biodiversity (tie)

Grounded (tie)

In addition, we’ve had plenty of visitors to the Calendar and the List of Organizations as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Upcoming Stories
2012 will bring stories about urban farming and urban planning to be followed by a wide range of other stories. Do let us know what people, places or events you would like us to profile.

Photo: Northeast Swale - Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan

Thursday 22 December 2011

A Gift of Nature

We receive so many gifts every day from the world around us – from the air we breathe to the breathtaking beauty of birds, plants, and animals.

Unfortunately, we also spend a great many hours in front of our computers. We hope that you will enjoy this desktop background wallpaper and that it will brighten your day and remind you of the many gifts of nature that we have been fortunate enough to receive.

Happy holidays!

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

Tuesday 20 December 2011

EcoSask News, December 20, 2011

Sanatorium and Riverbank Hike, January 8
You are invited to join the Saskatoon Nature Society as they look for winter songbirds on the old sanatorium grounds and waterfowl along the river bank from 2 to 4 pm on January 8. For further information, contact the trip leader at 652-5975.

Redberry Lake Winter Workshop, January 10
The Redberry Lake Watershed will be hosting its 5th annual winter workshop from 10 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, January 10 in the Ukrainian National Hall, Hafford. The theme is Real Results: The Benefits of Implementing Best Management Practices on your Farm.

Saskatchewan Environmental Society, January 11
Amy Jo Ehman, author of Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner, will discuss her year of eating local in the Canadian prairies at 7 pm on January 11 at the Cliff Wright Library Auditorium. The event is co-sponsored by the Saskatoon Public Library and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.

Outdoor & Environmental Education Association, January 21
The Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association will hold their annual general meeting on Saturday, January 21 in Moose Jaw. Shelley Scheibel will speak on Going Nowhere: A Journey to Antarctica.

Effective Commissioning of Existing Buildings, January 25
The Saskatchewan Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council is offering a workshop for building managers and operators to help them get the most out of re-commissioned buildings on January 25 from 9 am to 1:30 pm. Participants will learn how to define their scope, incorporate LEED credit requirements, select the right service provider, evaluate the quality of service provided and avoid common pitfalls. The event will be held in the Candle Room, Atrium Building, Innovation Place, Saskatoon.

First Place, WeLoveBirds
Congratulations to Nick Saunders, Saskatchewan Birds, Nature and Scenery, for winning first place in the WeLoveBirds Winter 2011 photo competition. The winning image of six saw-whet owl chicks can be seen on WeLoveBirds’ website.

Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve
Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve has a new website where you can sign up to receive their newsletter. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink
The Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink opened on December 17. The rink is open daily from 12 noon to 9 pm (11 am to 9 pm on Sundays). Ice skates are provided free of charge, and group rentals are available after hours.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature; however, we will not be posting on December 27. We’ll be back again on January 3.

Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 15 December 2011

Tipping Points: What Lies Ahead?

“Human beings are the single most ecologically significant marine carnivore. We’re also the dominant grassland and forest vertebrate herbivore,” says Dr. Bill Rees.

“We’ve used technology to exploit fossil fuels, which enabled us to clean out the oceans and mow down forests. We’ve expanded to fill all accessible habitats and tend to use up all available resources. And all these actions have been supported by a ‘socially constructed’ belief in continuous progress and infinite economic growth.

"Unfortunately, Earth is finite and humans and their economies are embedded in the same ecosystems they are consuming.”

“There is no separation between us and nature,” Dr. Rees says. He warns that the climate and critical ecosystems may be reaching tipping points and there is no guarantee that conditions on the other side will support civilized existence.

Bill Rees* is a professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia. His ecological footprint model is a widely-used measure of human demand for land and resources.

A Collective Response
Dr. Rees believes that we are facing a collective crisis that requires a collective response. However, our culture emphasizes individual responsibility rather than a collaborative society. Our culture has perpetuated a myth that everyone can become a millionaire. This works to individual advantage if one succeeds, but the system is structured so that wealth trickles to the top, leaving large numbers of citizens unemployed or underemployed, homeless, and relying on food banks and charitable donations to survive.

The so-called free market economy was intended to enhance efficiency and growth, but it has come at the expense of equity and true development. Dr. Rees believes that the market economy has failed for two reasons.

Welfare for the Rich First of all, “governments often tax good things, subsidize bad ones, and rescue poorly managed businesses. For example, the banks and General Motors should have been allowed to fail,” Dr. Rees says. “Instead, they were bailed out with taxpayers’ money. It’s welfare for the rich, for the same corporate interests that usually argue for less government and lobby to tear down social safety nets for ordinary people.”

Dr. Rees argues that if there must be public subsidies or loans, they should be redirected from the automobile industry to the manufacture of public transit vehicles and improved transit service—collective assets for the common good whose provision also conserves resources and improves urban environmental quality.

True Cost of Production Secondly, globalization has masked the true cost of production, further undercutting market efficiency. In a global economy, governments tolerate the externalization of significant production costs to improve their nation’s competitive position. But this means that retail prices don’t tell the truth about the costs of goods and services. Sales may increase, but it is at the expense of ecosystems and people.

Dr. Rees points to computers as an example. “We have cheap computers in North America because we’ve offloaded the dirty manufacturing to poor countries along with the pollution,” Dr. Rees says. “We wouldn’t tolerate those levels of pollution in Canada. If the computers were manufactured here, we’d have to use cleaner production processes, and the cost would reflect the difference.”

Dr. Rees believes that if prices reflected the true cost of production, we’d consume fewer resources, the environment would improve, and there would be incentives for increased innovation. For example, the cost of gasoline would rise dramatically if we took into account environmental costs, but this would promote the development of lighter vehicles and fuel-efficient engines. We’d drive smaller cars that were adequate for in-town driving rather than large, gas-guzzling trucks. Meanwhile, our climate-changing carbon emissions would be lower. As matters stand, climate change remains the best known example of massive market failure.

Globalization was intended to enhance efficiency by promoting specialization. Unfortunately, specialization has come at a cost. Canada exports its raw materials, returning to its historic role as ‘hewer of wood and drawer of water.’ We have no fallback position because we’ve lost so much economic diversity, we’ve deskilled our population, and we’ve lost our capacity for self reliance.

“Eastern Canada relies on off-shore OPEC oil,” Dr. Rees says. “If we must develop the oil sands (not necessarily a good idea!), let’s build up our domestic pipeline and refining capacity, keep the jobs in Canada, and export only surplus oil to the States.”

The Common Good
People have become disenchanted, even cynical, about governments. The political right calls for reduced government involvement and reduced taxes. And yet, only governments can act on behalf of the population as a whole. The free market doesn’t provide roads, schools, or hospitals.

“Taxes should be seen as a responsibility rather than a burden,” Dr. Rees says. “Taxes are the means by which people pool their resources to achieve a common good.”

Rees recommends relocalizing many economic activities to maintain economic diversity and multiple employment opportunities. Also, while no one can hope to manage the global economy, we have a fair chance of controlling local or regional economies and their supportive ecosystems.

When it comes to exploiting non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, we should invest an adequate portion of the revenue in developing renewable alternatives so we have a fallback when the non-renewables run out. Shifting to a sustainable economy also means investing in job training and job placement programs to equip people for employment in sunrise industries as unsustainable sunset industries are phased out. Other social safety nets may also be needed to support families during the transition to a post-carbon economy.

An Intelligent, Compassionate Species
Dr. Rees points out that we focus our attention on making ever more money, and yet there is no longer a correlation between average income levels and health or well-being in wealthy countries. More money will not necessarily protect anyone from catastrophic global change. “Both rich and poor went down with the Titanic,” he says.

 Achieving sustainability means that “we need to shift our cultural values from competitive individualism towards community, cooperation, and a collective interest in repairing the earth for survival.”

“We pride ourselves on being an intelligent, forward-planning, moral and compassionate species, but as we confront one of the largest crises to face us as a species, we so far seem incapable of exercising those qualities for our mutual benefit. I am optimistic that we have the basic abilities to survive – but only if we can muster them decisively in our collective interest.”

* Dr. Rees was in Saskatoon for the launch of Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally Elected Leaders, published by the Columbia Institute’s Centre for Civic Governance. He also spoke at the University of Saskatchewan and agreed to be interviewed for an article in EcoFriendly Sask.

Photo Credits: iStock_000017154396, iStock_000017532512

Tuesday 13 December 2011

EcoSask News, December 13, 2011

Season Change Walking Tour, December 18
Join a Meewasin Valley Centre interpreter for a seasonal walk along the river, followed by hot cocoa and a heritage pomander craft on Sunday, December 18 at 2 pm. Call 665-6888 to pre-register.

Permaculture Research Institute Potluck, December 20
Join the Permaculture Research Institute for their first monthly get-together. The winter solstice potluck will be held in the basement of the Unitarian Centre (213 Second Street E.) from 6:30 to 9:30 pm on Tuesday, December 20.

Zoo Society Drop-In Program, December 28, 29, 30
Drop in at the Saskatoon Zoo and hang out with some cool animals during the Christmas break. Members of the Saskatoon Zoo Society will be on hand with one of the socialized animals from 10:30 am to 12 noon and 1:30 to 3:00 pm on December 28, 29 and 30.

SK Wildlife Federation Award Nominations, January 1
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation is calling for nominations for the Bill McDonald Youth Conservationist Award and the Resource Management Conservation Award. The nominations deadline is January 1st, 2012. For more information or to submit a nomination, contact Jean Anne Prysliak at 306-692-8812 or

Evergreen Green Grants Program, January 31
Community groups and non-profit organizations working on community development and environmental initiatives (e.g. native planting, community food gardens, wildlife habitat restoration, workshops) are invited to apply for the Walmart-Evergreen Green Grants. Eligible groups must be working collaboratively with a local municipality or institutional partner. The application deadline is January 31.

Environmental Education & Communication Awards, February 1
Nominations are now open for the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication awards for outstanding individuals and organizations engaged in environmental learning across Canada. The deadline for nominations is February 1. (via SK Outdoor and Environmental Education Association)

Greg Fenty, 2011 Meewasin Conservation Award
Greg Fenty, the Education Coordinator for the Saskatoon Zoo Society, received the 2011 Meewasin Conservation Award. Following university, Greg worked for Environment Canada throughout the Arctic and Saskatchewan. He is an active participant in the Saskatoon Nature Society, volunteers with Meewasin’s Monitoring Avian Productivity Species program, played a key role in establishing the Poplar Bluffs Canoe launch and Saskatoon Young Naturalists, volunteers with the Saskatchewan Marathon, and much more.

Over the past 20 years, Greg has spoken to more than 150,000 youth about ecology and the importance of conserving biodiversity. Congratulations Greg – and thank you!

Rural Weather Network
Saskatchewan farmers have established their own weather network in order to ensure that they receive timely information that is focused on rural areas.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 8 December 2011

Solar Energy for your Home

Saskatchewan is one of the sunniest places in Canada, so it makes sense to use solar energy. But how does it work? Phil Foster and Brent Veitch of Rock Paper Sun took the time to explain how solar panels work – and how to use them most effectively.

Solar Hot Water
The most common use of residential solar panels is for creating thermal energy. In other words, they help to provide you with hot water. Glycol (antifreeze) circulates through the solar panel(s) and is warmed by the sun. The heat is then transferred to a water storage tank, pre-heating the water that enters your hot water heater.

Two thermal energy panels can meet the needs of a family of four or five. They’ll provide an annual average of 50-70% of your thermal energy needs and will heat your water 100% in the summer. In fact, there’s a device to lower the temperature if it heats up more than would be comfortable.

Solar panels are an effective way to heat water in our homes as we use hot water on a year-round basis. The University of Saskatchewan and the City of Saskatoon take advantage of solar panels to heat some of their indoor swimming pools. Heating a backyard swimming pool this way isn’t very effective as they are only operational for a few months each year. There are less expensive seasonal solar collectors that can be used to heat an outdoor pool, but they need to be drained to prevent freezing.

Approximately 100 homes in Saskatoon have installed solar thermal panels.

Solar Electric
There are only a dozen homes in Saskatoon with solar electrical panels, which operate very differently from thermal panels. Each panel functions like a rechargeable battery. When the sun shines, the panels collect electrical energy. An inverter transforms the electrical charge from DC to AC so that it can be connected to your home’s electrical panel and become part of the system that provides electrical power to your home.

There are a number of different factors to consider before installing solar electric panels:

1. Solar panels work most effectively on a south-facing roof, but there is some flexibility. Your exposure can vary by 45 degrees from true south, and it’s also possible to use east- or west-facing roofs. You’ll need to take into account shading by tall trees or buildings.

2. The electrical utility treats residences with solar electrical panels as power producers and, depending on where you live, provides differing forms of compensation for the power you contribute to the grid.

If you live in one of the older parts of Saskatoon, Saskatoon Light & Power is responsible for the electrical system. They will purchase your surplus energy and reimburse you at approximately 80% of its retail value.

If you live in a newer neighbourhood, SaskPower is responsible for the electrical system, and they employ a net metering system. They will only charge you for the electricity you consume over and above what is provided by your solar panels, but they will not compensate you for any excess power that you contribute to the grid on an annual basis. If you consume 7,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) and produce 6,000 kWh, you will only pay for 1,000. But, if you produce 8,000 kWh and only use 7,000, you will not be reimbursed for the surplus power that you contributed to the provincial grid.

Wherever you live, you will pay the basic infrastructure charge of approximately $20.

3. The size of your roof will also influence how many panels you can install. And it’s a good idea to make sure your roof is in good condition before installing solar panels.

4. Finally, you’ll need to consider your budget. How many solar electrical panels can you afford to install? Your solar installation company will be able to model how much energy your potential system will produce and compare it to your current electrical usage. In general, for every one kilowatt of solar power that you install (under optimal conditions), you will receive 1.5 MWh per year.

Solar electrical panels are expected to last up to 25 years, but it’s hard to know for sure as the technology is so new. Surprisingly enough, they are more efficient when it’s cold.

Rock Paper Sun recommends placing solar panels directly on the roof as placing them at an angle (racking) requires engineering and higher construction costs to ensure they are stable.

If you are building a new home and have not yet finalized your plans, consider setting your roof or your solar panels at a 52 degree angle as this will provide the optimal angle for collecting solar energy.

The cost of solar electrical panels has been decreasing, but the cost of labour has increased. It will take 20 or more years before your system is paid off. In addition, the energy needed to manufacture the panels offsets the benefits.

Residential property owners can currently apply for grants to help subsidize the cost of installing solar panels.

The Saskatchewan EnerGuide for Houses and the federal ecoENERGY Retrofit programs will provide a combined grant of $2,250 for a solar domestic hot water system. The work must be completed and evaluated before March 31, 2012, for the $1,250 federal portion of the grant. The $1,000 provincial grant is available until October 31, 2013.

The provincial Net Metering Rebate Program, administered by the Saskatchewan Research Council, has been extended. The program will reimburse up to 35% of the cost of photovoltaic (solar electrical) installations (up to a maximum of $35,000). You must apply before January 3, 2012, and the work must be completed by August 31, 2012.

Choosing a Solar Energy Company
A number of different companies in Saskatoon provide solar installations. The websites of the Canadian Solar Industries Association and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners are a useful resource as they list the training and qualifications of their members.

Photo Credit: Rock Paper Sun

Tuesday 6 December 2011

EcoSask News, December 6, 2011

Nature Photography Exposed, December 8
Robin Karpan, Branimir Gjetvaj, and May Haga, three of Saskatoon’s leading nature photographers, will discuss their work and the lessons they have learned in a panel presentation on Nature Photography Exposed. The evening seminar is hosted by the Saskatoon Nature Society and will begin at 7:30 pm on Thursday, December 8, in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan.

Food Sovereignty in Canada, December 9
Attend the launch of Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems on Friday, December 9, from 7:30 to 10 pm at Caffe Sola.

“In case studies of practical action, Food Sovereignty in Canada provides an analysis of indigenous food sovereignty, orderly marketing, community gardens, the political engagement of nutritionists, experiences with urban agriculture and the strengthening of links between rural and urban communities. It also highlights policy-related challenges to building community-based agriculture and food systems that are ecologically sustainable and socially just. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in holistic, healthy and sustainable food production and consumption.”

Farmageddon, Regina, December 10
The Regina Public Library Film Theatre is showing Farmageddon, a documentary about government oversight of farming and food production, at 7 pm on Saturday, December 10. (via RCE Saskatchewan)

Green Christmas Ornaments, December 11
Saskatoon children are invited to visit the Meewasin Valley Centre on Sunday, December 11 from 12 to 4 pm to make a unique ornament from recycled materials. Call 665-6888 to pre-register. Program cost is $2.00.

Swift Fox Recovery in Canada, December 14
Shelley Pruss, Parks Canada, will offer a technical presentation on Swift Fox Recovery in Canada from 12:10 to 12:50 pm on Wednesday, December 14 in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Auditorium, Regina.

This presentation and the following one are part of the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan’s Native Prairie Speaker Series. Both can be watched live on

Canada Goose Management in Wascana Centre, December 14
Jared B. Clarke, Wascana Centre Authority, will offer a public presentation on Canada Goose Management in Wascana Centre from 7 to 8 pm on Wednesday, December 14 in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum Auditorium.

Christmas Bird Counts
Christmas bird counts have been a holiday tradition for over 100 years. The Saskatoon Nature Society invites everyone to participate, especially beginners. Dress up warmly and head outside to find out how many birds are overwintering in our area this winter.

Christmas bird counts will be held on Saturday, December 17 at Clark’s Crossing, on Monday, December 26 in Saskatoon, and on Monday, January 2 at Pike Lake. Other regional counts are being planned. Call 242-5383 for additional information.

Saskatchewan Birds in Pictures
Nick Saunders, author of the SaskBirder blog, has launched his first book. Saskatchewan Birds in Pictures includes photographs of nearly 120 Saskatchewan birds. You can order your copy online.

Small Boreal Conservation Grants
Small Change Fund is accepting proposals for projects which contribute towards the protection of Canada’s boreal forests, with a focus on First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities across the boreal region. They accept proposals from registered grassroots charities or registered Aboriginal bands in Canada.

Transition Saskatoon
Transition Saskatoon is now on Facebook and offering a wide range of workshops and events.

EcoFriendly Sask posts informative articles and notices of upcoming events almost daily on Facebook and Twitter. Here are some of the recent posts:

The Drain Game: a video on why and how we can save our Prairie wetlands
The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, found in and around Grasslands National Park, is now considered a threatened species.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally Elected Leaders

More and more Canadians live in urban centres, and they are confronted by a increasingly complex range of problems – unemployment, urban sprawl, aging infrastructure, safe drinking water, and food security.

Community leaders are looking for practical advice, concrete strategies and critical reflection on the alternatives. The Centre for Civic Governance, an initiative of the Columbia Institute, works to strengthen Canadian communities through sharing best practices, providing tools for locally elected leaders, and progressive policy analysis.

The Centre has published five books in the Going for Green Leadership series. The most recent volume, Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally Elected Leaders was launched in Saskatoon on November 23 at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

This is a positive, upbeat book that moves beyond simply identifying the problems to finding ways to address them. All the communities mentioned in the book are Canadian, and they range in size from large cities, such as North Vancouver and Toronto, to small communities, such as Williams Lake and Swift Curent.

The first chapter is a big-picture look at resiliency, its strengths and weaknesses, by Dr. Bill Rees. The following chapters look at urban design, economic challenges, leadership tools, and ideas whose time has come.

Here are a few of the case studies that I found particularly meaningful:

Cities in Transition Ryan Walker, a professor in the department of Regional and Urban Planning, University of Saskatchewan, looks at prairie cities, such as Saskatoon, which have the potential for dramatic transformation rather than incremental change as they confront social, demographic and economic challenges.

Surviving and Thriving at the Council Table Donna MacDonald, a long-time city councillor in Nelson, BC, provides tips for working effectively with other elected officials and community members.

The Craik Sustainable Living Project Reeve Hilton Spencer and Mayor Rod Haugerud were looking for ways in which to maintain viable rural communities. “The rural municipality had 120 acres that we weren’t really using too much, and I thought, well, if I could get ten people to move to Craik that would be an historic step,” explained Reeve Spencer. Step by step, they formed the Craik Sustainable Living Project.

Public Participation in Resource Management Laura Bowman, staff counsel at the Edmonton Environmental Law Center, provides an overview of the legal tools that are available to help communities ensure that there are adequate regulations in place as resource-extraction businesses move to the prairies in growing numbers.

The Case for Watershed Governance Murray Ball, founder of the North Saskatchewan River Basin Council, takes a look at the emerging water issues on the prairies and recommends participation in stakeholder-based watershed protection initiatives and experimentation with alternative treatment options.

Swift Current’s Source Water Protection Story Arlene Unvoas, from Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards, discusses the key players, initiatives, and the keys to long-term success of community-based watershed protection groups.

Other Volumes in the Going for Green Leadership series:
Going for Green: Leading Edge Policy and Inspirational Initiatives for Communities
Leadership Makes a Difference
Through the Green Glass: Climate Change Tools for Education Leaders
For the Love of Nature: Solutions for Biodiversity

Tuesday 29 November 2011

EcoSask News, November 29, 2011

Fish ‘n Chips & Vinegar, December 1
“Don’t throw your trash in my backyard….” Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Programming (SCYAP) invites you to view an art exhibition about our ocean of trash by Tamara Unroe and Mariann Taubensee. The opening reception is Thursday, December 1 from 5 to 9 pm at the SCYAP Gallery (253 3rd Avenue), and the exhibit will be on display until December 22.

Saskatoon Zoo Society at Sun Dog, December 4
Be sure to visit the Children’s Stage at Sun Dog Handcraft Faire on Sunday, December 4 at 1 or 3 pm when the Saskatoon Zoo Society will be hosting a Critter Corner.

Paper-Making Workshop, December 10
Join the Saskatoon Young Naturalists for a paper-making workshop on Saturday, December 10 at 1 pm at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo.

PRI Saskatchewan: REcruiting Artists, January 11
The Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan is hosting an Art Show and Auction entitled "RE" at The Refinery from January 30 - February 10, 2012. They're looking for artists to display and sell (optional) their work. The art should focus on local sustainability initiatives and/or permaculture. To submit, send a digital version or photograph of your work to before January 11.

Waste Minimization Awards, February 29
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is seeking nominations for the 2011 Saskatchewan Waste Minimization Awards. Nominators are asked to include a summary highlighting the amount of waste diverted, impact on the environment and economy, leadership, and innovation. Deadline for nominations is February 29, 2012.

Skywatchers 2012 Calendar
Stan Shadick's Skywatchers' 2012 Calendar features maps of the night sky. This year’s calendar incorporates a greater number of celestial events. Inset maps illustrate conjunctions of planets and the moon on various dates. Special times for observing Jupiter's Moons with your spotting scope are included.

The calendar is available at some local bookstores or directly from Stan Shadick for $15 by phoning 652-5975. (via Saskatoon Nature Society)

Paying the Price for Suburban Sprawl
The City of Saskatoon has doubled in size since 1999. An Edmonton report, as discussed in an Edmonton Journal article, warns that suburban sprawl costs big bucks - $500 million over the first 30 years then rising to over $3 billion as Edmonton starts replacing aging infrastructure.

Prevent the Extinction of Sage Grouse
An international coalition of environmental groups is calling on the federal environment minister to take Canada’s endangered greater sage grouse under his wing with an emergency protection order. In addition to demanding federal protection, the environmental groups are calling on the oil and gas industry to voluntarily provide sage grouse with the protection they need.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 24 November 2011

Saskatoon Zoo Society

“Come meet the animals at the zoo”

A visit to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo offers a rare opportunity to see a wide variety of animals – from an African pygmy hedgehog or a burrowing owl, to a mountain goat, suri alpacas, and lions. But simply observing animals in captivity offers a very narrow perspective. What if you could also feed them or make toys for them?

The Saskatoon Zoo Society is a non-profit organization that was formed to provide educational opportunities based around the wildlife at the Saskatoon Zoo.

“If you’re going to keep animals behind bars,” explains Greg Fenty, the Society’s Education Coordinator, “you want people to learn about them.”

The Society offers over 400 educational programs every year to pre-schoolers, school children, and families. Children have an opportunity to spend time with the animals and to observe their behaviour. “The hawk has a specific cry when it is hungry, and the porcupine will sniff your feet and look you in the eye,” Greg says.

Programs for All Ages
Preschool Twice a year, the Zoo Society staff run a morning program for kids ages 4 and 5. It’s so popular that the spring session, which doesn’t begin until May, sold out immediately. Fortunately, they have been able to add an extra session on Friday mornings.

Creature Feature Storytime runs from November 29 to December 14. Pre-schoolers listen to a story and meet one of the story’s animal characters.

Camps The Zoo Society offers a variety of different camps for older children. There are PD Day Camps, a three-day camp over the February break, and week-long camps in the summer. The summer camp for 11 to 14 year olds includes a sleepover, a canoe trip, and visits to Pike Lake and Beaver Creek.

Drop-In Programs Family Day in July is the very best time to visit the Zoo as the Zoo Society has the zoo for the day and they organize interactive displays and entertainment.

There are drop-in interpretive programs during the Christmas and Easter holidays as well. For one and a half hours in the morning and the afternoon, you’ll be able to meet one of the animals and find out more about its habits and behaviour from the Zoo Society employees.

School Programs
The program offerings for school classes range from a one-hour session at the school to half- or full-day programs at the zoo. The Affinity Learning Centre, with three state-of-the-art classrooms, gives staff the opportunity to talk to the students before moving out into the zoo. “It gives the kids a deeper understanding of the interconnections between all living species,” Greg explains.

Grade One students enjoy the opportunity to stroke a rabbit, but they are also learning how to classify animals based on their skin cover (fur, feathers, scales, slime).

Math and nutrition stop being abstract school subjects when students are assigned an animal and have to determine what types of food the animal eats, how many calories they need, and the most appropriate combination (chicken, rats, mice). The children then weigh and chop the food and feed the animal.

Young Naturalists Program
The Saskatoon Young Naturalists, co-sponsored by the Saskatoon Zoo Society and the Saskatoon Nature Society, offer regular outings and activities that are geared to the 5-to-11-year-old range. Children and their parents can poke, prod and explore nature, and Greg Fenty is on hand to point out interesting features and answer questions.

Resources and Limitations
There is a huge demand for the Zoo Society’s programs, but resources are limited. There are three full-time coordinators, all of whom have degrees in education, as well as a part-time office administrator.

They hire extra staff in the summer to run the camps, which gives the permanent staff an opportunity to timeshift and offer some public weekend programs, but they cannot normally provide both week-day and weekend programming.

The Zoo is also relatively small, and there are a limited number of socialized animals that can be included in the programming. In addition, many of these animals are now seniors, and there are no plans yet in place to replace them.

“It takes a long time to socialize an animal,” says Greg. “The last animal that we socialized was Spirit, the one-eyed great horned owl. We were with her 24/7 for 6 weeks to ensure that she was comfortable around people. I still spend at least 3 hours a week with the socialized animals. I grab my laptop and go sit with the hawk, for example.”

The Zoo Society, with funding from the Royal Bank, used to offer a week-long Zoo School, and they are eager to do so again if they can obtain the necessary funding. “It’s a really neat program,” Greg says. “It’s totally based on the curriculum, but everything, from art and music to history, is based on nature and wildlife.”

How Can We Help?
Membership fees fund 25% of the Zoo Society’s activities. Family membership is a bargain as it includes free admission to the zoo and discounts on all the educational programs.

You can also Adopt-a-Critter of your choice. The funds are used to enhance the living conditions of the animals and to support the educational programs.

The Saskatoon Zoo Society also welcomes special event and education volunteers.

Additional Zoo Society Resources
Facebook Page

YouTube Videos
Instructional video on how to use the Pond Dipping Kit (kit available for rent)
Feeding Ariel, the Swainson Hawk
Lion Cubs at the Saskatoon Zoo

Fact Sheets
Cougars, Malcolm and Jethro
Lions, Dobi and Cooey
Amazon Blue-Fronted Parrot, Twiggy
Lake Sturgeon

Tuesday 22 November 2011

EcoSask News, November 22, 2011

Ante-Grey Cup Celebration, November 27
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society at President Murray Park on Sunday, November 27 from 2 to 3 pm to find out what birds are about at this chilly time of the year. Meet at the corner of Wiggins Avenue and Colony Street. Call 652-5975 for additional information.

Winter Biking Workshop, November 28
Transition Saskatoon is hosting a Winter Biking Workshop at 5:30 pm on Monday, November 28 at the Core Neighbourhood Youth Coop (905 - 20th Street West). Kip, Bryn, and Flavio, all experienced winter bikers, will share some tips and answer questions.

Creature Feature Storytime, November 29 - December 14
Bring your children to the Saskatoon Zoo for an afternoon story and meet one of the animal characters in the book. Creature Feature Storytime starts at 1:30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between November 29 and December 14. Registration is not required but space is limited.

SES Office-Warming, December 1
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council invite you to help warm their new office space in The Two Twenty (220 - 20th Street West) with a come-and-go wine and cheese party on Thursday, December 1, from 3 to 5 pm. Please RSVP to if you plan to attend.

SOS for Prairie Species at Risk
Nature Saskatchewan is competing for a $100,000 national grant from Shell FuellingChange to support the work of the Stewards of Saskatchewan programs to conserve endangered and threatened prairie species, such as the Burrowing Owl, and their habitats. This is a voting grant and your vote is needed in order to secure the funding to continue this important work. You can vote for Nature Saskatchewan’s project, S.O.S. for Prairie Species at Risk, by visiting

Vicki East, 2011 Greenwing Conservation Award
Vicki East has received the 2011 Greenwing Conservation Award, sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.

East was instrumental in initiating the Southeast Upper Souris Agri-Environmental Group Plan, an organization that increases awareness about the important role wetlands and riparian areas play in maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment.

She was also key in establishing the Southeast Greener Pastures 4-H Grazing Club. The first of its kind in Saskatchewan, the club teaches youth the skills required to be successful grass managers, which includes conserving and managing wetlands.

Agrium Inc, Fred Heal Conservation Award
Agrium Inc. has received the 2011 Fred Heal Conservation Award for its international youth program, Caring for Our Watersheds. Students from grades 7 to 12 submit essay proposals that answer the question, “What can you do to improve your watershed?” Either individually or as a team they must research their local watershed, identify an environmental concern and come up with a realistic solution.Students and schools compete for cash awards.

The Fred Heal Conservation Award is presented annually by Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin (PFSRB) to recognize a community organization or business that has taken direct initiative in the Saskatchewan River Basin, developing and implementing programs or policies that result in direct benefit to the health of the basin.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 17 November 2011

Saskatoon's Northeast Swale: Ancient River Valley, Urban Nature Reserve

Time changes all things, including rivers. Hundreds of years ago, the South Saskatchewan River flowed north and then east from the Forestry Farm before connecting with the current river valley at Clark’s Crossing. In time, the river moved on, leaving behind it a shallow rock-strewn basin that stretches for 26 kilometers.

This is the Northeast Swale. There are ponds, marshes and rich grassy stretches in the lowlands, while wildflowers thrive on the rocky slopes. There are over 50 duck nests around the largest slough, and wild animals pass through the corridor on their way to the river for water.

The land was far too wet and rocky to be farmed or developed and is one of the few remaining areas of untouched native prairie. But as Saskatoon grows and expands, it is becoming enclosed by new residential developments.

“What do you do with a totally naturalized area that’s surrounded by development?” says Mike Velonas, Resource Planning Manager for the Meewasin Valley Authority. “How can we manage it so that it is an asset and not a wasteland?”

Volunteers spent 24 hours in early spring of 2011 identifying all the plants, birds and animals that make their home in the Northeast Swale. They identified over 150 different plants, including all three Prairie emblems: the red lily, Prairie lily, and crocus.

They saw 76 different bird species, including several that are endangered (the short-eared owl, the uplands sandpiper, the common nighthawk, and the common grebe). A great blue heron flew over the slough when we toured the site.

The bioblitz volunteers also identified 11 different species of mammals. There are mule deer in the aspen bluffs and a herd of 20 white-tailed deer in the rough, open area.

Cultural history
A large boulder tells a story of earlier visitors to this site. A shiny, smooth area indicates that buffaloes used to rub against it. Rusty wedges along a crack are a reminder that the early settlers turned rocks into cement in rock-lined kilns on the open prairie to serve as mortar in some of Saskatoon’s earliest buildings, such as the Little Stone School House. The area also provided some of the original greystone used to construct the first buildings on the university campus.

Red river carts travelled through the area, and remnants of the original Batoche trail are still visible. “This is such an important historical area,” says Susan Lamb, Meewasin’s CEO. “General Middleton camped at the north end of the Swale prior to marching on Batoche. Those few days in 1885 changed the history of our nation.”

Conservation not preservation
The skyline of downtown Saskatoon is visible to the southwest and a new housing development is going in to the south of the Swale. There will eventually be housing on the east and north sides of the one kilometer-wide swale as well. The planners have approved a couple of crossings, but these should miss most of the premium native prairie.

Development will bring many changes to the Swale. “We can’t preserve it,” says Mike Velonas, “but we can conserve it so that it becomes an asset to the residents living nearby.” He envisions a series of trails and signage so that residents can get outside and enjoy nature. Cyclists will be able to reach the riverbank and downtown for either work or pleasure.

Increased nitrogen in the air and increased traffic will promote the growth of weeds and other foreign plants that risk crowding out the slow-growing wildflowers that thrive in low nitrogen soils. Luc Delanoy, the Resource Management Officer for the Meewasin Valley Authority, anticipates using controlled burns and grazing with sheep and goats to control the exotics.

Looking ahead
The Northeast Swale has the potential to provide Saskatoon’s new neighbourhoods with a vast natural playground for walking, cycling, birdwatching, and enjoying being outdoors. But conserving the area will require financial support and the collaborative effort of many different groups and organizations.

“Meewasin has spent the past 20 years conserving and developing the current river valley,” says Mike Velonas. “The Northeast Swale will be a large part of our focus for the next 20 years.”

See also
Meewasin Valley Authority
Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan Photos of the Bioblitz

Tuesday 15 November 2011

EcoSask News, November 15, 2011

Design Week, November 14-18
Take a look at the schedule of events during Design Week. Nearly all the activities are free and include a  talk by Bernard Flaman about his new book, Architecture in Saskatchewan and on design thinking by Valerie Elliott, the launch of the Northeast Swale Bioblitz video, and a film night. You can also view the design competition entries or attend the Design Awards Gala. The events take place at various locations around town.

Native Prairie Speaker Series, Swift Current, November 16
The Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (SK PCAP) is hosting two presentations in Swift Current on November 16. There will be a technical presentation at 12:10 pm on New Invasive Plant Species Creeping into the Swift Current Area. At 7 pm, there will be a public presentation on Greater Sage Grouse Research in Grasslands National Park. The presentations will also be streamed live.

Forest Field Guide Training Session, November 17
Training is now scheduled to support the use of the Field Guide to the Ecosites of Saskatchewan’s Provincial Forests. The workshops will be held in Hudson Bay (November 15), Prince Albert (November 16), Saskatoon (November 17), La Ronge (November 22), Creighton (November 23), and Meadow Lake (November 24). Contact (306.953.2221) to register.

Build Saskatchewan Green Conference, November 18
The Saskatchewan Green Build Conference will take place on November 18 at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The keynote speaker is Auden Schendler, Sustainability Director, Alpine Skiing Company and author of Getting Green Done. There will be additional sessions on Integrated Project Delivery, Why Green Homes are not Mainstream and Architectural Projects in Saskatchewan.

Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally-Elected Leaders, November 23
Join Dr. William Rees, Dr. Ryan Walker, and other contributors for the launch of Resiliency: Cool Ideas for Locally-Elected Leaders at 7:30 pm, Wednesday, November 23 ,in the Art Alcove at McNally Robinson Booksellers. Resiliency highlights the bold and creative ways in which leaders and communities are responding to the major environmental challenges of our time.

Ecological Economics, November 24
Dr. Rees will speak on Panarchy, resilience and societal collapse: What role for ecological economics? on Thursday, November 24, from 10:30 am to 12 pm in the Prairie Room, Diefenbaker Building, University of Saskatchewan campus. The presentation will evaluate the relevance of ecological economics in enhancing societal resilience in an era of accelerating global change.

Introduction to Permaculture Design, November 24
The Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan (PRI Sask) is hosting a showing of the film, Introduction to Permaculture Design, at 7 pm on November 24 at Broadway Theatre. It will be followed by a discussion led by PRI Sask members on why “you can solve all the world’s problems in a garden.”

RFQ – Plant and Bird Illustrations, November 30
The Stewards of Saskatchewan programs, Nature Saskatchewan, are creating a children’s colouring book of Saskatchewan species at risk, including both plant and bird species. The targeted age group is 5-10 years. They’re looking for an artist to prepare the illustrations (15 plant and 4 bird species). The deadline to apply is November 30.

Native Prairie Restoration/Reclamation Workshop
The Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan is holding a Native Prairie Restoration/Reclamation workshop on February 8 and 9, 2012 in Saskatoon. Themes include Bridging the Gap between Native Seed Providers and Users and Managing Restored/Reclaimed Native Prairie. Registration is limited to 300 participants. Early bird registration of $150 closes January 6.

Beaver Creek Conservation Area
The Beaver Creek Conservation Area is currently open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and closed on weekends. Weekday daytime group bookings are available throughout November and December by arrangement. Interpretive programs are $35.00/hour/interpreter.

VerEco Show Home in Evergreen
On November 7, 2011, Saskatoon City Council approved the sale of a lot in Evergreen neighbourhood to VerEco Homes in order to build a VerEco Home at 122 Roy Crescent to showcase the latest in green building techniques.

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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

Thursday 10 November 2011

Trevor Herriot: The land I know and love

Trevor Herriot writes about southern Saskatchewan – Regina and the Qu’Appelle Valley. This is where he was born and where he has deliberately chosen to spend his life.

Herriot describes himself as a bioregionalist. Rather than travelling the world and experiencing a wide variety of different geographies and cultures, bioregionalists put down roots and make a commitment to their home region. It’s an opportunity to become very, very familiar with one particular area – its geology, its social history, its plants, animals, and birds.

“It has probably meant less wealth and has created some job limitations,” says Herriot, “but it has also been very rich. I’ve had the opportunity for great relations with so many people. I’ve had the chance to know a lot of people and places and their history, as well as the birds and the plants [of this area]. That’s much more important than a touristic tasting of all the delights of the planet.”

Herriot’s family moved around a great deal when he was growing up, so it was important for him to provide his family with more stability. “There’s a lot to be said for staying put,” he says.

He has worked for SaskTel for 30 years. “A crown corporation is a good way to provide telecommunications,” Herriot says, “and they support me as a writer and give me time off to write.”

He has done some travelling, but it isn’t a priority, and it isn’t environmentally sustainable. “It’s more important to live well where I am,” Herriot explains. The Herriots and some of their friends own property in the Qu’Appelle Valley, and this is where the family enjoys leisure time.

A sense of place
Near the end of his university studies in English literature, Herriot was introduced to books by North American authors, such as Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, and Wallace Stegner. The books were culture and nature narratives, often involving a journey, seen through the lens of the first person narrative.

“I realized that it was possible to write a first person narrative about the land I know and love. It was a legitimate way to write,” explains Herriot.

Herriot’s first book, River in a Dry Land, looks backward to his childhood growing up in the Qu’Appelle Valley while also exploring the Valley’s social and natural history.

His most recent book, Grass, Sky, Song, is an evocative portrait of the songbirds that inhabit the prairie grasslands and seeks to discover why they are disappearing.

“There has always been a sense of pride and connectiveness to place here [Saskatchewan],” Herriot says. “It can be romanticized and distorted, but there is also a genuine desire to relate to the places we knew as children. People who leave the Prairies still talk about how they miss it.” Herriot says that he tries to appeal to this side of human nature in his writing and speaking; “I try and take that on a path that will inform our relationship to the land through respect and reverence.”

Acceptance and gratitude
Trevor Herriot says that he is currently gathering research and circling around topics for his next book, which he plans to start writing in the fall. “I’m hoping to move away from the elegiac tone and sense of lament for what’s lost and move towards a sense of acceptance and gratitude for what we have here,” he says.

Herriot believes that environmental critics can become attached to their analysis of the problems rather than appreciating what is around them. “We must simply accept what can never be any more, see what we still have, and where we can go from here,” he says.

Further reading
Trevor Herriot’s Grass Notes is an online blog about the Prairies and its inhabitants as well as the threats it faces from industry, agriculture, and urban development.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

EcoSask News, November 8, 2011

Opportunities in Socially Responsible Investing, November 9
The Cliff Wright Library and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society are co-sponsoring a presentation on the opportunities to achieve strong investment growth and returns while making a difference in the world through socially responsible investing. Naomi Dolan, Investment Specialist and Wealth Consultant for Affinity Credit Union, River Heights Branch, will lead the presentation on Wednesday, November 9 from 7-8:30 pm at the Cliff Wright Library.

Partnership FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin Conference
Registration for the annual conference of the Partnership FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin closes on November 10.

Young Naturalists Birdfeeder Workshop, November 14
Join Saskatoon Young Naturalists on November 14 at 1 pm for a Birdfeeder Workshop. Learn about winter bird watching and make your own bird feeder. Enrolment is limited, so register early by calling 976-3042 or email

Ecoblitz, Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale, November 16
Don’t miss the premiere of the 30-minute documentary, The Bioblitz – the Meewasin Ecoblitz of Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale, on Wednesday, November 16 at the Roxy Theatre. There is a reception at 7 pm followed by the program at 7:30.

The showing is part of the Robin Smith Memorial Lecture Series and is hosted by the Meewasin Valley Authority in partnership with Design Week 2011. Contact Candy at Meewasin (665-6887) if you plan to attend.

Vermicomposting Workshop, November 17
Core Neighbourhood Youth Coop (CNYC) is hosting a short tutorial and question and answer session on Vermicomposting on Thursday, November 17 from 7-8:30 pm at CNYC, 905 20th Street E. (via Transition Saskatoon – thanks!)

Research on Bears, November 17
The speaker at the November 17 monthly program meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society is Marc Cattet. He will discuss Help or Harm: Insights and Views from Research on Bears: “Without question, both wildlife biologists and wildlife veterinarians want only to help the species that they study. Yet, it has become clear to me that, despite this common ambition, wild animals captured for research sometimes face more harm than help. With this presentation, I would like to offer my insights and views on why this is the case. I also would like to suggest how progress could be hastened through increased public scrutiny.”

The meeting will start at 7:30 pm in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan. Everyone is welcome; bring your own mug.

Pike Lake Birding Field Trip, November 20
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on their Pike Lake Birding Field Trip from 1:30-5:00 pm on Sunday, November 20. Meet at the intersection of Crerar Drive and Caen Street, Montgomery Place. For more information, call the trip leader at 374-0674. You’re encouraged to bring sunflower seeds for the chickadees.

S.O.S. for Prairie Species at Risk
Vote for S.O.S. for Prairie Species at Risk and help Nature Saskatchewan win $100,000 to protect endangered and threatened prairie species, such as the Burrowing Owl, and their habitats.

Mary Houston, Saskatoon Women’s Hall of Fame
Congratulations to Mary Houston who was inducted into the Saskatoon Women’s Hall of Fame on October 14. Mary was recognized for her many contributions to nature, natural history, the community and family.

Mary has banded thousands of birds (from pelicans to bluebirds), written over 102 publications and served on the executive of many different organizations, including the Canadian Nature Federation, Saskatchewan Natural History Society, and the Saskatoon Nature Society. She has also been an active volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada, the YWCA, and Anglican Church Women.

More details about Mary’s contributions to our community are posted on the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website.

Facebook Posts
A variety of different announcements and news items are posted on EcoFriendly Sask’s Facebook page. Here are some of the articles featured this past week:
KLM leads the way with sustainable aviation
Help cut parking lot power costs in half
Saskatchewan’s Best Hikes and Nature Walks
U of S installs public bike repair station

EcoSask News is a weekly Tuesday feature. Email if you have news or events that you would like us to include.

Visit EcoFriendly Sask's Calendar page for a more complete list of upcoming events.

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