Tuesday 31 December 2019

New Year's Eve Special 2019

Turkey vulture

Greetings! We’ve got apps, comic strips, Instagram accounts, graphic novels, and even a game to help you welcome in a green new year.

A new generation of naturalists & environmental activists:
BirdGirl is a 17-year-old birder and environmentalist who wants to remove the barriers from visual minority ethnic (VME) people getting into nature.

Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world in Northern Ireland.

@glacier996girl introduces climate change to a younger audience.

Next Generation Naturalists is a Kamloops group for 17-22 year olds, facilitated by the Kamloops Naturalist Club.

Comic strips, graphic novels, games, & Instagram:
Consider the vulture: a comic strip that gently reminds us that we will all return to the earth someday.

Follow the story of two ecologists studying quail in the Sierra Nevada in a short art game.

@colinfranksphotography takes photos of birds in Victoria, BC.

@everydayclimatechange, photographers on six continents, document climate change.

Rain, a graphic novel by Mary and Bryan Talbot, is both a love story and a flood story: “ a desperate appeal on behalf of our land, our lives and the lives of our “non-human fellow earthlings.”

There’s an app for that:
Eevie is an eco habit tracker, designed to help you improve your carbon impact by making small changes every day.

Lens is designed to help us explore our surroundings - from identifying plants and animals to scanning and translating text or seeing what’s popular on menus.

They may be shy and retiring, but they still leave tracks in the snow. Find out their identity with iTrack Wildlife.

Help identify plants as part of a citizen science project with Pl@ntNet.

“The only lost cause is the one we give up on before we enter the struggle.” – Vaclav Havel

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

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Christmas Eve Special 2019

water lily and reflections

“Is this peace? A small glen: 
a winding footpath, the sun 
resting beneath the flowers, 
rippling water postponing each and every answer” 
(Japanese Garden, Honolulu, Sapardi Djoko Damono, Translated from Indonesian by John H. McGlynn, published in Here: Poems for the Planet

“Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! from the pen of Stephen Moss. Partridges in pear trees, Colly Birds, large flocks of Turtle Doves and swans and geese – but where do all the other species come from? Stephen Moss uses his wit and wisdom to retrofit a bunch of birds to the Christmas carol and does it with quite some aplomb.

“This [The Twelve Birds of Christmas] is a book that is worth reading at any time of year and is essentially twelve chapters about the biology, folklore and history of a slightly random bunch of species stitched together with anecdotes from Stephen’s birding life.”

In Gun Island, Amitav Ghosh, explores climate change and global migration, seeking insight from 16th and 17th century Italy, a time when “the rise of vast European empires setting up colonies around the world, disrupting Indigenous ways of life and setting the stage for global discontent and migration” signifies the starting point of climate change.

Here: Poems for the Planet, edited by Elizabeth J. Coleman, is a call for hope and action, on behalf of a planet in crisis. The poems in Here are introduced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and followed by an activist guide written by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Stars & Planets
“The night has captured our imaginations since the beginning of time. After all, half our lifetimes are spent in darkness, and when our instincts kick in and our more primitive senses are heightened, who knows what weird and wonderful stories will unearth themselves?” - 10 books that capture the world of night

The Night Sky app is a “planetarium in your pocket. Day or night, just aim your device skyward to see a live 3D map of the heavens, complete with beautifully illustrated constellations, stars, planets, and satellites.”


Youthful pranks, family disagreements, dance moves, and camouflage. All are present in the 2019 Comedy Wildlife Photography Award winners.

Happy Christmas from Penny and Andrew at EcoFriendly Sask!

Tuesday 17 December 2019

EcoSask News, December 17, 2019


Upcoming Events
Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping, Dec. 21 (Saskatoon) 
Wrap your gifts with used gift wrap or cloth from 10 am-5:30 pm, Dec. 21.

Science Experiments, Dec. 27 (North Battleford) 
Children ages 5-12 are invited to play with science from 2-3 pm, Dec. 27, in North Battleford.

Mindfulness Cross-Country Ski, Dec. 28 (Macdowall) 
Enjoy a cross-country ski with the 306 Outdoor Tribe at Eb’s Trails from 1-4 pm, Dec. 28.

Promoting Energy Efficiency, Jan. 8 (Saskatoon) 
Dave Stevenson, Ministry of Environment, will discuss energy efficiency promotion in Saskatchewan at the Jan. 8 breakfast meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

Meadow Lake Tracks & Crafts, Jan. 11 (Meadow Lake) 
Enjoy a guided snowshoe hike and craft from 1-3:30 pm, Jan. 11, at Meadow Lake Provincial Park.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Saskatoon Young Naturalists 
Jan. 18, 1-3 pm – Tracks & Scats
Feb. 8, 1-2:30 pm – Chickadee Pishing
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Jan. 12, 2-3:30 pm – Sanatorium Site Birding
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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


In the News
Wetland / Waste Land: A Conservation of Change is a 25-minute documentary looking at the emerging conflicts in the Canadian prairies over the apparently conflicting needs of wetlands and agriculture.

Researchers have found toxic chemicals used in smartphones, televisions, computer displays, and solar panels in nearly half of dozens of samples of household dust. “These chemicals are semi-liquid and can get into the environment at any time during manufacturing and recycling, and they are vaporized during burning. Now we also know that these chemicals are being released by products just by using them,” said Giesy, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology, University of Saskatchewan.

The National Farmers Union’s report on Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis: A Transformative Strategy for Canadian Farmers and Food Systems examines the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Canada as well as the opportunities that agriculture provides to become part of the solution.

The City of New York has passed a bill “that will update the building code with design and construction requirements aimed at making buildings safer for migratory birds. It will require exteriors on the lowest 75 feet of new buildings, and on any structure above a green roof, to have avian-friendly materials such as patterned glass that make transparent surfaces more visible to birds flying at full speed. The bill doesn’t include a mandate to retrofit existing buildings, but requires any future renovations to comply with the standards, which are set to take effect in December 2020.”

Alberta is building a wildlife overpass east of Canmore, the first outside Banff National Park, and adding an underpass in the Crowsnest Pass. The locations were chosen as being hot spots for collisions.

Boston plans to build a bridge that will ban single-occupancy cars and favour pedestrians and cyclists.

“Wildlife biologist and science communicator David Steen has taken the most common snake myths, tall tales and snake safety rules and applied real science to them in his wildly entertaining Secrets of Snakes: The Science Beyond the Myths.” [book review]

This is the last issue of EcoSask News for 2019. We’ll be in holiday mode for the next two weeks with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve Specials - interesting and unexpected items for you to enjoy over the holidays. 

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

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

Thursday 12 December 2019

CPAWS-SK: Addressing Environmental Concerns from the Boreal Forest to the Prairie Grasslands

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is a national environmental organization. Their vision is “to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.”

CPAWS was founded in 1963 and has 13 community-based chapters as well as a national office in Ottawa. The Saskatchewan chapter was established in 1976 and was initially located in Prince Albert with a focus on sustainable forest management practices and the protection and conservation of woodland caribou. While those issues continue to be of great importance, CPAWS-SK has recently established staff and set up an office in Saskatoon to respond more effectively to issues affecting all parts of the province. Stewart Coles is the manager of operations and programs for southern Saskatchewan and outlined the work that CPAWS-SK is currently involved with.

Northern Initiatives 
Canada’s boreal forest is larger, wilder, and more intact than almost any other forest on earth. The greatest threat is human activity. CPAWS is a signatory on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which brought forestry companies and environmental organizations together to collaborate on long-term land planning and management. It continues to sit at the table with a role of representing environmental and ecosystems perspectives when establishing forest management plans for northern Saskatchewan.

Woodland caribou are shy creatures that roam Canada’s northern forests and wetlands; however, their numbers are in decline, suggesting that the entire boreal landscape is suffering. The Conservation Strategy for Boreal Woodland Caribou in Saskatchewan was finalized in 2014 and CPAWS-SK is assisting the province in obtaining a better understanding of woodland caribou ecology through its monitoring efforts. CPAWS-SK is currently active in the area north of Hudson Bay using cameras and on-site visits to report on caribou activity and habitat.

The Sturgeon River Plains Bison, the last wild Saskatchewan herd in their traditional habitat range, roam in and around Prince Albert National Park. Since 2005, when the herd numbered around 500, numbers have been in steep decline, due in part to overharvesting and an anthrax outbreak in 2008. Local First Nations recently held a Buffalo Treaty gathering, providing an opportunity for the local First Nations to take leadership in bison conservation and for youth to connect with the land and elders in rebuilding traditional relationships and hunting practices. CPAWS-SK was instrumental in helping Mistawasis Nêhiyawak First Nation to obtain funding through the Indigenous Guardians Program for this purpose and hopes to obtain additional funding from Patagonia to assist with this work.

Southern Initiatives 
According to Nature Canada, “grasslands are the most endangered, the most altered, and least protected ecosystem on the planet.” CPAWS-SK has been working closely with other provincial environmental organizations to advocate for the protection of Saskatchewan’s remaining native grasslands. This has included writing letters and sharing its concerns with government and media about the need for a full environmental review of the proposed Saskatoon freeway through Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale and the potential impact of the now approved Project Albany potash mine southeast of Regina.

The Quebec chapter of CPAWS recognized a need to protect natural urban areas and established a municipal fund for biodiversity, which has supported projects addressing climate change, connectivity, and protecting natural areas. CPAWS is now in the process of establishing similar pilot projects in Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Halifax. CPAWS-SK is working with the City of Saskatoon and Meewasin Valley Authority to establish the fund.The fund’s primary focus would be to address climate change through nature-based solutions, such as protecting the Northeast Swale and other key nature corridors from further degradation, loss, and fragmentation.

Stew Coles and colleague, Sarah Schmid
CPAWS has historically emphasized advocacy and active involvement on the ground. Its advocacy initiatives have often gone unrecognized, so CPAWS-SK is making a concerted effort to improve its communications and reach out to involve the public. “We want to bring the public into the conversation and to help decision-makers make good decisions,” explains Stewart Coles. “We’re not against development, but decisions and endorsements must be made with the full facts and located in the appropriate places.”

On a national level, CPAWS is collaborating with other environmental organizations on the Make Room For Nature campaign, encouraging Canadians to hold all levels of government to account for the promises they have made for nature. Global biodiversity is in steep decline, and it is clear Canadians want – and expect – more protection of Canada’s wild and natural spaces.

CPAWS-SK is active on social media and has instituted a blog to share ideas more widely. They can be seen at various events throughout the summer months in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina, including a booth at the University of Saskatchewan during orientation, where they hope to establish a CPAWS student society at the University of Saskatchewan.

CPAWS-SK has also developed several campaigns to raise public awareness and generate additional funds. Caribrew beer, made in partnership with Saskatoon’s Prairie Sun Brewery is brewed with peat-smoked malt harvested in caribou country. They have also launched a haskap gin in partnership with Black Fox Farm & Distillery that incorporates haskap berries from boreal forests around the world.

Get Involved
You can contribute to CPAWS’ work in protecting Canada’s forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands, grasslands, and wilderness areas. Volunteer your time; sign a petition or call to action; make a donation. Visit their website and follow CPAWS-SK’s activities on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photo credit: CPAWS-SK Facebook page

See Also 
Stewardship: A Critical Role for Landowners (2012 interview with Gord Vaadeland, CPAWS-SK Executive Director, about the Sturgeon River Plains Bison)

Natural England: Working with Developers to Protect Wildlife and Natural Areas (2013 interview with Stewart Coles about his work experience in the UK)

Tuesday 10 December 2019

EcoSask News, December 10, 2019


Upcoming Events
Climate Strike Organizing, Dec. 12 (Regina) 
Help plan future climate strikes in Regina from 5-7 pm, Dec. 12.

Pronghorn & Connectivity, Dec. 18 (webinar) 
A webinar on pronghorn: a focal species for grassland connectivity will be offered at noon, Dec. 18, by the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan.

Looking Ahead 
Kalium Observatory, Feb. 3 (Regina)
Sign up before Feb. 1 for a visit with Nature Regina to the Kalium Observatory from 7-8:30 pm, Feb. 3, hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society Regina Centre.

Project Wild/Below Zero, Feb. 8 (Regina)
SaskOutdoors is offering a Project Wild/Below Zero workshop from 9:30 am-4 pm, Feb. 8, in Regina.

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


In the News
Maintaining grasslands near agricultural fields can boost crop production; improve biodiversity, soil health, and water quality; and support pollinators and predators that will control pests.

Lorne Scott, farmer-conservationist, confirms that agricultural drainage is destroying wildlife habitat.

“We often view mosquitoes as bloodsuckers that do nothing but make our lives miserable.” However, “indiscriminate mass elimination of mosquitoes would impact everything from pollination to biomass transfer to food webs.”

“Soil is a breathing, squirming, thriving, living thing. It gives back to its environment and helps it survive and thrive. That interconnection is important in a world where we are increasingly disconnected from nature.” Do we lose that connection with soil-less agriculture?

Michigan’s second-highest court has ruled that bottled water is not an essential public service or a public water supply, making it harder for Nestlé to privatize water.

“I looked down at the plastic chair I occupied and saw my gray stretchy corduroy pants, and I realized that both the chair and my clothing were made from the same raw material: oil. I looked at the carpet beneath my feet—it was also made of oil. . . . I had a sudden image of a wardrobe that would be made from natural fibers and dyes grown within a strategic area centered on where I lived.”

“The most effective planning choices are not always the most popular.” To reduce traffic congestion, you need to remove car lanes, restrict traffic, and improve public transit.

The world’s first funerary human composting facility is slated to open in the spring of 2021 in Washington state.

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

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

Thursday 5 December 2019

2019 Christmas Bird Counts in Saskatchewan

Song sparrow

Join a century-old tradition by participating in one of the 2019 Christmas Bird Counts in Saskatchewan. No experience is necessary and it’s a great way to learn about identifying birds as each count is led by an experienced birder. Organizers ask that you register as soon as possible. 

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

Dec. 14 – Clark’s Crossing (Warman, Osler, Martensville, NE Swale), register online or call 647-390-6645

Dec. 14 – Craven & area, contact Chris Harris for details (306-569-5300, chrisgharris2013@gmail.com)

Dec. 14 – Shell Lake, contact Ryan Dudragne for details (306-520-4824, laniusludo@gmail.com)

Dec. 14 – Swift Current, contact Arnie Ens (arnie.ens@gmail.com)

Dec. 15 – Qu’Appelle Dam (Elbow, Douglas Park), register online or call 306-242-5383 or 306-652-5975

Dec. 16 – Gardiner Dam, register online or call 306-249-3280

Dec. 17 – Fort Qu'Appelle, call Keith at 306-332-3070

Dec. 21 – Borden/Radisson, register online or call 306-281-6996

Dec. 21 – Saltcoats & area, call Arden & Donna Bradford at 774-7730 or Gerri & Ron Knudsen at 744-2969, rgknudsen@sasktel.net

Dec. 26 – Saskatoon, register online or call 306-652-5975

Dec. 26 – Moose Jaw, call 306-690-6267 

Dec. 28 – Regina, contact Brett Quiring for details (306-551-8729, bquiring@sasktel.net)

Jan. 4 – Balgonie, contact Brett Quiring for details (306-551-8729, bquiring@sasktel.net)

Jan. 4 – Pike Lake/ Whitecap, register online or call 306-956-3437

Song sparrow

Christmas Bird Counts for Kids
Dec. 8, 2 pm – Yorkton – Ages 5-15 accompanied by an adult. Meet at the Tupper Avenue entrance to Logan Green. Bring binoculars if you have them and dress warmly.

Jan. 2, 9:45 am-3 pm – Saskatoon – Saskatoon Nature Society and Saskatoon Zoo Society are hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. There will be 20-30 minute bird walks at the top of each hour. Further information available online or call 306-370-8839.

Jan. 4, 1-4 pm – Regina – Nature Saskatchewan is hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at Wascana Centre. There will be a special visit from Loki, the crow, courtesy of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation. Register early as spaces are limited (306-780-9481 or rmagnus@naturesask.ca).

Note: With thanks to Nature Regina, Nature Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Nature Society, Saskatoon Young Naturalists, and Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail for the information they provided.

We’ll  update this list if we receive additional information.

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

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

Tuesday 3 December 2019

EcoSask News, December 3, 2019

ice on the river

Upcoming Events
Woodland Caribou, Dec. 10 (Saskatoon)
Branden Neufeld will discuss his research into conserving Canada’s woodland caribou at 7 pm, Dec. 10, as part of the Sustainable Speaker series.

Great Plains Toad, Dec. 12 (Saskatoon)
Learn about the natural history, distribution, and habitat of the great plains toad at the 7:30 pm, Dec. 12, meeting of Saskatoon Nature Society.

Nachos & Nature, Dec. 14 (Saskatoon) 
Outdoor and environmental educators in the Saskatoon area are invited to a free nachos and nature social sponsored by SaskOutdoors from 2-4 pm, Dec. 14.

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

Around the Province 
Battlefords Climate Action is a group of volunteers in North Battleford and area promoting action on the climate crisis. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

The City of Regina is hosting Reimagine Conference 2020: Roadmap to Sustainable Cities from May 20-21. The City of Regina has targeted fully renewable city operations within the next 30 years. “This conference recognizes the importance of strategic partnerships with our energy and business sectors, community leaders, and fellow municipalities. We hope to attract delegates from all areas to learn how we can work together with mutual goals of becoming more renewable and sustainable.”

In the News
A scientific article explains why small modular reactors may not be able to solve the problems confronting nuclear power. A second article agrees with Ann Coxworth, Saskatchewan Environmental Society, urging caution: “SMRs are not going to help in the next decade because they are just not available. By the time they turn up we can see if they are still cost effective or if renewable’s have gone beyond.”

Stop! Don’t send that email. If you do, you will add to your carbon footprint.

If we want to conserve little brown bats, we need to stop evicting them from buildings. “The long-term viability of vulnerable species requires recognition of critical habitats,” they write, “including those also occupied by humans.”

They’re still logging the Great Bear Rainforest, including very old, very large cedars.

ice on the river

‘Tis the Season
The stuff we consume — from food to knick-knacks — is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total land, material, and water use.”

Share the love without the stuff – an alternate gifting site that helps you create certificates for gifts of time or baking or shared experiences.

CPAWS Saskatchewan offers some excellent advice for keeping Christmas green.

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

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

Tuesday 26 November 2019

EcoSask News, November 26, 2019

Bald Eagle

Upcoming Events
Falconry, Nov. 28 (Saskatoon) 
Paddy Thompson will discuss the amazing world of falconry at 7 pm, Nov. 28.

Buy Nothing Day, Nov. 29 (worldwide) 
Climate strikes being planned world-wide for November 29 coincide with Buy Nothing Day, an international day of protest against consumerism.

Nature Travels in Iceland, Nov. 30 (Fort Qu’Appelle) 
Ed Rodger will speak on his nature travels in Iceland at the 7 pm, Nov. 30, meeting of the Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society in the Fort Qu’Appelle Train Station.

Grasslands: A Hidden Wilderness, Dec. 2 (Regina) 
Join Nature Regina and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum to watch the documentary Grasslands: A Hidden Wilderness followed by a question and answer at 7:30 pm, Dec. 2.

Future of Parks, Dec. 3 (Saskatoon) 
Mitchell Silver, Commissioner, New York Department of Parks, will talk on the Future of Parks and Public Space: What’s Next? at 7 pm, Dec. 3.

Civilization Critical, Dec. 4 (Saskatoon) 
Darrin Qualman will speak about his book, Civilization Critical, at the Nov. 6 breakfast meeting of the SK Energy Management Task Force.

Innercity Clothing Swap, Dec. 5 (Saskatoon)
There will be an Innercity Clothing Swap from 6-10 pm, Dec. 5, at The Underground Café.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Dec. 1, 2-4 pm – Winter Wildlife Tracking in the Small Swale
Dec. 7, 9 am-5 pm – Gardiner Dam Birding
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

Saskatoon Freeway & the Swales
If you love nature and want to protect it, you’re encouraged to attend the Saskatoon Freeway public consultations on Nov. 26 and 27. Here’s why:
1. The decisions around Phase 1 will affect the freeway’s route through both the Small Swale and the Northeast Swale;
2. The environmental data for the area crossed by Phase 1 is not complete, but Highways is making decisions about the specific route and design;
3. Decisions about the route will affect Wanuskewin's natural and cultural landscape which might affect its application for UNESCO Heritage status;
4. The route is being decided before having a full consultation with affected landowners; and
5. Highways says it is consulting with groups such as the Northeast Swale Watchers but has also declared that the route is non-negotiable.

Local people are concerned that the proposed logging of more than 7,660 acres of forest in Meadow Lake Provincial Park will do more harm than good.

Myles MacDonald, Paddockwood, was arrested trying to prevent municipal workers from chopping down all the trees and bushes that provide wildlife habitat in the road allowance.

“It’s often argued that logging trees killed by insects or diseases is beneficial for forests—but evidence is mounting that it causes long-term ecological disruption.”

In Other News
The risks of farming over top of pipelines: crop degradation and lower yields, leaks and ruptures, sinkholes, junk pipes never removed.

Canada has the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions from healthcare in the world, with healthcare accounting for approximately 4% of the country’s total emissions.

“Redesigning parks to increase the naturalness, ecological function and diversity of active and passive recreational uses . . . can support higher-density urban areas.”

Noise, especially in urban areas, can have a very negative impact on wildlife.

Insect deaths can be cut by switching off unnecessary lights.

Our home delivery habits are reshaping the world: enormous warehouses, packaging that accounts for 30% of the US’s solid waste, and increased traffic.

Wolverines have vast home ranges and always take the shortest route, whether it’s straight up a mountain or a 50-degree ice pitch.

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

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

Tuesday 19 November 2019

EcoSask News, November 19, 2019

fall leaves

Upcoming Events
Great Blue Heron, Nov. 19 (Prince Albert) 
Sonnet McGuire will share information about Great Blue Heron Provincial Park at the 7 pm, Nov. 19, meeting of Nature Prince Albert.

Multiple Species Management, Nov. 21 (Eastend) 
Attend a multiple species management workshop from 1:30-5:30 pm as well as a conservation appreciation dinner at 6 pm in Eastend, Nov. 21.

Green Infrastructure Strategy, Nov. 21 (Saskatoon) 
The City of Saskatoon is inviting public input into its green infrastructure strategy from 4-7 pm, Nov. 21, with presentations at 4 and 5:30 pm.

Palaeontological Finds, Nov. 22 (Moose Jaw) 
Ryan McKellar will discuss some of the exciting new discoveries made by Royal Saskatchewan Museum palaentologists this summer at the Moose Jaw Nature Society meeting from 6:30-8:30 pm, Nov. 22.

Saskatoon Freeway, Nov. 26 & 27 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Freeway Functional Planning Study team is hosting come-and-go public information sessions from 4-8 pm on Nov. 26 and 27. The decisions made at this stage will affect the crossing through the Northeast Swale.

EnviroCollective, Nov. 27 (Regina) 
EnviroCollective Regina is meeting and celebrating its one-year anniversary at 7 pm, Nov. 27.

Surplus: Terrorized into being Consumers, Nov. 27 (Regina) 
Surplus, a film about consumerism, will be shown at 6:30 pm, Nov. 27, in Regina.

50th Birthday Party, Nov. 27 (Regina) 
Everyone is welcome at SaskOutdoors’ come-and-go 50th birthday party at 5 pm, Nov. 27.

Beginner Bird Id, Nov. 27 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas is hosting a free bird identification workshop from 7-9 pm, Nov. 27.

Conservation Priorities, Nov. 28 (Lumsden) 
The Lumsden Valley Community Association is hosting a talk on Conservation Priorities in Southern Saskatchewan: a Nature Conservancy of Canada Perspective at 7 pm, Nov. 28, in the Lumsden High School band room (adults $2, students free).

Global Climate Strike, Nov. 29 (Regina, Saskatoon) 
There will be global climate strikes in both Regina (10:30 am-1:30 pm) and Saskatoon (12-2 pm) on Nov. 29.

cold sunrise

Looking Ahead
Youth Forum, Nov. 30 (Regina) 
EnviroCollective, in conjunction with RPIRG and the David Suzuki Foundation, is hosting a youth community forum on Regina's energy future from 1-4 pm, Nov. 30. Free but register to attend.

Winter Wildlife Tracking, Dec. 1 (Saskatoon) 
Learn to identify animal tracks in the Small Swale from 2-4 pm, Dec. 1.

SaskOutdoors Winter Camp, Dec. 14-15 (PANP) 
Join SaskOutdoors for their annual winter camp, Dec. 14-15.

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

In the News 
Climate Justice Saskatoon is urging Saskatoon residents to contact their City Councillor and Council prior to budget deliberations Nov. 25-27 to show support for funding the City’s Low Emissions Community Plan.

Students and researchers at the University of Regina have mapped 14,958 oil and gas industry spills between 2000 and 2018.

Opposing ill-advised [infrastructure] projects is not at all ‘anti-development’ but rather pro-smart development. All nations have finite assets available for construction and maintenance of infrastructure.”

The myths surrounding waste reduction – the circular economy, consumer responsibility, market efficiency, technical solutions.

BC leads the way with climate change legislation that could serve as a blueprint for the federal government.

“A good zoo should have an absolute focus on animal welfare, on conservation and be absolutely focusing on their own environmental sustainability practices.”

Opponents of light pollution in the Netherlands are urging government agencies and companies to turn off the lights so people can rediscover the beauty of darkness.

This office building can be dismantled, creating no waste as its components and materials can be reused.

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

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

Sunday 17 November 2019

Claire Bullaro: Zoos are for Education

As a child growing up in Philadelphia, Claire Bullaro was always interested in animals and had lots of pets. “Our family had hamsters, dogs, fish, and budgies, but the snake was mine alone.” One of her fondest memories is of entering a competition on the radio and winning a free entry to the Philadelphia Zoo. Claire’s love of animals and zoos has remained a constant throughout her life. Claire’s husband shared her interest in animals and, whenever the family travelled, they would visit the local zoo.

Claire’s interest in zoos extends beyond personal interest. With a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Zoology, she has always been keenly interested in education and conservation. “Zoos should be for educating people about animals,” she explains. “Otherwise you’re just torturing animals for human entertainment when they could be in the wild.”

Saskatoon Zoo Society 
Shortly after Claire and her family moved to Saskatoon, the local zoo, which had been very small, obtained all the animals from the Golden Gate Animal Farm when it closed. Claire heard that some local people were planning to start a non-profit zoo society. Claire’s husband joined the board initially but Claire soon followed once their children were a bit older. She has been on the board almost non-stop for the past 40 years and has served as president three times.

The Saskatoon Zoo Society’s role has evolved over the years as has its relationship with the zoo’s management team. In the early days, the Society wasn’t very active. The volunteers would meet with classes and youth groups and share information about the zoo animals. “We had no facility,” Claire explains. “We would meet up in the parking lot and take them on a tour of the zoo.” Jerry Haigh, a wildlife vet who had worked in Africa, was another of the volunteers and he was able to provide some artifacts to help stimulate discussion.

In the mid-1980s, a change in management led to a much more active role for the Saskatoon Zoo Society. Management asked the Zoo Society to start up a gift shop and food concession and Society members could enter the zoo for free. The City also provided some funding for educational programs.

With an annual budget of $400-500,000, the Society was in a position to hire staff and expand their educational program. They hired three educators, all with teaching degrees. The current educators have all been with the Zoo Society for over 20 years. “They’re terrific,” Claire says. “They’re amazing with the kids and full of ideas. I just wish we had enough money to pay them based on their education and years of experience.”

The Zoo Society’s educational programming has proven to be extremely popular. “When word gets out that someone will take you on a tour and talk about things, the requests start accumulating,” Claire says. Some programs, such as the summer camps, are fully booked on the first day of registration. Claire is delighted with the response. “I love the idea of educating people,” she says. “Reaching kids is really important and often they pass the information along to adults.”

Claire’s Dream Zoo
Claire’s many years of experience have left her with a clear idea of what she would like to see in a zoo. Rather than trying to house as many exotic species as possible, Claire believes the emphasis should be on local animals. “We had a group of kids visit the zoo. They lived on a reserve, but they had never seen a live moose,” Claire says. “There are city kids who’ve never seen pronghorn, or great-horned owls, or eagles. The grasslands of the Great Plains are the most degraded habitat in North America. This is something you can teach people about in a zoo.”

Good signage, Claire believes, is key. “You need to do more than display the name of the animal,” Claire says. “You want to give visitors a sense of what the animals is like in its real habitat, how it interacts with other animals, and its importance to the ecosystem.” She uses prairie dogs as an example, noting that by eating the local grasses they help to reseed the prairies and their tunnels provide a home and shelter for snakes, burrowing owls, and black-footed ferrets (now extinct in Saskatchewan). Comparisons with animals that live in similar ecosystems are also valuable. “It would be cool to compare dingoes with coyotes,” Claire says.

The Zoo Society’s current educational program extends from pre-school to high school. In a dream zoo, Claire would like to see weekend and adult programming added to the mix. A group of educational animals that were used to being handled and didn’t need to be in quarantine would be extremely valuable so that children could actually see and interact with the animals.

Ideally, the educational animals would include one or two examples each of birds, reptiles, insects, and mammals. “It would be important to go beyond animals that children can see in a pet store,” Claire says. “It would be wonderful to have Saskatchewan species, such as a skunk, a burrowing owl, and a raptor.”

Claire’s dream zoo would not only talk about conservation, it would also undertake conservation projects, similar to the work being done at other zoos to help restore black-footed ferrets, swift fox, and amphibians to the wild.

Giving Back to Her Community 
Claire Bullaro’s activities extend beyond the Saskatoon Zoo Society. She is also on the board of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, Saskatoon Parrot Rescue, Friends of the Forestry Farm House, and the Saskatoon Heritage Society – not to mention maintaining the Saskatoon Nature Society’s mailing list and membership in a church committee.

Photo Credits: with parrot, Claire Bullaro; group photos, Greg Fenty

Further Information 
Zoos in the 21st Century
Profile of Saskatoon Zoo Society, 2011

Tuesday 12 November 2019

EcoSask News, November 12, 2019

sunrise on the railway bridge

Upcoming Events
Wild Pigs, Nov. 13 (Val Marie)
Ryan Brook will present his current research on wild boars at 7 pm, Nov. 13, in Val Marie.

Guardians of the Grasslands, Nov. 14/19 (Regina, Saskatoon)
Attend a free screening of Guardians of the Grasslands followed by a panel discussion at 7 pm, Nov. 14, in Regina and at 7 pm, Nov. 19, in Saskatoon.

Canada’s Bees, Nov. 18 (Regina)
Cory Sheffield will share how Canada’s diversity of bees prepares for winter at the 7:30 pm, Nov. 18, meeting of Nature Regina.

Municipalities & Climate Change, Nov. 18 (Saskatoon)
As part of a national event, students at the University of Saskatchewan will be participating in a research-a-thon on municipalities and climate change from 11 am-4 pm, Nov. 18.

Making Clothes Last, Nov. 19 (Saskatoon)
Wesley United Church, as part of its Green Parenting series, is offering a workshop entitled Beyond Fast Fashion: A hands-on workshop on making clothes last from 7:30-9 pm, Nov. 19.

Low-Carbon Stories, Nov. 19 (Saskatoon)
Margret Asmuss will discuss what we can learn from five Saskatchewan communities, businesses and farms that work to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while benefitting their bottom line at 7 pm, Nov. 19.

Prairie Ponds, Nov. 21 (webinar)
There will be a noon-hour webinar on prairie pond abundance and the breeding success of tree swallows on Nov. 21.

Antarctic Icefish, Nov. 21 (Saskatoon)
Brian Eames will discuss his Antarctic icefish expedition at the 7:30 pm, Nov. 21, meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

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

sunrise on the railway bridge

In the News
Mark Dallyn, Healing Haven Wildlife Rescue, questions why the provincial government has issued a moratorium on large animal rehabilitation.

The Citizens Environmental Alliance wants to make agricultural drainage more environmentally friendly.

Speed kills – and yet Saskatoon’s drivers and city councilors want to raise the speed limit on a road running through the ecologically-sensitive Northeast Swale.

Saskatoon’s Innovation Place is encouraging its tenants to compost organic waste.

Changing climate patterns are as important as habitat loss for birds on the Canadian Prairies, while aquatic insects are more sensitive to land use and water chemistry.

Is green housing really green when you take into consideration the cost of manufacturing and transporting construction materials and fixtures?

Five alternate economic models – from rewarding institutions that benefit the common good to reducing consumerism.

Oil industry lobbyists are developing close, long-term relationships with federal bureaucrats – and conducting 5 times more lobbying than environmental organizations.

Sweden is using storytelling to help the public understand what a sustainable future could look like.

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

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

Tuesday 5 November 2019

EcoSask News, November 5, 2019

autumn sunrise

Upcoming Events
Passive House Days, Nov. 8 & 9 (Regina) 
Visit the Jameson High Performance House near White City, Nov. 8 & 9, as part of International Passive House Days.

Bird Feeding Workshop, Nov. 10 (Moose Jaw) 
Make bird feeders and bird treats at a bird feeding workshop hosted by the Moose Jaw Nature Society from 2-5 pm, Nov. 10.

Winter Eyes, Nov. 12 (Prince Albert) 
Andrea Nelson will uncover the curiosities of the early winter season at 7 pm, Nov. 12, in Prince Albert.

Electronic Recycling, Nov. 13 (Regina) 
Find out how the Electronic Recycling Association is reducing waste and reusing unwanted electronic equipment at noon, Nov. 13.

Repair Café, Nov. 16 (Prince Albert) 
Celebrate and share maintenance and repair skills from 1-4 pm, Nov. 16, at Repair Café Prince Albert.

autumn sunrise

Looking Ahead
Beginner Bird Id, Nov. 27 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas is hosting a free bird identification workshop from 7-9 pm, Nov. 27.

Winter Wildlife Tracking, Dec. 1 (Saskatoon) 
Learn to identify animal tracks in the Small Swale with the Saskatoon Nature Society and Meewasin from 2-4 pm, Dec. 1.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Nov. 10, 1-5 pm – Pike Lake Birding
Nov. 24, 2-3 pm – Pre-Grey Cup Birding
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

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

In the News 
Congratulations to Candace Savage, winner of the 2019 Meewasin Conservation Award – so well deserved!

The provincial government is asking for feedback on a proposal to include a Forest Inventory Chapter in the Saskatchewan Environmental Code. The Environmental Code addition will govern forest inventories created in preparation of forest management plans, pursuant to The Forest Resources Management Act. Feedback must be submitted by Dec. 16, 2019.

“For producers grazing cattle, beaver activity is part of an ecosystem chain that aids the production of lush, high-nutrient forage in riparian areas and uplands.”

Always-on inactive electrical devices cost the average household $165/year and waste approximately 500 megawatts of power.

The rarest, most endangered species get the most attention—but common species need help, too.

Generating electricity from fossil fuels is a water-intensive process. Water savings could be achieved by switching to solar- and wind-generated electricity.

Tips on how to write a petition headline that will attract signatures.

The 2020 Olympic medals will be made from 80,000 tons of recycled mobile phones and electronics.

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

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

Sunday 3 November 2019

Nature through the Camera Lens

Meghan Mickelson is an active member of Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale Watchers and the Endangered Grasslands Alliance. She combines photography with citizen science to share her love of the prairie grasslands. 

Meghan grew up on the edge of Saskatoon with grassland and a field full of ground squirrels behind her home. She and her friends would ride their bikes to the Northeast Swale. “I didn’t know it was the Swale,” Meghan says. “It was just a place to go clear my head and ground myself.” When Meghan returned to Saskatoon after 10 years on Vancouver Island, she went looking for the Swale, this time with camera in hand.

Meghan bought her first camera when she was 10 years old. Her first photographs were of her cat, her backyard – whatever was around. As she grew older, she inherited an old film camera from her mother, giving her an opportunity to improve her photography skills and become a more adept photographer.

As she walked around Saskatoon’s natural areas, Meghan’s interest shifted to documenting nature. Her first love was flowers, but then she got a zoom lens and started taking photographs of birds. And the more photographs she took, the more she wanted to know about the species she was photographing. “I went on a bioblitz at the Swale and learned how to identify crowfoot violets,” Meghan explains. “Next, I bought identification books and, after participating in a bioblitz organized by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, I started using iNaturalist.”

Over time, Meghan began using her photography skills to document the species in a particular area. “By going every week, you see how an area evolves,” she says. “I’ve been able to give my photography another purpose by using it for citizen science.” Meghan hopes that her photographs will help inform others and contribute to the conservation of Saskatoon’s natural places.

Recently, she was able to assist the Meewasin Valley Authority in documenting the species that can be found in the 500-metre swathe that will be destroyed when the proposed Saskatoon Freeway is constructed through the Small Swale. “I don’t think people understand the impact the highway will have on the area,” Meghan says. “It’s sight and sound and light. McOrmond Road runs through the Swale and it’s so loud. How do animals listen to that all day long?”

Meghan’s advocacy efforts have expanded beyond photography. She and a few other people were concerned about the lack of legal protection for the Swale. Often groups are hesitant to speak up and take action because they risk losing funding or impacting existing relationships. The Endangered Grasslands Alliance was formed to fill the gap by lobbying government on issues such as the Saskatoon Freeway. Their website urges the public to sign a letter of concern, and they are in the process of collecting signatures for a petition to be delivered to the provincial legislature. Although collecting signatures for a paper petition is a labour-intensive task, Meghan says it’s the only format recognized by the legislature and one of the few ways we can hold decision-makers to account.

The proposed Saskatoon Freeway will be located within 2 kilometres of the North Commuter Parkway and Bridge. It will cut through both the Northeast Swale and the Small Swale, which are home to numerous threatened, endangered, and at-risk species, such as the loggerhead shrike, northern leopard frog, American badger, plains rough fescue, crowfoot violet, and recently discovered marsh felwort. The freeway will also run through the Swale’s largest water body. “It’s heartbreaking to look out at this body of water and know it won’t be there in the future,” Meghan says.

Another grasslands advocate is Warrick Baijius, a geographer and PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan. Some of his research is playing an important role in informing the Endangered Grassland Alliance’s advocacy work. Although planning for a perimeter highway began in 1992, Warrick’s research indicates that environmental concerns weren’t even considered until 2004:

"Even then, there was no discussion of moving the proposed corridor, only of tweaking the location and type of interchanges. These decisions were largely driven by efficiency in traffic models, with marginal consideration for environmental impacts. Furthermore, previous stakeholder consultations focused on (at the time) rural landowners, and even the environmental concerns raised by residents were merely noted but not meaningfully addressed.

"A lot has changed since the original traffic modelling, stakeholder consultations, and public engagement. Now the Freeway will cut through publicly-owned city lands, impacting green infrastructure that the city, province, and ultimately tax payers have funded and continue to fund. The Saskatoon projected in decades-old transportation planning is not the Saskatoon of today, and neither are the residents. Results from the original public engagements are not necessarily representative of the current social values of — and landowner interests in — the Swales. There has been no serious discussion about the implications of climate change, biodiversity, or conservation in any of the studies to this point."

The Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has thrown its support behind the work of the Northeast Swale Watchers and the Endangered Grasslands Alliance, calling on the Ministry of Highways to conduct a full environmental impact assessment of the proposed project. "With a lack of any detailed environmental assessment prior to determining the freeway's routing, CPAWS-SK is concerned decisions and endorsements are being made without the necessary information and without a complete and robust environmental assessment of the impact the Saskatoon Freeway could have," says Stewart Coles, Operations Manager for CPAWS-SK (CBC News article).

The Endangered Grasslands Alliance’s petition asks the provincial government to:
(1) suspend planning for the Saskatoon Freeway and development around the Swales until a regional cumulative effects assessment has been completed,
(2) update the Wildlife Act and expand the list of wild species protected by Provincial regulation,
(3) recognize the Swales as important ecological habitat and designate them as protected areas, and
(4) ensure adequate long-term funding for research, management, and enforcement to protect the Swales for generations to come.

Each of us can lend our support to protection of the Northeast Swale and the Small Swale by signing the petition and sending a letter to our MLA.

Photo credits: Meghan Mickelson & Renny Grilz (photo of Meghan)