Thursday 31 May 2012

Starry Skies: Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

As Canadians, we take pride in our starry skies, northern lights, and large stretches of wilderness. And yet, more and more, we are urban dwellers, filling our skies with artificial light that blocks out the moon and the constellations.

Stargazers and nature lovers have begun banding together to create Dark Sky Preserves, sanctuaries from artificial light where people can enjoy the splendour of the night sky.

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2004, and park employees are working hard to provide a wide variety of opportunities for people to experience the park in both daylight and starlight.

Melody Nagel-Hisey is a Park Area Naturalist for Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, where she has worked since 1993. She says that the public stargazing programs have been a popular park program for many years, but they are sure to become even more popular now that the park has an observatory, an astronomer in residence, and a Dark Sky Campground.

Park Facilities
The Friends of Cypress Hills Park first discussed building an observatory in 2007. With only a little government assistance, the Friends began constructing a 16-foot stand-alone observatory and a yurt classroom in fall 2010. A local carpenter was hired during start-up, but the volunteers did much of the work themselves.

The Friends of Cypress Hills Park have also donated several telescopes. The smaller 10” and 12” telescopes are set up outside, while a 14” Celestron telescope is set up in the observatory and connected to the yurt classroom.

There is room for about 10 people in the observatory where they can take turns viewing the night sky. Larger groups use the classroom. Images from the observatory telescope can be projected onto the screen, and a laser beam can be used to point out different constellations so that people know exactly what they are looking at.

In the daytime, visitors can use the solar telescope to view the sun without hurting their eyes.

Astronomer in Residence
Starting in 2012, a University of Regina astronomy student will be volunteering for the summer. The student will be located at the observatory and available, along with park interpretive staff and visiting astronomers, to provide public programs.

Public Stargazing
Stargazing groups meet at the observatory at dusk when there is still enough light to get organized and take a quick look at the star locator maps and other handouts.

Visitors take turns using the telescopes, which have been set up to focus on a particular star or constellation. Tour guides provide background information and discuss how First Nations people used to navigate by the stars when they were travelling and had their own set of names and myths surrounding the different constellations.

Saskatchewan Summer Star Party 
The Regina and Saskatoon chapters of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada work closely with Cypress Hills Park, providing expertise and information. They hold an annual Summer Star Party, which includes a full program of activities, with both convention and public programming.

Dark Sky Campground 
Light and dark trigger changes in the human anatomy. When we disrupt our biological clock, we experience problems, such as jet lag or increased illness due to shift work. And yet, it is rarely fully dark.

Cypress Hills Park is now offering visitors the opportunity to camp in their Dark Sky Campground, located next to the observatory. No artificial light is allowed in this area. Interior car lights must be turned off, and flashlights and car headlights must be covered with red film. “We’ve tried to eliminate any white light that will interfere with people’s enjoyment of the night sky,” Melody explains. “The campground is geared to astronomers and people who are comfortable and enjoy camping in the dark.”

Minimizing Light Pollution 
The park is switching over to flat-lens street lights that direct the light down and not up in the Centre Block.

In addition, business operators and cabin owners are being encouraged to install dark-sky compliant lighting and to turn indoor lights off when they are not in use.

The Alberta side of the park recently distributed special light bulbs to all their patrons to encourage them to install dark-sky compliant lighting at their cottages. Melody hopes that the Saskatchewan park can find a partner in order to provide a similar program.

What can we do? 
There are many ways in which you and your family can promote and enjoy the night skies:

Tuesday 29 May 2012

EcoSask News, May 29, 2012

Visit the Athabasca Sand Dunes, have a Swale of a Day, or find out more about Bikeable Saskatoon. All this and more on EcoSask News! 

Athabasca Sand Dunes Info Session, May 30
Greg Fenty will lead a wilderness camping and hiking trip to the Athabasca Sand Dunes from July 8 to 14. For more information, attend the Information Session on May 30 from 7-8:30 pm in the Williams Building. Frank Roy will show images from his trip to the Dunes.

Bicycle Scavenger Hunt, June 9
Participate in the first-ever Bicycle Scavenger Hunt at 2 pm on June 9. Cycle teams will use clues to visit a variety of community locations.

Managing Species at Risk on Pastures, May 29
Heather Wiebe, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, will be speaking on Managing Species at Risk on Pastures at 1 pm on May 29 as part of the SK Stock Growers Association Annual Meeting. You can watch the presentation, which is co-sponsored by SK Prairie Conservation Action Plan, online at

Invasive Species Conference, July 18-19
Register before May 31 and save $40 on the registration fee for the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region 2012 Invasive Species Conference to be held in Saskatoon July 18-19. The full-day conference will be followed by an optional tour highlighting invasive species control projects in our area.

Swale of a Day, June 10
The Northeast Swale is an ancient river channel running across north-east Saskatoon. It combines grasslands, rocky hilltops and wetlands that are home to a wide variety of plants and animals. As the city grows, the site is threatened by the construction of roads and storm water retention ponds.

Tour the site on Swale of a Day, June 10, and find out why it’s worth protecting. (EcoFriendly Action Grant recipient).

Saskatoon Nature Society 
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society's website for full information about their field trips.
  • June 2 - Birding, St. Volodymyr Property at Brown’s Lake (8 am-1 pm)
  • June 5 - Transit of Venus Viewing, Campus Observatory (4:05-5:30 pm) or Diefenbaker Park Toboggan Hill (4:05-9:22 pm)
  • June 9 - Gabriel Dumont Bird Walk (8-11 am) 
  • June 10 - Butterfly Tour (1:30-4:30 pm) 

Wildlife Rehab, June 2
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is holding a volunteer orientation from 1-3 pm on June 2 in Room 1E85 of the U of S Agriculture Building. The orientation will be followed by a volunteer meeting from 3-5 pm with a presentation on duck behaviour and rescue techniques.

Making More with Microbes, June 14-17
There’s still time to register for PRI Sask’s Making More With Microbes workshop in Saskatoon June 14-17. Cost is $450. Register with a friend, and you both get a $50 discount. Learn about keeping soil healthy, compost, compost teas, and more. For more information, go to

Education for Sustainable Development, June 7
The Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development will be holding a recognition event on June 7 from 9:30 am-2 pm at the Wascana Centre in Regina to honour individuals and organizations that are working to advance education for sustainable development.

Spring in Motion, May 28 - June 9
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society and in motion have challenged public figures in Saskatoon to cycle to and from work the week of May 28th. Follow their activities at Bike n’ Blog.

The week of June 3-9, it’s your turn to get active. Make a commitment to hike, bike, or roll to work, and you could win some great prizes.

Urbanized, May 30
Urbanized, a feature-length documentary about the design of cities, is being shown at 6 pm on Wednesday, May 30 at the Roxy Theatre. Admission is free.

Bikeable Saskatoon, June 6
Join the Smart Cities, Healthy Kids research team at 6 pm on Wednesday, June 6 for a Bikeable Saskatoon workshop. A brief presentation of the team’s research results will be followed by a guided bike trip to give participants an opportunity to experience different types of bike lanes and trails.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Thursday 24 May 2012

PFRA Pastures: Good for Farmers, Good for the Land

“The community pastures are public land, and their resources of life and beauty are part of our heritage.” (Candace Savage) 

In its recent budget, the federal government announced that it would be divesting itself of all the PFRA pastures, turning the land back to the provinces. As a city dweller, I (Penny) wasn’t sure what the consequences would be, so I did some online research.

Assisting Farmers
Drought and severe wind erosion in the Dirty Thirties had a devastating effect on Prairie farms. The federal government stepped in to help and passed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act. Their mandate was to rehabilitate land affected by soil drifting and to develop and promote effective land management practices.

In 1937, the PFRA Act was amended so that the Government could purchase some of the most erosion-prone land. The land was fenced and seeded, creating 16 community pastures that were open to grazing the following year.

There are now 62 federal community pastures in Saskatchewan covering nearly 710,000 hectares. Their mission, according to the 2006-2011 Community Pasture Program – Business Plan, is “to manage a productive, bio-diverse rangeland and to promote environmentally responsible land use and practices. The program does this by utilizing the valuable land resource to complement livestock production. In addition, this program provides stakeholders with expertise and services for the sustainable use of land and water by developing and communicating the best practices in agriculture.” 

Approximately 3,100 producers use the pastures each summer, grazing about 220,000 head of livestock and using over 3,000 bulls in the pasture breeding program. In 2002, over half the costs of the program were recovered through fees paid by local farmers, and this percentage was expected to increase.

Valuable Resource 
The community pastures are a valuable resource for Prairie farmers, providing them with rich pasture for their herds at very reasonable rates. In addition, they are carefully managed to ensure optimal animal operations and avoid over-grazing.

But the pastures also serve to protect a wide variety of plants and animals, including many rare species. Chet Neufeld, Executive Director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, says that the Dundurn and Rudy-Rosedale PFRA Pastures, as just one example, have a number of rare plant species, including Hairy Prairie Clover, Schweinitz’s Sedge, Beaked Annual Skeletonweed, and Smooth Arid Goosefoot.

In addition, he believes that the pasture is home to rare birds, such as Burrowing Owls, Sprague’s Pipits, Short-Eared Owls, Common Nighthawks, and Barn Swallows.

Environmental Responsibility
Trevor Herriot, author of Grass, Sky, Song, is concerned that the Federal Government is offloading its responsibility for protecting Canada’s endangered species in order “to clear the way for oil and gas and other corporate interest to use the land as they see fit. Giving up 1.78 million acres of the most endangered habitats in the country is a sneaky way for Stephen Harper to wash his hands of its equally endangered species. . . . When are we going to wake up to the truth that laws protecting endangered species are useless without legislation to stop governments from giving up the management of the land critical to their survival?”

In a second article about the PFRA pastures, Herriot says, “The old PFRA pastures represent a critical opportunity to do something lasting and visionary with some of the most ecologically rich grasslands remaining on the continent. We must not let this moment pass without making every effort to find the kind of common ground between cattle grazers and conservationists that will ensure the health of these important remnants of prairie wildness.”

In a letter to the editor of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Candace Savage, author of Prairie: A Natural History, urges Saskatchewan residents to write to their MLA (contact info: http: // mlas/): “tell him or her that you care about the livestock producers and community-pasture staff who rely on these lands for their livelihood. More than that, tell him or her that you care about the prairie's wild inhabitants, which rely on the wide open spaces of cattle country for their very existence.”

Further Information
Federal Pastures to be Offloaded, Trevor Herriot’s Grass Notes
Offloading Federal Pastures: Part 2, Trevor Herriot’s Grass Notes
Action Needed in Order to Save Legacy Pastures, Candace Savage
Saskatchewan’s Environmental Champions: Prairie Farm Rehabilitation

Tuesday 22 May 2012

EcoSask News, May 22, 2012

Environmental news and events for Saskatoon & area - contests, field trips, moose and men, green transport, radio hosts

Of Moose and Men Book Launch, June 16
Jerry Haigh’s latest book, Of Moose and Men: A Wildlife Vet’s Pursuit of the World’s Largest Deer, covers every aspect of the moose, from history and biology to transportation and clothing. The book launch will be held from 7-9 pm on June 16 at Amigos Cantina. RSVP by June 1 to

Youth Art Contest 
The 2012 Robert Bateman Get to Know Contest encourages youth 19 years old and under to get outdoors and connect with their wild neighbours. Prizes are being offered for artwork, writing, video, photography, and music. The contest is sponsored by Nature Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association. Full details, including virtual hikes and launch events, are available on the Get to Know Contest website.

Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan Field Trips
The following field trips are sponsored by the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan. Call 668-3940 or to register.
Saskatchewan Landing Park, June 23
Join the NPSS for a bioblitz of all the plant and animal species to be found on both sides of the river.
Wanuskewin, July 14 
Help Wanuskewin’s park managers compile a list of all the plants to be found and learn about the history of this area. Participants will also have an opportunity to visit the interpretive centre and watch a native dance demonstration.
Maymont Property, July 21 
Help the Nature Conservancy of Canada inventory the Maymont property. This is a brand-new NCC property with a unique hanging wetland. 

State and Trends of Canadian Grasslands, June 26 & 27 
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, U of S, are holding a workshop on the State and Trends of Canadian Grasslands on June 26 and 27. Register online. The workshop is free, but there is a limit of 80 participants.

Volunteer your time to watch and record the blooming of common plants and be part of a world-wide monitoring effort to document biological responses of plants to climate change. Additional information is available from Deanna Trowsdale-Mutafov, Nature Saskatchewan’s PlantWatch Coordinator at or on the PlantWatch website.

Living Building Challenge Workshop, June 20
A six-hour introduction to the Living Building Challenge will be offered in Saskatoon on June 20. Contact for additional information.

Green Transportation 
Here are two articles about environmentally friendly travel options – both personal and freight:
The greenest transport from A to B
Could electric truck lanes reduce LA’s horrific pollution?

Radio Hosts 
CFCR Community Radio is looking for one or two environmentally conscious people to host Pocket Mulch, an eco-friendly talk show every Wednesday from 6:30-7 pm. Contact Jay Allen, CFCR station manager, at if you are interested.

Rain Barrels
Harvest the Rain with these Four Homemade Rain Barrels provides information about making and installing a rain barrel.

Last Mountain Bird Observatory 
View bird species up close and learn about species identification, bird migration and bird conservation at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory every day in May as well as in August and September. Contact Deanna at 306.780.9481 or to book a group visit.

If you would like to receive hands-on training and volunteer at the Observatory, contact Al Smith at

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Friday 18 May 2012

EcoFriendly Action Grants - May 2012

Wow! We received 11 applications for EcoFriendly Action Grants this past month. It’s great to know that so many individuals and groups are actively trying to make a difference by protecting and promoting the environment.

Eleven applications meant we had to make some tough choices. Fortunately, there were a few grants that were not time sensitive so we’ve put them to one side and will review them again next month. We also decided to provide partial funding to some of the applicants in order to support a greater number of worthwhile projects.

Do continue to send in your applications as we will be awarding EcoFriendly Action Grants on a monthly basis.

Listed below are the organizations that will receive the EcoFriendly Action Grants for May, 2012:

Saskatoon Nature Society - $500 towards the expense of offering tours of the Northeast Swale at Swale of a Day on June 10. Saskatoon residents are justifiably proud of the trails and parks along the river. Let’s make it our goal to add the Swale to our repertoire of urban nature preserves, protecting the plants and animals for future generations to enjoy.

Craik Eco-Village / Delila Jahn-True - $250 to support Delila’s participation in the World Environment Day activities at Craik on June 5. Delila will read from her book, Advice between Kingdoms – How the Hays moved Trash Mountain and organize some games to demonstrate how easy it can be to recycle waste.

Emmanuel Village Community Garden - $250 to assist with the cost of planting fruit trees and bringing in compost to extend the size of the garden. This will help to meet the demand for garden plots in one of Saskatoon’s newest community gardens.

Meadow Lake Junior Forest Wardens – $250 to assist with the costs of an annual clean-up at Pagan Lake. It’s a bigger job than usual this year due to last summer’s windstorms, which caused major damage. They’ll also install new signs, groom the trails, and build and install bird and bat boxes.

See also: 
EcoFriendly Action Grants
Eco-Warriors Club Receives First EcoFriendly Action Grant

Tuesday 15 May 2012

EcoSask News, May 15, 2012

Environmental news and events for Saskatoon and area - Birdwatching, Environment Day at Craik, Volunteer Opportunities, Construction Workshops, Food Waste, and Elms

Birds & Butterflies
Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips, May 16-30
The following outings are hosted by the Saskatoon Nature Society. Meeting locations and telephone contact information are available on their website.

MVA Trail Bird Walks, Sundays
Beginner bird watchers are invited to participate in a bird walk along the Meewasin trail every Sunday in May from 7-9:30 am.

Shorebirds Southeast of Saskatoon, May 21
Look for shorebirds and other water birds in Clavet, Bradwell, and Blucher from 9 am to 4 pm. Bring a lunch.

Warbler Migration, May 24
Walk through Cosmopolitan Park and look for warblers and other songbirds from 7-8:30 pm.

May Day Bird Count, May 26
Phone 242-5383 to be assigned to a group.

Butterflies 2, May 27
Catch and release butterflies for a close view from 1:30-4:30 pm. This trip may be cancelled if weather is poor. (665-6074)

Craik World Environment Day, June 5
Visit Craik Eco-Village on June 5 from 10 am – 6 pm for information sessions on food sovereignty, water security, the local food movement, as well as exhibits by non-profit organizations, and a tour of Titan Clean Energy Project. Delila Jahn-Thue will discuss rural recycling and read from her book, Advice Between Kingdoms – How the Hays Moved Trash Mountain.

There will be Green Drinks and networking on June 4 at 7 pm. Meals will be available for purchase from the Solar Garden Restaurant.

Nature Conservancy Volunteers
Join the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s volunteer team at one of their many events this summer, starting on June 2 with a piping plover count in Crane Valley. The Calendar of Events lists all the upcoming opportunities – click on an event to sign up.

Cob Oven, June 24
Dirt Craft Natural Building is offering a one-day, hands-on cob oven workshop on June 24 from 9 am to 5 pm. Participants will learn how to build a wood-fired oven from straw, clay, sand and bricks, how to build the perfect door, and how to use wood efficiently. The workshop will be held just north of Saskatoon where five families are working together to create a permaculture farm and community.

Earthen Plasters, June 29-July 1
Dirt Craft Natural Building is offering a four-day workshop on wall preparation for various natural building techniques, with a focus on a straw bale, timber-framed house. To register, contact Mike Jones at or phone 306-716-5394 or 306-717-4495.

Straw Light Clay, July 6-8
Craik Sustainable Living Project is offering a 3-day hands-on workshop in straw light clay construction. The workshop will include mixing and applying plasters and a tour and discussion of off-grid living using solar and wind systems.

Plant Sale, May 18
Mistik Acres is holding a plant sale on their farm near Alvena from 10 am to 8 pm on Friday, May 18.

Food Waste
1.4 million tons of food waste goes into landfills every year. Massachusetts is seeking to reduce that figure by making it illegal for large restaurants, businesses, and institutions to put food waste in the garbage. The food waste will be diverted to composting sites and plants that can convert waste into energy, heat, and/or fertilizer.

Save the U of S Elms
You’re invited to sign a petition to save 15 elm trees that are nearly 100 years old from being cut down due to construction of the Aboriginal Students’ Centre.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Tuesday 8 May 2012

EcoSask News, May 7, 2012

Environmental news and events for Saskatoon and area - wilderness navigation, ranch tours, youth engagement, piping plover, Forestry Farm walking tours, and a swale of a day


Partial Solar Eclipse, May 20
Pick up some tips for safe viewing of a partial solar eclipse. Join the Saskatoon Nature Society at 3 pm in Room 107, Physics Building, U of S.

The recommended viewing location is from 6:07-8:13 pm on the Diefenbaker Park Toboggan Hill (RASC astronomy club event).

Map & Compass Wilderness Navigation Course, June 3
CanoeSki Company is offering a Map & Compass Wilderness Navigation course on June 3. The full CanoeSki roster of canoeing courses and trips is available on their website.

Nature Saskatchewan Spring Meet, June 15-17
Nature Saskatchewan has a full schedule of activities, including 5 different tours, during their Spring Meet in Prince Albert.

Where Range and City Meet, June 20 & 21
The Society for Range Management is holding its annual workshop and tour in Saskatoon. The tour features ranch and pasture visits, water development, restoration and grazing projects, hands-on activities, Species at Risk updates, and more. The registration deadline is June 11.

Help Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve
Environment Canada is terminating its funding commitment to 14 out of 16 Canadian Biosphere Reserves – including Redberry Lake. Redberry Lake is looking for fundraising ideas, volunteers, and donations.

Vegetation Information System Saskatchewan
The Vegetation Information System Saskatchewan (VegISS) Training Workshop is now available on the SK PCAP website.


Making More with Microbes
The early bird registration date for the Making More with Microbes workshop has been extended to May 15. The final registration deadline is now June 1. The Permaculture Research Institute of Saskatchewan is also offering a promotion – register with a friend and both of you will receive a $50 discount.


Craik Eco-Village Tour & Youth Engagement Workshop, May 31 
In the morning, tour Craik’s Eco-Centre, composting and recycling program, solar-run restaurant, garden and local food programs, and learn how the town developed the projects. After lunch, there will be a workshop on catalyzing youth and inter-generational conversations, identifying practical options for engaging young people in their communities.

The day-long activities are sponsored by the Centre for Civic Governance. There will be similar workshops on May 18 at English River First Nation, La Plonge Reserve and on May 29 in Swift Current.


Piping Plover Census, June 4-8
The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is looking for volunteers to help count piping plovers from Saskatchewan Landing to Gardiner Dam, including all of Lake Diefenbaker. If you are interested in participating or would like some more information, please call Corie White at or 787-9057.

Sprague’s Pipit
The Wildlife Conservation Society, in partnership with the American Prairie Reserve, World Wildlife Fund-US, Nature Conservancy Canada, and The Nature Conservancy, has received funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain and restore critical habitat for the Sprague’s pipit in northern Montana, North Dakota, and southern Saskatchewan.

The Sprague’s pipit is one of the most endangered grassland birds in North America. The funding will help to increase and improve its habitat through grazing deferment, reseeding with native grasses, and targeted outreach to ranchers and agencies on the conservation and management options for this grassland species. 


Forestry Farm Park Walking Tour, May 27
The Friends of the Forestry Farm House are hosting walking tours of the Forestry Farm Park National Historic Site on May 27, June 24, July 22, and August 26 at 2 pm. Tours start in front of the Superintendent’s Residence.

The Society also offers tours for Grades 3 and 4 students upon request.

Swale of a Day, June 10
Join the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Nature Society, and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation for a free tour of Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale. Mini tours will focus on plants, history, and nature. A free lunch will be provided by the Wildlife Federation. There will be a birding excursion at 7 am. Other activities will start at 9:30 am. Call 668-3940 or to register.

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

A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday 3 May 2012

Exploring Saskatchewan: Our Natural Heritage

“You’d be surprised how much people don’t know about our province,” says Jonathan Potts, Director of Marketing for Tourism Saskatchewan. “We’re constantly challenging the perception that there’s nothing to see or do here.”

The majority of visitors to Saskatchewan are looking for a nature-based holiday. Visitors from the United States are primarily interested in fishing and hunting. Overseas visitors appreciate the open skies and the lack of humanity.

Eighty-five percent of Saskatchewan tourists are from Saskatchewan and Alberta. Many Alberta tourists and other Canadians base their perceptions of Saskatchewan on the Trans Canada Highway experience, which they perceive to be flat, boring, with nothing to see.

Saskatchewan tourists tend to have a very regional focus. “There’s a dividing line around Davidson,” Jonathan says. “If you live south of that line, you may have heard of Waskesiu, but you’ve never been there. If you live north of that line, you’ve heard of Cypress Hills, but you are unlikely to head south on vacation.”

Magical Moments
At its best, a nature-based holiday is a magical, memorable moment that will stay with you forever, combining all five senses and their emotional impact.

For Jonathan, one of those magical moments took place on a spring morning in Grasslands National Park. “I hiked into Grasslands early one morning,” Jonathan says. “It was still dark when I reached the top of a butte. The sun was rising in the east, and a golden eagle and hawks were soaring overhead. A prairie dog colony was scampering around, chattering and warning each other. Below were white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and coyotes. It was like the Serengeti – so much diversity of wildlife in a single panorama.”

This rings true for me (Penny). One of my most memorable experiences was a high school canoe trip to Grey Owl’s Cabin. The combination of my first canoe portage, bears on the lake shore, and actually visiting Grey Owl’s home remains unforgettable.

Balancing Conservation and Tourism 
The national parks have been in the news lately for what many see as unwarranted development in natural areas. Jonathan says that Tourism Saskatchewan supports a sustainable view of tourism – cultural, natural, and historic. It can at times be a difficult balancing act. “There are times when you can lean too much to the development side and not enough to respect for nature,” Jonathan says. “You don’t want to destroy what is special – special because nature created it that way.”

There are a number of environmentally friendly tourism operators in the province. 

Bradley Muir, the owner-operator of Sundogs Sled Excursions, has over 25 years of experience as a nature interpreter in Prince Albert National Park. In the winter, he and his partner offer sled dog excursions on their property just outside the park. “You have tremendous unity with the team as you race through the forest. The dogs have a lot of power even though they’re smaller than you’d expect,” Jonathan says. “Whether you are there as a thrill seeker or a pastoral nature lover, you can’t help but be overtaken by the stillness and immensity of the forest in winter. It’s a tremendously enriching experience.”

Two operators near the West Block of Grasslands National Park have a green approach to business. The Crossing Resort offers both a campground and vacation suites. Bring your own horse and ride right into the park, or sleep in a tipi under the stars. The Rosefield Church Guesthouse also borders the park and is completely off the grid. They offer trail rides, and breakfast is served in the Rosefield Church.

Unexplored Diversity
Talking to Jonathan is a valuable reminder that we don’t need to travel very far home to enjoy an outdoor adventure. “There is tremendous diversity, even in small areas,” Jonathan says. “You could spend years exploring Saskatchewan and still be amazed by what you see.”

For example, the Cumberland Delta is the largest inland delta in the world and can best be viewed from a plane or boat. Streams and channels from the river run in all directions, and there is an abundant cottonwood forest. “There’s a tremendous variety of wildlife and a unique mix of birds,” Jonathan says. “It’s a great area for canoeists. Solomon Carriere, a four-time canoe marathon champion, comes from Cumberland House.”

Jonathan longs to visit Wildcat Hill Provincial Wilderness Park. “Nearly no one goes there,” he says. “It’s a wilderness park with a fast, raging river running through deep canyons. It’s a cougar outpost with unique flora and fauna.”

Further information is available on the Tourism Saskatchewan and Sask Parks websites.

Photo credit: Tourism Saskatchewan/Greg Huszar Photography (Grasslands National Park)

See also:
Come Out and Play: Cypress Hills Eco-Adventures
Canoe the Bagwa Loop

Tuesday 1 May 2012

EcoSask News, May 1, 2012

Environmental news and events from Saskatoon and area - local food, community gardens, Hafford farmers’ market, birdwatching for beginners, Jane’s Walks, and more 

Urban Life
Varsity View Garden Work Bee, May 5 
One of Saskatoon’s newest community gardens hosts 60 gardening families as well as four educational groups. Varsity View is holding a work bee on May 5 from 9 am-3:30 pm. Come out and play in the dirt.

 Jane’s Walk Saskatoon, May 5 & 6 
 Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in Jane’s Walk Saskatoon on May 5 and 6. Cross the city by bicycle, talk to refugee and immigrant youth, explore the Trans Canada Trail, discuss what the future has in store for Broadway Avenue, and more.

Sustainability Success Stories, May 9 
Ewen Coxworth will share stories about how Walmart, Canadian Tire, and the Empire State Building have retrofitted their existing facilities or built new facilities to be energy and water efficient at 7 pm on Wednesday, May 9 at the Cliff Wright Library. (sponsored by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Saskatoon Public Library)

Confederation Inn 
The Confederation Inn has been nominated for a Saskatoon Awards for Business Excellence (SABEX) in the Environmental Sustainability category. Hotel owner Brian Sawatzky has done much to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint – from installing solar panels to recycling kitchen waste. The awards ceremony is May 17.

Birds & Wildlife
Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips, May 1-15
The following outings are hosted by the Saskatoon Nature Society. Meeting locations and telephone contact information are available on their website.
MVA Trail Bird Walks, Sundays 
Beginner birdwatchers are invited to participate in a bird walk along the Meewasin trail every Sunday in May from 7-9:30 am.
Duck ID Field Trip, May 7
Beginner birdwatchers will appreciate the opportunity to identify ducks in breeding plumage on the ponds at the Northeast Swale on May 7 from 7-9 pm.
Early Migrant Drive About, May 12 
Bring a lunch and look for migrant birds in the countryside around Saskatoon from 8 am to 4:30 pm on May 12.
Butterflies 1, May 13 
Catch and release butterflies for a close view on May 13 from 1:30-4:30 pm. This trip may be cancelled if weather is poor. (665-6074)

Young Naturalists Owl Field Trip, May 11 
There are still a few spots open on the Young Naturalists Owl Field Trip on May 11. Call or email the Young Naturalists' program at 975-3042 or to register or for more information.

Native Prairie Speaker Series, May 12 
David Halstead will be talking about Dragonflies at 1 pm on May 12 in the SaskEnergy tent as part of Wings over Wascana, Regina.

Tools for Water Management, May 10 
The Lower Souris Watershed is offering a workshop on May 10 in Redvers on accessing new data sources for southeast Saskatchewan, including new software for managing vegetation data. Contact Sheldon Kyle at (306) 452-3292 or for additional information.

Hafford Farmers’ Market 
The Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve is organizing a weekly community farmers’ market at the Ukrainian National Hall in Hafford. It will be held one Saturday a month from 10 am to 5 pm (June 9, July 7, August 18, September 8, October 6).

Everybody is invited to participate with fresh garden produce, jams and preserves, eggs, honey, baked goods, or art. Contact Rachel to register (549-4060,

Foodshed, May 3 & 10
If you’re interested in local food and the issues faced by farmers today, don’t miss the launch of dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s book, Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet.

dee Hobsbawn-Smith and Dave Margoshes will be reading from their newest books on Thursday, May 3 at 7:30 pm at Atlantis Coffee, Regina, and on Thursday, May 10 at 7:30 pm at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.

Slow Food 
Penny McKinlay, EcoFriendly Sask’s writer/editor, will be attending the Slow Food Canada national meeting in Edmonton next week. Penny will be posting updates from the meeting on Wanderlust and Words’ Facebook page.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. A complete listing of all upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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