Tuesday 28 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 28, 2020

Mallard pair

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste, Aug. 9 (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste at City of Saskatoon’s Civic Operations Centre from 9 am-3:30 pm, Aug. 9.

Photo Walk, Aug. 11 (Saskatoon)
Branimir Gjetvaj will be leading a nature-themed photo walk for the Saskatoon Camera Club from 6:30-9:30 pm, Aug. 11.

One School One Farm, Aug. 13 (Saskatoon) 
One School One Farm (OSOF) is holding its annual general meeting from 5-8 pm, Aug. 13, on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon. If you are interested in becoming active in OSOF, email for details. The pilot project is continuing with online/virtual farm visits. Teachers are invited to contact OSOF if they will be able to hold a field trip this fall.

Looking Ahead
Nature Saskatchewan Fall Meet, Sept. 19-20 (Last Mountain) 
Nature Saskatchewan will be holding its Fall Meet from Sept. 19-20 at Last Mountain Bird Observatory.

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

Local News
Women living near natural gas and oil wells that use flaring to burn off excess gas face a 50% greater risk of premature birth than women with no exposure

Saskatchewan has much to learn from Alberta and Manitoba in developing a wetlands drainage policy

Donations to help feed over 20 birds of prey at Salthaven West wildlife rehabilitation centre, Regina, would be greatly appreciated

While woodland caribou have evolved to live with forests disturbed by wildfire, they haven't fared well in forests disturbed by people

Mallard pair

From Information to Action
“When countries put a price on carbon, their national emissions from fuel combustion grow at a rate 2 percentage points less than that of countries without a carbon price”

Calculating carbon emissions from our homes and buildings must include “emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation, construction, and end-of-life phases of building materials, systems, and assemblies”

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – why recycling isn’t enough [infographic]

Adopting a nuanced approach when considering plants and animals that are relocating due to climate change

A hydrogen blending project in Fort Saskatchewan will lower the carbon intensity of the residential natural gas distribution network

“To my fellow white Zero Waste-ers, if your environmentalism is not intersectional, you’re not an environmentalist

Nature’s Wonders
How do birds migrate thousands of miles every year without getting lost? 3 possible explanations involving a magnetic field

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). 

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

Thursday 23 July 2020

Environmental History: Placing Human History within its Natural Environment

“I’ve always had an underlying interest in the environment,” says Justin Fisher, “but I thought of environmental issues as being science-based and technical and I’m more on the humanities side.” Justin’s perspective shifted when he moved to the United Kingdom to work on his Master’s and took a course in environmental history. “Environmental history is about how we understand ourselves in relation to the environment,” Justin says. “It helped me realize that people with an interest in history, research, and writing could contribute to the environmental movement and I looked for more ways to get involved when I moved back to Saskatoon.”

Environmental history focuses on the interrelationships between humans and nature. It’s a two-way relationship with human actions impacting the environment while also being shaped by it. “At its best,” Justin says, “I think it actually forces us to break down the fundamental distinction between humans and nature." The study of environmental history emerged from the environmental movement in the United States in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Issues such as rampant pesticide use and the green revolution started to affect how some historians were thinking about people and the environment and represented an attempt to push back against the common belief of a linear progression in human history. “It’s a growing discipline with sub-fields and interdisciplinary work and also lots of young scholars,” Justin says. “I also know I’m not alone in continuing on this path because of twin interests in academics and activism.”

Environmental history is a strong point of the University of Saskatchewan’s History Department these days. Professor Andrew Watson is exploring histories of energy, agriculture, and sustainability, while Geoff Cunfer specializes in the sustainability of land use on the Great Plains, and Jim Clifford is looking at the intersections between environmental, social, and political history, with a particular focus on industrialization.

Justin’s academic interest in energy history, an emerging sub-field of environmental history, has been informed by his involvement in several fossil fuel divestment campaigns and he is an active member of Climate Justice Saskatoon. In 2017, Climate Justice Saskatoon undertook a major project to investigate the future of coal in Saskatchewan. They visited the mining communities of Estevan and Coronach where they held interviews and workshops with coal and service industry workers, union representatives, town administrators, and farmers. Their goal was to build bridges between urban environmental groups and coal-producing communities in Saskatchewan. The full report is available online.

Justin realized that fossil fuel production was an important part of these mining communities' identities. “Transitioning may feel like a threat to their history,” he explains. “How can we discuss transitioning to renewable energy while respecting that history?” Justin will be exploring this topic more deeply as he begins work on his PhD research into the history of fossil fuels in Saskatchewan.

“The transition to fossil fuel dominance was relatively rapid,” Justin says. “From the ‘60s onwards, it has become the province’s predominant industry. I want to look at how that has affected not only the environment but also labour, land use, and governance. I’m interested in the ‘energy crisis’ period in the ‘70s and ‘80s when energy prices rose and there was a lot of research into alternate energy sources and energy efficiency. Why didn’t it translate into action? What can we learn from that experience as we try to expand our use of renewable energy?”

Justin will be exploring the topic through the lens of a just transition. “Fossil fuel extraction and use has had a diverse and uneven impact. There are costs and benefits that get distributed within society,” Justin says. “There are important questions to ask. How have fossil fuels factored into rural depopulation and urbanization? The provincial government is largely funded by fossil fuel interests. How does that affect how the province has been run over the last few decades?”

Justin represents new scholars on the executive committee of NiCHE, the Network in Canadian History & Environment, a group of scholars and researchers who are trying to make their work more accessible and relevant to the general public. Their website includes a blog and podcast and delves into a wide variety of topics ranging from an article on black birds, black lives, and the unfinished work of queer ecologies to second homes during a time of crisis.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the environmental movement in Saskatoon, Justin encourages you to check out existing groups such as Climate Justice Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Youth Climate Committee, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and/or The Stand - Community Organizing Centre.

Reading List
Justin suggests the following books may be of interest to local environmentalists:

Wet Prairie: People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba, Shannon Stunden Bower (2011)

States of Nature: Conserving Canada's Wildlife in the Twentieth Century, Tina Loo (2006)

Forest Prairie Edge: Place History in Saskatchewan, Merle Massie (2014)

Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History, Sean Kheraj (2013)

The War on Weeds in the Prairie West: An Environmental History, Clinton L. Evans (2002)

Photo Credit
Mine tour in Coronach, Rachel Malena-Chan

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

Tuesday 21 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 21, 2020


Upcoming Events
Logging in the Boreal Forest, July 23 (webinar) 
The results of a recent report on the challenges industrial logging in the boreal forest poses for Canada's climate change commitments is scheduled for 11 am-noon (SK time), July 23.

Scavenger Hunt, July 27 (Yorkton) 
4-12 year olds are invited to participate in a nature walk scavenger hunt hosted by the Yorkton Flyway Birding Trail Association from 2-3:30 pm, July 27. Register by phoning the Yorkton Public Library at (306) 783-3523.

Pronghorn Conservation, July 27 (webinar)
Join Nature Conservancy of Canada – Alberta for a webinar about Pronghorn Xing at 12 noon, July 27.

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

Local News
The University of Saskatchewan has launched a Master of Energy Security program aimed at professionals and community members who are interested in a part-time, online program. Application deadline is July 31

The Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards has received a $45,000 grant to establish a food farm and pollinator garden at Prince Arthur School

Proposed upgrades to Little Red River Park in Prince Albert include Indigenous ceremonial grounds, an outdoor environmental centre, and a pilot project for low-impact camping

The SK government is failing to consider the hidden costs and long-term consequences of a large-scale irrigation project at Lake Diefenbaker

Prairie dog

Prairie dogs are ecological heroes, helping to conserve and manage grassland biodiversity

Reforestation project in the Canora area will act as an important green buffer and wildlife corridor

Nature Saskatchewan responds to social distancing with nature journals, bingo cards, and virtual tours

The Northeast Swale Watchers have resigned from the committee planning the Saskatoon Freeway: “Although we continue to believe that we have much to contribute to this discussion, it has become clear that our concerns are being ignored within this process”

From Information to Action
Understanding which birds are most likely to collide with buildings – migrants, insect-eaters, woodland species – we are better equipped to prevent it happening

10 suggestions for being an ally of Indigenous-led conservation

A growing number of PEI potato farmers are planting small plots of pollinator-friendly flowers and other plants in less productive parts of their fields

The future of Libraries of Things includes self-serve, tech-driven options with municipal support

Triodoos, an ethical banking group, has designed its new office building to be not only energy positive but also fully reconstructible

Andean condor

That’s Amazing!
Some deep-sea fish camouflage themselves by absorbing up to 99.956 percent of the light that hits them. Some even have ultra-black gut linings, likely to keep them from glowing like lanterns when they eat bioluminescent prey

Riding the air currents – the Andean Condor can fly for more than 5 hours without flapping its wings

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). 

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

Tuesday 14 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 14, 2020


Upcoming Events
SK Plants & Animals, July 22 (Churchbridge, online) 
4-12 year olds are invited to attend a nature presentation organized by Churchbridge Public Library in conjunction with the Yorkton Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA) from 2-3 pm, July 22.

Worldview Wednesday, July 22 (Yorkton, online) 
Talia from YFBTA will share some cultural/historical facts about Saskatchewan nature on July 22.

DIY Friday, July 24 (Yorkton, online) 
Talia from YFBTA will share a fun DIY nature craft on July 24.

Looking Ahead
Passive House Construction for Trades, Aug. 12 (online) 
Passive House Canada is offering all its entry-level passive house design and construction courses online. A passive house construction training for trades begins on Aug. 12.

Basic Wildlife Rehab, Oct. 3-4 (Saskatoon) 
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is hosting a basic wildlife rehabilitation course in Saskatoon on October 3 & 4.

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

on the river

Local News
Outter Limits, Saskatoon, has posted a list of outdoor adventure groups in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan

If you’re looking for places to go hiking this summer, subscribe to Robin & Arlene Karpan’s Photo Journeys

Nature-based art – fabric dying with Sage Yathon, Regina

From Information to Action
Water bottling for profit is never sustainable, despite Ice River’s use of recycled plastic bottles and its many claims of commitment to sustainability”

“Biodiversity is higher in a landscape with smaller crop fields, even for the same total amount of natural and semi-natural habitat”

A survey of nearly 1000 environmental education and outdoor science schools shows that 63% are uncertain whether they will ever open their doors again

There are plenty of animal-borne diseases close to home: “modern civilization creates conditions to trigger outbreaks and exacerbate their effects”

Hydrogen on the Path to Net-Zero Emissions: Costs and Climate Benefits [Pembina Institute primer]


That’s Amazing!
Killdeer hatchlings are irresistible

A dramatic performance by an Eastern Hognose Snake

Why you don’t want earwigs in your vineyard and other interesting earwig facts

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).

Nature Companion, a comprehensive, introductory nature app for Canada's four western provinces, a new project from EcoFriendly Sask

Sunday 12 July 2020

Introducing Nature Companion: An Entry-Level Nature App for Canada's Four Western Provinces

“Be an explorer of your own streams and oceans . . . . It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau 

You’re walking in a park or by a river and you spot a small frog, an orange butterfly, a bird pecking on a tree, or a shrub with red berries. What is it? Is the animal you spotted from a distance a coyote or a cougar? What is the tall yellow flower growing beside the road?

Four years ago, Andrew McKinlay was hiking in Big Bend National Park in Texas and was frustrated. He was seeing all sorts of interesting plants, insects, trees, and other wildlife but was struggling to identify them. “What I need is one app that lists the most common plants, trees, animals, insects, reptiles, and birds that I’ll find in a particular area,” he said. “There are lots of specific bird, flower, or insect guides, but nothing together in one convenient package that I can download on my phone for easy access.”

 And so began a new EcoFriendly Sask project. Developed for curious observers, people who are interested in nature, the Nature Companion website/app will help you identify plants and animals in your community or as you travel in Canada’s four western provinces. In just one app, you’ll find basic information about over 300 common plants, trees, birds, animals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

Scroll through the colourful photographs and short descriptions to find out more about nature in your community and enjoy the unexpected details in the Did you know? section at the end of each description.

Nature Companion is free (no ads or sign up). It can be accessed either on or off line and can be installed on your phone or tablet.

Whether you’re travelling in another province, an expert on birds but not on reptiles, young or old, or a newcomer to Canada, we hope you will find Nature Companion a useful guide as you explore the natural world.

If you know someone - or many someones - who might be interested in Nature Companion, please share it with them.

A huge vote of thanks to our early reviewers who provided so many helpful suggestions that we've done our best to incorporate into Nature Companion. Please email us your feedback - we'd love to hear from you.

PS Check the Help (the ? at the top right) for assistance in installing the app. The initial download may be slow, but the app should be faster after that.

"The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place themselves under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life." Rachel Carson

Thursday 9 July 2020

Connected, Aligned & Powerful: Storytelling for a Better World

Climate change – it’s popping up in movies, television shows, books, music, and political debates. There’s a growing awareness, particularly among young people, that the technological solutions we have been focusing on to address climate change aren’t enough and we cannot avoid environmental damage. This has led to growing levels of concern as demonstrated by a September 2019 study by Abacus Data which indicated that 50% of Canadians felt there was an urgent need to reduce emissions while an additional 40% felt it was important. 32% of 18-29 year olds felt they should do a lot more to reduce their impact on climate change with an additional 41% feeling they should do a fair bit (this contrasts with the 25% of Canadians of all ages who felt they should do a lot more and 36% a bit more).

“We’re being told that people don’t know enough or care enough about climate change,” says Rachel Malena-Chan, a climate change activist and founder of the Eco-Anxious Stories website. “But that’s not necessarily the case. I know lots of smart people who care about climate issues but don’t know how to do something meaningful.”

Making Meaningful Choices 
Rachel believes that eco-anxiety can get in people’s way, but it can also be a channel for making the world a better place. “We need to make space for uncomfortable emotions and connect with other people who are feeling the same way,” Rachel says. “Then we can turn it into something positive.”

Rachel chose to focus her graduate-level research on why more people weren’t acting in response to climate change. She interviewed young people who were actively engaged in environmental or social justice work. Slowly, the answers began to emerge. It wasn’t a lack of information or interest. In fact, people often had an over-abundance of information and cared deeply about climate change. The challenge was in bridging the gap between knowledge and action.

Rachel found that one of the barriers to bridging knowledge and action on climate change is a sense of powerlessness. One young woman Rachel interviewed for her study expressed deep concerns about the environment but felt overwhelmed when trying to craft a response that would be in line with the scope of the problem. Without government leadership, a personal-level response didn't feel meaningful, leaving her feeling like climate change is “constantly in the background of everything else, that meanwhile everything is burning.”

“People want to have a meaningful impact,” Rachel says. “To do that, they need access to meaningful stories in which the choices they make can actually change outcomes. Eco-anxiety can bubble up when we acknowledge that, on our own, our access to that kind of power is limited. Instead, we need to make courageous choices that connect us with others and find support, joy, and energy to sustain the work that needs to be done collectively.”

In coming to a meaningful story about her choices, the young woman wrestled between focusing on creative endeavours that bring her joy or running for political office in the hopes of someday having enough power to make a real difference. Today she combines her love of dance with her passion for policy, working within the dance community and related spaces to build up power, particularly among women and non-binary people – who are disproportionately harmed by climate impacts – to fight for human rights.

Rachel's work is premised on the idea that by telling climate stories, individuals have an opportunity to recast themselves as new characters – characters that aren't alone in their fears. “This is key because it’s only through connection and collaboration and strategy that we can gain power to create solutions.”
Eco-Anxiety Stories 
Rachel’s graduate research highlighted the value of storytelling for developing a meaningful relationship with climate change. She realized that the stories could serve an additional purpose in creating a sense of community among individuals concerned about climate change. “People already feel powerless. If we are also alone, there will be nothing we can do to address the problem,” Rachel says.

Trading services to get it online, Rachel has spent the past year setting up the Eco-Anxious Stories website. Her goal is to hold a place online for people’s stories so that they will feel less alone. “There’s a lot of power in naming who we are as part of a bigger movement,” she explains. “It’s all about solidarity. I’m powerful because I’m connected and aligned with something bigger than myself.” In addition to stories, the website includes resources for navigating eco-anxiety and photo essays as part of a bigger goal of supporting and taking care of each other as we create the world we want to live in.

The website has attracted interest from a number of sectors, including education. Currently, Rachel is partnering on a curriculum about climate change for young people. Her goal is to provide a lens through which to view young people’s climate anxieties by pairing the factual information about climate change with a more personal perspective. Through worksheets and storytelling, students will be encouraged to develop their own climate story. The toolkit will help students to explore what they, just like plants and animals, need to thrive and how they feel when they learn about climate change impacts on the world around them. The final section of the toolkit will look at people who are taking action, identifying what matters to them and what they are doing about it, to help students make their own personal choices.

“It’s exciting to see more attention on the emotional and psychological dimensions of engaging with climate change,” Rachel says. “Kids in particular are likely to feel powerless about what they are learning, but the reality is we all have a role to play in shifting power dynamics.”

Rachel Malena-Chan continues her work in strategic storytelling through her consulting business, EAS Solutions. As a communications strategist, Rachel offers tools, frameworks, and strategies to help make sense of what matters, what’s at stake, what we want, and what it will take. Using her experience in the field of community health, Rachel is working with small entrepreneurs to help them acknowledge their eco-anxieties and contribute in a positive way to addressing the problem of climate change.

Further Information 
A narrative model for exploring climate change engagement among young community leaders, Rachel Malena-Chan

Making climate change meaningful: Narrative dissonance and the gap between knowledge and action, Rachel Malena-Chan [thesis]

Eco-Anxious Stories

EAS Solutions

Eco-Anxiety & Eco-Anxious Stories, From the Ground Up (Climate Justice Saskatoon)

Photo Credit (first and last)
Meghan Mast & Jodi Sawatzky, Caring at the End of the World

Tuesday 7 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 7, 2020

wild rose

Upcoming Events
Nature Trivia Night, July 15 (Regina, online) 
Nature Saskatchewan, in conjunction with Mystery Mansion Regina, is hosting an online nature trivia night at 7 pm, July 15. Registration is free but space is limited to 20 teams. Register early to avoid disappointment by emailing mysterymansionregina@gmail.com.

ReCreation Your Summer, July 20 (Yorkton, online)
Talia from Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trailing Association will provide a fun way for kids of all ages to get moving while enjoying the outdoors on July 20.

SK Plants & Animals, July 20 (Yorkton, online) 
4-12 year olds are invited to attend a nature presentation hosted by the Yorkton Flyway Birding Trail Association from 2-2:30 pm, July 20. Register by phoning the Yorkton Public Library at (306) 783-3523.

Saskatoon Freeway Focus Groups, July 20/21 (online) 
The Ministry of Highways is hosting virtual public focus groups (6-8 pm, July 20 & 21 for the general public; 2-4 pm, July 21 for environmental organizations) so residents, landowners, and stakeholders can share their thoughts on environmental considerations they would like to see reflected in the proposed 4-6 lane Saskatoon Freeway that will cross the Northeast and Small Swales. Register online for your choice of dates.

Youth Storytelling
Waterlution is offering youth storytelling workshops, camps, and contests. 19-29 year olds can apply by July 13 for a place on the youth advisory board.

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

Local News 
Robert Halliday, chair of Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin, and John Pomeroy, Global Water Futures, point out that the proposed irrigation project at Lake Diefenbaker will impact downstream water users, Indigenous communities, the Churchill River delta, hydro electricity, and must take into account a shifting climate.

New highway projects fail to take into account induced demand which, in the long-term, results in longer trips, traffic congestion, and reduced speeds #SaskatoonFreeway

Oil and gas, the industrial production of wheat and cattle, and commercial fishing have been sold to us as life-giving and necessary. . . . The truth is that these industries have existed for fewer than 500 years, were established to help eradicate Indigenous nations, and contribute to rapid loss of soil nutrients, tanking biodiversity, proliferation of dangerous diseases, and climate catastrophe

Wild rose
“Mounting evidence suggests that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented roadkill reprieve, a stay of execution for untold millions of wild creatures

Take advantage of the societal changes brought about by Covid-19 to increase urban green spaces and encourage walking for recreation

From Information to Action
What if we made producers responsible for the garbage they create? Extended Producer Responsibility: Designing the Regulatory Framework outlines the concept of EPR, its history, objectives, regulatory mechanisms, and stakeholder roles

Quiet Parks International is working to establish certification for quiet parks to raise awareness of and preserve quiet places

Do you use plastic row covers in your garden? Plants can absorb tiny pieces of plastic through their roots, affecting the food we eat and possibly changing the plants’ genetic makeup

Over the past 5 years, remote communities in Canada have reduced their diesel use by over 12 million litres

wild rose

That’s Amazing!
A cuckoo returned safely from a 26,000 km round trip involving 27 border crossings and 16 countries – that’s a long way to travel in search of some tasty caterpillars!

Three cheers for BC’s white-throated sparrows whose new tune has gone viral across Canada

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 2 July 2020

Ducks Unlimited Canada: Protecting Migratory Birds Since 1938

As a wildlife management biologist with Ducks Unlimited Canada for almost 30 years, Chuck Deschamps has watched the organization evolve in response to new scientific information. But the long-term mission has remained the same – to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl.

The Early Days
Ducks Unlimited got its start in the United States in 1937 due to concern about adequate wetlands for migratory birds after the drought across North America in the 1930s. They quickly realized that the primary waterfowl nest sites were in Canada and opened Ducks Unlimited Canada in 1938.

The North American duck population had crashed during the dry years of the Dirty Thirties. Ducks Unlimited’s initial goal was to drought-proof the Prairies by reclaiming and enhancing marshlands. They focused on large projects involving dams and other water control structures. Staff would go around the countryside, looking for opportunities to work with local landowners on restoring marshes. All the work was done through easements with the local owners benefiting from better flood control and water redistribution. The first Saskatchewan project was at Waterhen Marsh near Kinistino and Ducks Unlimited maintains the site to this day.

These were large-scale engineering projects, many of which lasted for 30 years of more with Ducks Unlimited working in partnership with landowners, municipalities, and the provincial government. The Heritage Marsh Program, established in 1981, was an agreement between Ducks Unlimited and the Government of Saskatchewan with support from the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and the Saskatchewan Natural History Society and was designed to protect provincial wetlands.

Nesting Habitat
Research was an important part of Ducks Unlimited’s approach from the start. They spent a lot of time trying to understand marshes – what was the optimal water level to maintain vegetation, what factors influenced waterfowl nesting success. In the 1980s they began to see drops in waterfowl populations and turned their attention to identifying the cause. They discovered that it wasn’t sufficient to have large, healthy marshes. The birds also needed upland nesting habitat with sufficient dead vegetation from the previous season to conceal their nests. However, drainage and land cultivation were limiting the amount of cover, leading to increased predation and the loss of both hens and eggs.

In response, Ducks Unlimited moved away from large marsh management projects and began looking at ways to enhance or restore nesting habitat. Much more research was needed. Can you seed cultivated land back to grass? What type of grass seed would be most appropriate? How can it be maintained over the long term?

The first trial projects were in Redvers and the Quill Lakes where they began helping ranchers manage their pastures and seed hay, promoting zero till, buying or leasing land and moving it back to grass. Winter wheat, developed by Dr. Fowler, at the University of Saskatchewan, has played an important role in providing nesting habitat as it is one of the few crops that is seeded in the fall and is already growing in the spring when the ducks begin nesting.

With the creation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in 1984, Ducks Unlimited started opening offices across the country and tried out a lot of different approaches to restoring and maintaining waterfowl habitat. A research arm, the Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research, was established to support their work. “That’s one of the things that separates Ducks Unlimited from lots of other conservation organizations,” Chuck Deschamps explains. “The researchers look at what Ducks Unlimited is doing. What’s working? What isn’t? Our programs have changed as they learned more.”

The next step in Ducks Unlimited’s evolution was to begin using waterfowl breeding surveys, satellite imagery, and GIS to target nesting habitat programs in areas where they were most needed. The organization focused its attention on Saskatchewan’s pothole country where there are exceptionally high numbers of breeding birds and the land is more suited to hay and pasture than to agricultural crops. If the organization purchases land, it contracts with the neighbours to harvest the hay or graze the land on a regular basis.

When Ducks Unlimited started seeding waterfowl habitat, there were no sources of native grass seeds. They used commercial seeds that most resembled native grasses but, as most of the varieties had been developed for annual hay production, the nesting cover needed frequent management. As a result, Ducks Unlimited started developing its own sources of native plant seeds, eventually establishing an independent business. Native Plant Solutions now sells to a wide number of customers, such as urban centres and highways, who are interested in restoring native habitat. Native Plant Solutions also advises municipalities wanting to construct urban wetlands. “Native Plant Solutions is a one-stop shop for reclamation and restoration,” Chuck says.

Wetland Drainage
Wetland drainage has emerged as the most recent threat to Saskatchewan’s wetlands. The province has lost up to 90% of its wetlands in developed areas and lost or drained approximately 865,000 acres in southern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba over the last 40-60 years. Ducks Unlimited estimates that more than 10,000 acres of wetland are lost every year in Saskatchewan. While all drainage in Saskatchewan requires a license, the majority are unapproved and go unenforced. Government policies are improving but do not require wetland conservation and protection as part of the drainage approval process.

Ducks Unlimited’s activities continue to evolve. In partnership with the University of Saskatchewan, they have created an Endowed Chair in Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation, the first of its kind in Canada. They work with farmers, providing financial incentives to convert marginal lands back to forage. The organization also plays an active role in advocacy and education, promoting sustainable land use practices and the value of wetlands.

“Lots of people still don’t recognize all the things wetlands do,” Chuck Deschamps says. “Wetlands provide a whole suite of goods and services, from carbon sequestration to reducing nutrients in our lakes and rivers, flood and drought control, and pollinator habitat. Given all the benefits wetlands provide society, Saskatchewan needs a wetland conservation policy.”

You Can Help
Ducks Unlimited relies heavily on volunteers to host events, fundraise, or help with educational programs. Contact Ducks Unlimited Saskatchewan for more information.

Further Information
We’re Losing our Wetlands – and That’s a Big Problem
Protecting and Constructing Urban Wetlands

Photo Credit 
Ducks Unlimited Canada