Tuesday 28 December 2021

Boxing Day Book Special

shooting star

Books - new and old, fiction and non-fiction. We hope you find a new favorite. 

Action-Oriented Visionaries 
Neal Stephenson laments the dwindling of big dreams such as placing a man on the moon. Developing new technologies and implementing them “on a heroic scale no longer seems like the childish preoccupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It’s the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicaments.” He believes that science fiction has the power to inspire and provide well thought-out alternate realities. [Wired

In Neal Stephenson’s most recent book, Termination Shock, a Texas restaurant chain magnate has a big idea for reversing global warming. Will it work? What are the consequences? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 

If you’re looking for more big ideas, here’s a list of 10 books published since 2020 that address transformational change - from Post-Growth Living for an Alternative Hedonism to Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril. [Orion Magazine

Wild Hope
magazine shares conservation success stories “that show how anyone can participate in saving Earth’s biodiversity by applying whatever skills or talents they have and that a science degree isn’t a prerequisite to making a difference.” [Wild Hope

Invisible Wonders 

What does a bee look like under its furry coat? How does a tree frog use its eyes to swallow? Inside In: X-Rays of Nature’s Hidden World uses x-ray images to display creatures and their habitats in a completely new way. 

Levon Biss has used his camera to capture The Hidden Beauty of Seeds and Fruits. He says, “The aim of my work is to bring to light details in nature that are normally invisible to the human eye.” Do take a look at the images. You’ll be amazed. [PetaPixel

In The Songs of Trees, David Haskell pays regular visits to a dozen trees and listens. Haskell says, “Listening involves paying attention to the acoustics of the tree itself … A maple tree is going to have a very different sound in the wind than a pine tree, and, in different seasons, the tree will have different voices, revealing some of its physiology and nature … The sounds of the tree also involve the other creatures that are using the tree — insects, birds, and so forth. You must attend to those sounds, as well. And then humans are another creature … So part of the listening process involves talking to people whose lives are intertwined with trees, in an effort to discern some of the threads of stories that connect us.” [Utne

Water Words 

Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds
edited by Yvonne Blomer is an all-Canadian collection of poems about streams and rivers. You’ll find poems about local places and situations – Toronto’s hidden streams, the Alberta flood of 2013, and Warren’s Landing in Manitoba. 

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Tuesday 21 December 2021

EcoSask News, December 21, 2021

Christmas tree worm

Ocean-dwelling Christmas tree worms use their festive crowns to catch dinner as it floats by. [Oceana]

Upcoming Events 
Participate in iNaturalist’s Winter Bug Project from now until March 1, 2022. Photograph any arthropod (insect, spider, sowbug, etc.) found active indoors or out – in Alberta or Saskatchewan – on land or in water (but not including pets or pet food) and post it online. Experts will help you identify it and it will be added to the count.

Gardening at USask is offering the following online classes, beginning at 7 pm: 
Jan. 3 – Winter Compost Tips 
Feb. 7 – Wasps 

Details about all upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Climate Caucus, a group of locally-elected climate leaders, has asked the federal government to adopt an energy-efficient, zero-carbon, outcomes-based building code that will set a high standard for local governments. [LinkedIn

“If buildings are to make meaningful contributions to keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, limiting emissions from building materials is crucial.” [The Conversation]

“Instead of funding new and wider roads, we should build places where people want to slow down and get out of their cars.” [Undark

A cartoon lampoons the growing size of trucks and SUVs – Share the road? No way! [The Nib via Planetizen

Toronto has amended its bylaws to allow pedal-assisted cargo e-bikes for personal and commercial delivery purposes, but “emerging issues regarding vehicle and pedestrian safety highlight a need to examine how best to regulate cargo e-bikes.” [Pembina Institute

The sale of peat to gardeners in England and Wales will be banned by 2024. The government hopes to end use of peat in the professional horticulture sector by 2028. [The Guardian

Le Printemps, an iconic Parisian department store, has transformed its top floor into an haute couture and vintage thrift store that also showcases sustainable brands. [Sortir à Paris

“The Day the World Stops Shopping offers a thought experiment: what if, overnight, we reduced shopping by 25%? What would happen? … What would it mean for fashion brands? What about the people who make those clothes in low income countries? How would it affect the advertising industry, or traffic rates? What would happen to the global economy, and to carbon emissions? Nature gets a look in too, with a chapter investigating the impact on wildlife.” [book review, The Earthbound Report

Proposed coal mining in southern Alberta could lead to contamination of the South Saskatchewan River from metals such as arsenic, selenium, and cadmium. “If you’re going to look at mining development of the headwaters, you have to look at the whole river basin, the whole watershed, and follow the impacts downstream … And that hasn’t been done.” [The StarPhoenix

Shifting Priorities 
“Genuinely sustainable investing could help shift trillions of dollars toward renewable energy and other clean technologies, but only with strong parameters. So far, however, there are no stringent requirements in Canada for climate disclosures, nor is there a single set of standards for what counts as a sustainable investment—regulatory gaps that can make it hard for climate-conscious investors to know how to make the right choices.” [The Walrus

Wishing you a very happy Christmas from Andrew and Penny at EcoFriendly Sask. We’ll be back next Tuesday with a Boxing Day Book Special and EcoSask News will resume on January 4. 

Snowshoe Hare snort when they’re annoyed. Find out more on EcoFriendly Sask’s free nature website/app for Canada’s 4 western provinces. [Nature Companion]

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Thursday 16 December 2021

Introducing the Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

“A kingfisher’s burnished plunge, the color of felicity afire” (The Kingfisher, Amy Clampitt)
A swift flash of colour over the water and a loud rattling call – the Belted Kingfisher has moved on before you’ve really seen it. Fortunately, you’ll have better luck spotting them when they’re perched on a branch looking for fish or diving headfirst into the water below in search of fish or crayfish. 

Belted Kingfisher can be found near lakes, rivers, and ponds across Canada during the summer breeding season and year-round along the coasts where there is open water year-round. They have a blue-grey body (11-14 in, wingspan of 19-23 in), a white chest, and a large head with a shaggy crest and dagger-like bill. Females have blue and chestnut bands across their breast; males only have a blue band. 

These experts fishers can fly very fast in a straight line but may hover for extended periods over water as they search for prey. Once the prey is spotted, they dive headfirst into the water to catch their meal. 

Belted Kingfisher dig a tunnel 1-8 ft deep in the banks of rivers or streams with a nesting chamber at the far end. The tunnel slopes upwards so that rainwater won’t collect inside.

Did you know? 
There are nearly 100 species of kingfishers, but the Belted Kingfisher is the only one seen in most areas north of Mexico. The greatest variety of kingfishers are found in the tropical regions of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands. 

The Laughing Kookaburra (second photo) is the heaviest member of the kingfisher family. Unlike other kingfishers, it’s a social bird. Older offspring, usually males, live with the mated pair and help with feeding and protecting the nestlings. 

Despite their name, not all kingfishers eat fish. Others, particularly forest-dwellers, eat frogs, lizards, snakes, and even small mammals. 

Once Belted Kingfisher catch their prey, they return to their perch and beat it against a branch to soften it. Sometimes they throw the prey into the air to reorient it for easier swallowing. They regurgitate pellets of food they can't digest (fish bones and scales, shells). 

We still don’t know why the females have the more distinctive markings when in most species the males are the one with brighter colours. Various hypotheses have been put forward. Males are highly territorial, often remaining on their territory year-round to guard it, and the females’ chestnut-coloured stripe may help males to identify them as a welcome visitor to their territory rather than a rival that must be chased away. On the other hand, the added band of colour may be related to the fact that female kingfishers tend to be more aggressive than males and their high testosterone levels may have influenced their colouring. 

Charlie Hamilton James started photographing kingfishers when he was 13 years old, and they inspired him to become a photographer. He published Kingfisher: Tales from the Halcyon River in 1980. 

Robert Fuller, another British artist, replaced a waterside bank with a garden shed containing a hide and an artificial nest chamber so that he could watch kingfishers inside their underground nest

For more information on Belted Kingfishers, take a look at EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion app/website for Canada’s four western provinces. Download it for free to your phone or tablet.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

EcoSask News, December 14, 2021

Song sparrow

Song Sparrow make short, fluttering flights pumping their tail up and down. They prefer areas with low shrubs and bushes. [Nature Companion

“Saskatchewan has a tremendous opportunity to use energy efficiency to achieve our climate commitments … every electron saved through energy efficiency results in fewer emissions from carbon-emitting coal and gas plants.” Martin Boucher outlines 5 effective options. [Martin Boucher, Regina Leader-Post

Calgary-based Canadian Premium Sand is shifting from providing fracking sand for the oil patch to producing solar panels. [CBC

Airports’ flat roofs, parking garages, and open spaces are an ideal location for solar panels. And, as many airports are connected to the municipal grid, they may even be able to feed energy back into the system. [Gizmodo

Making Choices 
Cities world-wide are beginning to employ sensor technology to monitor and minimize urban noise. [Bloomberg CityLab

I don’t want to leave children a future “full of cement, full of destruction”. The Austrian government halts 8 highway projects in an effort to slow climate change. [France 24]


Most coniferous trees keep their foliage all year round, adding a welcome touch of green to a snowy winter landscape [Conifers of Western Canada, EcoFriendly Sask

Maintaining Biodiversity 
Yellowknife to Yukon is an ambitious project designed to protect an interconnected series of wildlands. A research team has concluded that this is an effective conservation strategy. Compared to neighbouring areas that weren’t part of the project, the protected area gained more land, more grizzly bears, and more wildlife crossings. The project also received mention in popular media (Gray’s Anatomy) and scientific publications. [Anthropocene

Environmental DNA (fragments of aquatic creatures floating in the water) can provide an early warning of invasive species entering new regions or threatened species moving outside their expected range. eDNA “could shape policy for protected regions and help monitor population shifts on a rapidly changing planet, but it may ultimately prove only as revolutionary as it is widely available and usable across the globe.” [JSTOR Daily

Nature-based solutions “can be highly effective in building long-term resilience for nature and people. It is a valuable asset in our toolbox for linking biodiversity and climate and addressing these twin crises.” However, care must be taken to recognize the inherent value of nature, to avoid treating nature-based solutions as offsetting, and to include stakeholders in developing countries. [International Institute for Sustainable Development

That’s Amazing! 
“Migrating birds push their bodies to the physiological limit, which creates excess heat. Some species cope by ascending to cooler air during daytime.” Many species also have lighter-coloured feathers, another way to stay cooler. [Science News

Snow Geese eat grasses and can often be spotted grazing on leftover grain in farm fields. They root in the mud for food so their faces are often stained a rusty orange. [Nature Companion

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Thursday 9 December 2021

Farmland Drainage & the Environment Virtual Conference, December 14-17, 2021

Citizens Environmental Alliance (CEA) is holding the first part of its third annual Farmland Drainage and the Environment Virtual Conference from Dec. 14-17. The topics are listed below along with some additional reading material that may be of interest. Recordings of the discussions will be uploaded to the CEA YouTube channel if you are unable to attend. 

7 pm, Dec. 14 – Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Projects Town Hall 
Join a panel discussion and Q&A session to learn more about the irrigation project and its implications for Saskatchewan. This session is created to hear different perspectives with regards to the project, to learn from one another, and to ask good questions. 

Panelists: Aaron Gray, Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, and Bob Halliday, Partners for the Saskatchewan River Basin 

Additional Reading Material 
Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Projects [Water Security Agency/Government of Saskatchewan] 

10 am, Dec. 15 – Crown (Public) Lands Gone Forever 
Lorne Scott’s webinar will discuss Saskatchewan’s Crown Lands, going right from settlement, into the 1930s, return of veterans in the 1940-50s, sell off in 1960s, Wildlife Development Fund, no sales in 1970s, Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA) 1980 - 90s, the lobby to save Community Pastures, and the Sale of WHPA and other Crown land in 2010-2020. Lorne will also give an overview of the current situation with ongoing breaking of native grassland and aspen parkland and the draining of wetlands on Crown Land. 

Lorne is Conservation Director with Nature Saskatchewan and Co-Chair of Public Pastures Public Interest. Lorne operates a farm near Indian Head and has served as president of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation and the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. He was a member of the provincial cabinet, serving as Minister of Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management. 

Additional Reading Material 
Selling off Saskatchewan, Saba Dar [Sask Dispatch] 

10 am, Dec. 16 – Wetlands and Their Role in the Resilience of Prairie Communities
Chris Spence’s presentation will focus on the important role wetlands play in the resilience of the prairies and what the loss of wetlands, prairie, and aspen parkland will mean during future climate change. 

Chris works as a research scientist for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in Saskatoon. He holds adjunct professor appointments at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. His research focuses on better understanding hydrological and hydro-meteorological processes in cold regions for environmental prediction systems and policy development. ECCC informs Canadians about protecting and conserving our natural heritage and ensuring a clean, safe, and sustainable environment for present and future generations. 

Additional Reading Material 

10 am, Dec. 17 – All Our Conversations Begin with Treaty – The Duty to Consult in Saskatchewan 
Dana Martin will discuss the legal duty to consult Indigenous people and that relationship with society and our environment. 

Dana is the Director of the Battle River Indigenous Relations Council Inc., a not-for-profit corporation established to assist Treaty 6 First Nations in the Battlefords region with Crown consultation. Her background is in Indigenous law and municipal planning. 

Additional Reading Material 

Part 2 of the Farmland Drainage & the Environment Virtual Conference will be held in February 2022. 

Past Articles on EcoFriendly Sask 

Tuesday 7 December 2021

EcoSask News, December 7, 2021

Green moray eel

Upcoming Events 
Citizens Environmental Alliance is holding its third annual Farmland Drainage and the Environment Virtual Conference from Dec. 14-17: 
7 pm, Dec. 14 – Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Projects Town Hall 
10 am, Dec. 15 – Crown (Public) Lands Gone Forever 
10 am, Dec. 16 – Wetlands and Their Role in the Resilience of Prairie Communities 
10 am, Dec. 17 – All Our Conversations Begin with Treaty – The Duty to Consult in Saskatchewan 

Full details on all upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Across the West 
The Government of Manitoba has leased St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park to a private operator and is contemplating additional public-private partnerships. [CBC

“The South Saskatchewan River is well into the seasonal changes shared by cold-region rivers worldwide. As temperatures drop, life in and around the river begins to change. While a cover of ice suggests dormancy, under that cap of ice, water still flows, and life carries on.” An article by the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance explains how a cover of ice affects rivers and aquatic life. [SEAWA]

We Can Make a Difference 
“Organic and agroecological farmers … typically plant a cover crop to restore their soil with nutrients and organic matter. Turns out, cover crops and other key practices in organic, regenerative, and agroecological farming also help farms weather the climate crisis. In addition to keeping soils stable during floods, they protect the ground from extreme heat, which can kill important microbial ecosystems, and help retain moisture during dry spells.” [National Observer

A tiny bridge, just 12 metres long and 30 cm wide across a UK railway line, will connect two endangered hazel dormouse populations thereby increasing genetic diversity. [The Guardian

Strava Metro is a tool for charting human-powered movement. It is now free to urban planners and advocacy groups so they can keep improving active transportation infrastructure. [Strava

7 people talk about how they turned their back on consumerism – from furnishing a home for free to secondhand baby clothes to following the 90-day rule. [The Guardian

Climate Fresk is a collaborative workshop to collectively understand the implications of climate change and trigger action. Jeremy Williams, The Earthbound Report, says, “Climate Fresk have developed a set of cards that explain climate science … It deals with some surprisingly complicated science, but participants get to the answers through discussion and sharing what they know, tapping into a kind of ‘collective intelligence’.” [Climate Fresk

Climate Watch 
Soon, 1 out of every 15 points of light in the sky will be a satellite. There are currently no regulations to govern an industry creating air and light pollution. [The Conversation

While a controlled release of treated wastewater from oilsands tailings ponds is seen as preferable to a sudden accidental release, concerns are being raised about deteriorating water quality in the Athabasca River and downstream. [CBC

MiningWatch Canada has released an interactive map about mining impacts worldwide, noting issues with polluted air, land, and water; waste management; tourism; and biodiversity. [Environmental Justice Atlas]

Good News! 
“Ecuador’s constitutional court has blocked plans to mine copper and gold in Los Cedros, a protected cloud forest, ruling that the plans violate the rights of nature.” [Yale Environment 360

That’s Amazing! 
“Every evening, after twilight gives way to dark, hordes of marine creatures — from tiny zooplankton to hulking sharks — rise from the deep to spend the night near the surface.” Researchers are just beginning to understand the purpose and extent of this vertical migration. [Knowable Magazine

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Thursday 2 December 2021

Endangered Species - What Can I Do To Help?

Northern Leopard frog

It can be really discouraging to read about birds, reptiles, or animals that are threatened with extinction. We want to help, but what can we do as individuals with no formal training or resources? We did some research and spoke with Melissa Ranalli, Species at Risk Manager, Nature Saskatchewan, and found some helpful information. 

1. Habitat Enhancement
Habitat loss or degradation is almost always one of the reasons a species is at risk. Any efforts you take to create a wildlife-friendly habitat on your property will be hugely beneficial. Add a pond or water feature, install nest or bat boxes, or plant wildflowers. Each of these actions will help a variety of different creatures. 

Swallows: Swallows are in rapid decline. If you find them nesting under your eaves, don’t stop them. You’ll be grateful when you see how many insects they can eat in just a few hours. 

Bats: Do you have a bat house in your garden? By monitoring and uploading the results to iNaturalist, you can provide valuable information about the best bat house design

Insects: Insects are particularly valuable as they are the primary food source for so many reptiles, amphibians, birds, and even some animals. They’ll really appreciate it if you keep your yard on the wild side. Don’t rake the leaves in autumn. Don’t mow the grass in early spring. Build an insect hotel. Leave a pile of detritus in an out-of-the-way corner. You’ll be creating cozy spots where insects can live and over-winter. 

You’ll gain lots of information and probably native seeds and plants by joining the Butterflyway Project in your local community, which encourages individuals and families to plant pollinator-friendly gardens. 

Dead Trees & Fallen Logs: We tend to remove dead trees or fallen branches from our private and municipal properties, but they play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity. From 10-40% of birds and mammals nest and raise their young in holes in trees. By maintaining multi-age ecosystems, we’re providing a habitat for birds, insects, and animals as well as maintaining the nutrient cycle. 

Pesticide-free: The pesticides and herbicides that you spray on your grass and lawn are poisons and will also harm insects, birds, and other wildlife that eat sprayed vegetation. 

Clean Up Litter: Removing litter from shorelines and other natural areas protects wildlife from hazards (such as ducks getting tangled in fishing line) and the soil and water from contaminants (cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals).
Barn swallows

Farms & Acreages: If you live on a rural property, you have a fantastic opportunity to protect and maintain the wildlife that share your land. Nature Saskatchewan offers 5 stewardship programs that engage rural landowners in conserving habitat to protect species at risk. 

You can also make sure any water running through your property isn’t contaminated and take steps to prevent run-off and erosion. One couple whose homes fronts onto a lake stopped weeding their shoreline last year and have noticed that they have far more wildlife – beavers, killdeer, and turtles. 

Katie and Aaron Suek of the Restoring 71 Project believe that acreages are a missed opportunity as they have so much potential for positioning the protection and restoration of natural areas as a convenience rather than an added effort. “It’s so much less work and you’ll see so much more wildlife if you let it go wild,” Katie says. 

The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan offers a guide to acreage living that you may find useful.
Burrowing owl

2. Species Reintroduction 
It can be tempting to attempt to reintroduce a wild creature such as a frog or lizard onto your property, but it’s risky. The habitat may be wrong or it may be the wrong species for your particular area (for example, there are several different varieties of northern leopard frog). A more effective approach is to volunteer or donate to support a professional reintroduction project. 

Volunteer: If your primary interest is plants, why not volunteer with the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan and help pull out invasive species or plant native plants along roadsides? Volunteers with the Nature Conservancy of Canada help with tree planting, reducing barriers and hazards to wildlife, installing nest boxes, and many other projects. There have been opportunities in the past to assist with wildlife reintroduction projects at Grasslands National Park

Donate: Conservation projects are always looking for additional funds and would welcome your support. Here are just a couple of local programs. 

The Calgary Zoo’s conservation research team is using science to sustain threatened wildlife. They are breeding whooping cranes, northern leopard frogs, swift foxes, and various other species for reintroduction into the wild. 

The Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre offers displays and educational programs to promote the conservation of this endangered owl and its habitat. A similar program in British Columbia, the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia, has a captive breeding program and creates and maintains a system of artificial burrows for released owls. 

Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada play an important role in preserving and restoring ecologically significant areas by planting trees, restoring wetlands, and removing invasive species and wildlife hazards. They offer a variety of volunteering, donation, and legacy options.

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Tuesday 30 November 2021

EcoSask News, November 30, 2021


Upcoming Events 
One School One Farm is planning an online talk on carbon sequestration in shelterbelt trees at 7 pm, Dec. 7. 

Gardening at USask is offering the following online classes. All classes begin at 7 pm. 
Dec. 9 – Birds in Winter 
Dec. 12 – Insects in Your Garden: An Introduction to Beetles 

There will be a presentation on Saskatchewan’s woodland caribou at the 7:30 pm, Dec. 9, online meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society. 

Martensville families are invited to make lanterns and take a walk to light up the night with Wildernook Fresh Air Learning at 5, 6:30 & 8 pm, Dec. 12. 

Full details on all events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Across the West
The “Trudeau government needs to clarify its competing objectives, with goals to reduce algae blooms while ramping up agricultural production, which will increase nutrient runoff … ‘Lake Winnipeg won’t wait and we need to get on with restoring (its) health.’” [Winnipeg Free Press

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has acquired 646 hectares of grasslands and wetlands located along the eastern shoreline of Chaplin Lake, the second-largest salt lake in Canada. During spring and fall migrations, thousands of shorebirds use Chaplin Lake and the surrounding grasslands to refuel or nest. [Toronto Star

“More than 70% of boreal woodland caribou herds in Canada are in decline, and recent analysis suggests that provincial exemptions allowing forestry and oil and gas activities in critical habitat have accelerated the trend.” [Pembina Institute

Farming the Future: Agriculture and climate change on the Canadian Prairies - a report on improving climate resilience while supporting local livelihoods. [International Institute for Sustainable Development

A “Victoria-based photographer and activist has spent much of the past 15 years searching for and photographing some of Canada's biggest, oldest trees … Most of the trees that Watt finds are slated to be cut down.” [CBC]
caribou / reindeer

Neighbourhood Planning 
“To create a circular and regenerative future, we should be looking at our neighbourhoods as fertile grounds of change, not merely as consumers of change decided elsewhere … Because the kind of transformative change needed doesn’t happen abstractly – out there – it happens here, in our houses, our offices, our streets, our river catchments, our institutions. And critically, change happens in our own ways of thinking and being … We need to be alert to context and not ask ‘what will work, generically?’ but ‘what will work and be right for this place and contribute to the bigger picture?’” [RSA

Durham Region’s green building practices are expected to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build infrastructure that is resilient to future climate change and create a healthier environment for residents.” [DurhamRegion.com

“Economists recognize that congestion reflects underpricing: driving is so cheap that it becomes inevitable. You can have free roads or you can have free-flowing traffic but it is economically infeasible to have both.” [Planetizen

6 ways to make your flights greener and ecologically friendly. [Hand Luggage Only

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

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner). 

Thursday 25 November 2021

Saskatchewan Christmas Bird Counts 2021

House Finch

In 2020, almost 15,000 people participate in 469 Christmas Bird Counts across Canada. They recorded sightings of more than 3 million birds belonging to 296 different species. The annual count is the longest-running citizen science project in North America (2021 is the 122nd count) and plays an important role in tracking changes in the numbers and varieties of birds in different locations. 

For example, Canada Geese were notable by their absence from the river in Saskatoon in 2020, but participants spotted 2 female or juvenile Hooded Merganser for the first time in 15 years and Gray Partridge were at a 15-year high. House Finch numbers were higher than the previous year but still below the long-term average. House Finch are susceptible to Avian Conjunctivitis; the local population has declined in recent years and has yet to recover. 

In 2019, Saskatchewan participants spotted 126,813 birds, slightly higher than the century average of 125,000. This was partly due to a record high count of 33,735 Canada Geese in Estevan. Rarities included a Pacific Loon, a new species for Saskatchewan, a Double-crested Cormorant at Gardiner Dam, and a Northern Cardinal at Prince Albert. 

There are plenty of opportunities for people to participate in this year’s Christmas Bird Counts. Dates are listed below for Regina and Saskatoon. Elsewhere in the province, we recommend you contact your local nature society. Contact Nature Saskatchewan to find out if there will be a Christmas Bird Count for Kids in Regina.
Double-crested Cormorant

Nature Regina will be organizing the following Christmas Bird Counts. If you are interested in volunteering, contact natureregina@gmail.com 

Saturday, December 18 – Craven 
Sunday, December 26 – Regina 
Sunday, January 2 – Balgonie (includes White City and Pilot Butte) 

The Saskatoon Nature Society is organizing the following Christmas Bird Counts in the Saskatoon area. To register for a count, complete the online form on the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website

Saturday, December 18 – Clark’s Crossing (Warman, Martensville, Osler, NE Swale) 
Sunday, December 19 – Qu’Appelle Dam (Elbow) 
Monday, December 27 – Saskatoon (city and south) 
Tuesday, December 28 – Christmas Bird Count for Kids (Saskatoon Young Naturalists
Monday, January 3 – Pike Lake/Chief Whitecap 

Tuesday 23 November 2021

EcoSask News, November 23, 2021

miniature waterfall

Upcoming Events 
Learn about the effects of land use and climate change on ferruginous hawk habitat in Canada at the online WildEcol Seminar at 3:30 pm, Nov. 26. 

The Society for Ecological Restoration – Western Canada is holding its AGM online from 11 am-2:30 pm PST, Nov. 28. 

Learn about orienteering, geocaching, and Adventure Smart online with SaskOutdoors at 7 pm, Nov. 30. 

EMTF SK is hosting a presentation on energy management systems – leveraging IoT, AI, and cloud-based solutions at a Dec. 1 breakfast meeting. 

Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is hosting an online lecture on Bridging Science, Policy, Community and More: Cases of Transdisciplinarity from Climate Change from 12-12:55 pm, Dec. 2. 

Full details on all upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Abbotsford, Calgary, Fort Simpson, New Orleans – flooding is no longer a rare, isolated incident. We have drained our wetlands, logged our forests, and built homes and communities without taking climate change into consideration. “Water management techniques developed over the 20th century will no longer be useful in this vastly changed water future. Every fen, tree and moss banked stream will count even more so than they have in the past.” [from an article by Edward Struzik, author of Swamplands: Tundra Beavers, Quaking Bogs and the Improbable World of Peat, The Tyee] 

“We need extraordinary and co-ordinated planning and efforts to protect our freshwater through conservation of rivers, lakes and their watersheds. And we need a national water agency with the capacity, financial means and legal foundation to co-ordinate this. We need the research and science capacity to inform wise water decisions and build state-of-the art water prediction and management systems.” (John Pomeroy, Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change, U of S, Globe and Mail

Two academic papers examine how flood risk management on the Canadian prairie has defaulted towards flood resistance and recovery rather than resilience. “If the aim of flood risk management (FRM) is to increase society’s resilience to floods, then a holistic treatment of flood risk is required that addresses flood prevention, defence, mitigation, preparation, and response and recovery.”
frost covered grass

What is the best approach to conserving prairies in the face of rapid climate change? Chris Helzer says, “We can’t afford to be so invested in current or past versions of our prairies that we don’t allow them to adapt to changing conditions. We’re hurtling into the future whether we like it or not. Let’s make sure we bring prairies along with us.” [Prairie Ecologist

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Arnold Bercov, past president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada; Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee; and Ben Parfitt, resource policy analyst, CCPA BC Office, outline the problems and possible solutions for a forest revolution in BC: “Perpetuating logging rates that anyone with an iota of common sense knew could not go on was guaranteed to have brutal consequences, including old-growth forests so fragmented from logging that they are no longer capable of supporting caribou and vibrant songbird populations; community watersheds where once-clean drinking water has turned to mud; drastically reduced or eradicated salmon stocks; and 41,000 direct jobs lost in the forest industry in just 20 years.” [The Tyee]
Hooded crow bathing

Sustainable Joy 
“A little daily crow therapy reminds me that other lives — every bit as ordinary and epic as mine — are being lived alongside mine … This is a sustainable joy, free, readily available to anyone, and consuming no natural resources … and it’s the kind of joy I’m trying to rely on more and more.” [The Urban Nature Enthusiast

Wild and wonderful – a 3-minute video about the unseen world of living microscopic plankton. [Vimeo

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Thursday 18 November 2021

Community Highlight: Saskatchewan Alliance for Water Sustainability

1. How and when did you form your group? 
The Saskatchewan Alliance for Water Sustainability (SAWS) is a grassroots, not-for-profit, volunteer organization made up of members from Last Mountain Lake Stewardship Group (LMLSG), the Calling Lakes Ecomuseum (CLEM), and other concerned citizens. 

The LMLSG was formed in 2002 to steward and monitor the health of Last Mountain Lake water while sustaining the resources for the communities that depend on them. 

CLEM is a grassroots arm of the United Nations and works very closely with the Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development - Saskatchewan. CLEM believes in protecting the Qu’Appelle Valley’s Calling Lakes using the UN’s 17 goals for sustainable development. 

SAWS was formed on Oct 20, 2017, in response to the Saskatchewan Government giving the green light for the Quill Lakes Watershed Association #14 to drain highly saline water from the Kutawagan-Pel lakes area in the Quill Lakes basin into Last Mountain Lake without an environmental impact assessment. This project, called the Common Ground Drainage Channel Diversion Project (CGDCDP), was the first step in a much larger drainage project that would drain water from the Quill Lakes watershed, 200 kilometres north of Regina, into the Qu’Appelle lakes and river system and eventually into Manitoba, courtesy of the Assiniboine River. 

We have learned from the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan that the transfer of salt-rich water from the Quill Lakes into Last Mountain Lake could have serious consequences for water quality in the Qu’Appelle River system. The additional salt and nutrients entering Last Mountain Lake would have a negative effect on fish and wildlife habitat, especially in the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area, a federally protected Ramsar site. The proposed volume of water flowing downstream would cause erosion and high-water levels in the smaller lakes in the Lower Qu’Appelle watershed. Further, the chemical composition of salt in the Quill Lakes is far different from that in Last Mountain Lake and would present a contaminant to game fish in the Qu’Appelle lakes and a human health hazard. Without an environmental impact assessment, we will not know the damage until it is too late. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
We focus on creating awareness about wetlands and the negative impacts that drainage has without a wetland conservation policy. According to the Water Security Agency’s own reports, high water levels in the Quill Lakes are the result of high rain events and agricultural drainage. Despite committing to do so in 2017, the Agency has not closed any of the illegal drainage

Our goal is to work with others to implement long-term solutions for the Quill Lakes high water levels that will benefit all stakeholders and protect the environment. We focus on educating the public and stakeholders, creating a conversation, and advocating for sustainable water management and conservation. 

Our activities are important because people do not understand the importance of wetlands. Wetlands provide all kinds of benefits from flood and drought protection, to filtering contaminants and nutrients from our water, to providing habitat for fish and wildlife including pollinators, to fighting climate change. 

Our education and communication activities include: 
  • Hosting public meetings within our communities to inform residents of how wetland drainage contributes to the pollution of our lakes and rivers. 
  • Producing monthly newsletters that keeps residents up to date on our progress and current news. 
  • Promoting the development of a round table made up of all stakeholders, including scientists, to develop solutions for the Quill Lakes flooding. The Water Security Agency declined to establish one. 
  • Organizing meetings with the Water Security Agency and its Minister to present solutions and discuss WSA’s proposed plans on regulating agricultural drainage. 
  • Contacting provincial government officials and stakeholders requesting they develop a wetland policy for this province. 
  • Producing media releases and responding to interviews. 
  • Creating a SAWS website that provides a history of our communication documents and events. 
  • Maintaining a Facebook page to increase awareness that allows for public discussion. Posts include valuable facts and initiatives on how we can improve water quality, conserve wetlands and our natural environment, show the benefits of wetland protection, and provide news and invitations to webinars and other current events. 
  • Connecting with universities, scientists, and other non-profit groups. 
  • Attending and helping the Citizens Environmental Alliance organize its annual farmland drainage conferences and workshops. 

3. What have been your success to date? 
Our efforts supported the halting of the Quill Lakes Drainage Project without an environmental impact assessment. We gave our support to the judicial review application filed by the Pasqua First Nation (PFN) against the Minister of Environment and Quill Lakes Watershed Association. On January 22, 2018, the drainage plan was withdrawn and any future project cannot proceed without an environmental impact assessment unless PFN, LMLSG, CLEM, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, and the public are first notified and given the opportunity for a full written hearing. 

We have created a positive presence in our communities and have gained their interest and support in efforts to protect water and the environment. Our success is due to our grassroots approach of meeting with the communities, providing science from Saskatchewan universities, and being open and transparent about the process. 

4. What would you like to achieve in future? 
Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that does not have a wetland conservation policy. This lack of regulation is negatively impacting our economy, our communities, and the environment. We would like to see a wetland conservation policy similar to Alberta or Manitoba’s adopted by summer 2022 that provides adequate mitigation when drainage occurs with negative impacts such as downstream flooding, nutrient loading that leads to algae blooms in our lakes, loss of habitat, and the loss of climate change resiliency. 

We would also like to see the Water Security Agency become much more transparent, notifying the public when and where they are licensing drainage projects and providing quality information and alerts for our lakes in an easy-to-use online format. 

5. If you could have 3 wishes for improving your community, what would they be? 
#1 Working together is our only hope for a sustainable future. Partnership is #17 of the United Nations’ goals of sustainable development. 

#2 A Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Policy building the protection of wetlands into all developments including agriculture, municipalities, recreation, and industry will benefit all Saskatchewan residents. We need natural infrastructure like wetlands to build adaptation and resiliency and to ensure business and environmental success for this province (UN goal #13). 

#3 We need leadership from the Federal and Provincial governments on water management that is based on science and climate change data rather than politics. 

6. Are there volunteer opportunities with your organization? If so, please describe them and indicate how people can contact you. 
We welcome volunteers and ensure volunteer success by working to their strengths. We encourage those with the following skills to reach out to us - writers, artists, scientists, IT experts, and industry expertise (agriculture, potash, fishing etc.). We can be contacted at saskaws@gmail.com

Photo credits: LMLSG (water sampling on Last Mountain Lake), SAWS (boy playing), CLEM (PowWow Parade)

Edited to correct full title of SAWS and a few other details - late afternoon, November 18, 2021

See Also

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).

Tuesday 16 November 2021

EcoSask News, November 16, 2021


Upcoming Events 
CaféSci Saskatoon is hosting an online presentation on UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: Reconciling people and planet at 7:30 pm, Nov. 23. 

SK-PCAP is hosting a noon-hour webinar on prescribed fire as a conservation management tool on Nov. 30. 

Full details on all upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Climate Solutions 
“Research suggests that there are significant health and learning benefits for students attending green schools: schools that are built to last and fill classrooms with natural light and freshly-circulated air.” Find out more in this 13-minute video. [Sustainable Building Manitoba

New Las Vegas golf courses won’t be able to access municipal water. Golf courses in southern Nevada annually consume over 1400 times as much water as a residential home. [Las Vegas Review-Journal

Passive solar heating systems could supply enough heat for a third of the residential space in the United States. Skylights, for example, are an untapped resource. [Futurity

Washington, DC’s wastewater treatment plant describes itself as a resource recovery facility. “When recycled properly, poop can power your home, cook your food, fuel your car, and even stave off algae blooms and floods.” [Nautilus

Is there a case for sucking carbon out of the air? A long, in-depth article explores the pros and cons of this visionary proposal. Is it crucial to our long-term survival or simply a boondoggle to keep big oil in operation? [Mother Jones]
shelf fungus

We Can Do Better 
“Sharrows don’t make a road safer — there’s data that they are worse than doing nothing. Drivers don’t understand them. They extend no actual legal benefits to riders. Cities like to install them to seem like they’re doing something. In short, sharrows are bullshit.” [Peter Flax

“While governments play a role in certain policies, such as transit and urban planning, consumers can shop their way out of a warming climate … Just make everything last longer and buy less." [CBC]

Mushrooms are Magic 
“All mushrooms are magic … It’s time to say their name by acknowledging them all around - from the dinner table to international conservation policies - and including them in our conception of ecosystems that need to be cherished and protected. Say it with me: the world is inhabited by fauna, flora and funga.” [The Guardian

For more information about the all-important presence of fungi in our lives, check out the article we posted last December. [EcoFriendly Sask

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).