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More Money For Nature

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Nature is coming into focus… on Parliament Hill. Nature will likely be a big priority in the few months for the federal government. Groups like Nature Canada are leading the call for a historic investment for Nature in the budget – in fact, calling for $1.4-billion in the next budget. Environment Minister McKenna has requested a “major spend” in the next budget on environment and nature. Support for this has been bolstered by more than 100 MPs and Senators who signed  a letter sent to Finance Minister Bill Morneau. As well, thousands of Canadians have also written to the Finance Minister and their local MPs requesting more funds for the protection of nature. This month will likely also see the introduction of various environmental laws. After months of cross country consultations and recommendations, many are predicting a bill could be tabled early in February. We believe this is a one in a generation opportunity to improve and strengthen our environmental laws. Why not sign on to our call to defend our air, water, lands and help prevent species from going extinct. To read more on the request in the budget, click here.

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Feds Introduce Legislation to Restore Fish Habitat Protection
Sockeye Salmon Swimming Upstream.
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Feds Introduce Legislation to Restore Fish Habitat Protection

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Today in Parliament, federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc introduced amendments to the Fisheries Act, including provisions to restore important habitat safeguards and strengthen enforcement measures, as well as clarify  authorizations for projects or proposals that may damage habitat. Most importantly, the prohibition on altering, damaging or destroying fish habitat would be restored. Habitat that is particularly sensitive ecologically would be carefully scrutinized and activities that could affect them would not be authorized. The amendments make good on the 2015 election pledge by the Trudeau Liberals to restore lost protection for fish habitat. The legislation would also be modernized by providing for “fisheries management orders” that add regulatory tools and broaden the government’s ability to limit harmful fishing practices. New long-term area-based fisheries closures would better protect marine biodiversity and protect vulnerable stocks of fish. New whale protection provisions are also included. [caption id="attachment_29226" align="alignright" width="420"]Image of ships on water Photo by Sofia Osbourne[/caption] A new public registry would provide public access to a wide range of government decisions, improve transparency and help stop the 'death by a thousand cuts' for fish habitat. The Fisheries Minister’s power to enter into agreements with Indigenous governing bodies would be increased. A new section addresses the use of traditional Indigenous knowledge. Finally, there would be a new legal requirement to consider the adverse effects of decisions on fisheries on the rights of Indigenous people. Congratulations to Hon. Dominic LeBlanc on this very good bill. Thanks to Nature Canada’s members and supporters who pushed hard for a strong Fisheries Act and strong environmental laws in general. Watch this space—we need to make sure that the House of Commons and Senate both pass bills that are at least as strong as the bill the Minister introduced into the House today.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eh?
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eh?

[caption id="attachment_24637" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Guest Blogger Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. One might not think of Canada when thinking of fantastic creatures; however, this country is home to many wonderful animals worthy of the spotlight! Canada’s vast, diverse territory is filled with many different ecosystems and animals adapting to their niches. Adapting to the surrounding environment is hard work, and therefore evolution sometimes presents some pretty — umm — unique traits and characteristics. Some animals have developed morphological oddities, other behave quite specifically, but all have something we can learn from! Today’s honourary species is the Star-Nosed Mole. Basically a furball meets a sea anemone, the Star-Nosed Mole has a unique evolutionary development. Can you guess what it is? [caption id="attachment_35714" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Image of Star-Nose Mole Photo of a Star-Nose Mole by gordonramsaysubmissions (CC BY 2.0)[/caption] If you guessed 22 tentacle-like appendages, you’re right. Like all species of moles, the Star-Nosed Mole is a digger. They can dig extensive underground tunnels in moist soils. Found in eastern North America, their Canadian range extends from Manitoba to Labrador. They prefer soils with poor drainage such as wet meadows, marshes, and peatlands. In the underground world, it’s pretty dark so one might think a super sensitive smelling organ would be useful, right? Sure … however, those finger-like appendages are way more useful than that. These appendages comprise tiny sensory receptors called Eimer organs, named after Thomas Eimer who discovered them in 1871. Each appendage contains over 25,000 of these Eimer organs. The localization of these sensory receptors means that it can do all — smell, see, and touch. In fact, the Star-Nosed Mole basically has a compass, antennae, thermometer, extra graspers, and communicator all literally in front of its nose! For that, Eimer organs have been noted as one of evolution’s finest developments. So, how do Eimer organs work? The moment the receptors touch things, electrical signals are sent via nerve fibres straight to the brain for processing. The brain analyses the frequency, force, and response to stimulation and then formulates the picture of the surrounding area. The process is similar to echolocation but more sophisticated. Therefore, going through a pitch-black tunnel is easy since these moles have the environment mapped out in their minds. The study of the Star-Nosed Mole and Eimer organs has opened up many exciting questions on the evolution of animal appendages and its corresponding genetic expressions. How did the Star-Nosed Mole originate? How did Eimer organs originate? Are there other animals with similar mechanisms? Should changes to the evolutionary tree be made? In the past, bones were the only available remnants to study since squishy soft-tissue organs don’t fossilize well and thus their secrets are lost. Luckily for science, new technologies such as embryonic development are now a great tool to uncover the mysteries of evolutionary adaptations. The results from studying the Star-Nosed Mole’s early development are already quite exciting. Studies show that the genetic “program” to make the star nose during embryonic development is unlike any other animal appendage, suggesting an independent evolutionary history! Once the background history is sorted out then and the how is answered, the next question is why. Why did the Star-Nose Moled evolve? What environmental conditions influenced its evolution? And what else can we learn from this little mole?

Just think of it — it took humans a long time to invent GPS and yet the Star-Nosed mole had something similar this entire time! Now, isn’t that fantastic?! Tune in next time when we talk about another one of Canada’s unique creatures!

Acknowledgments: BioKids, IUCN Red List, Journal of Experimental Biology, Natural History Magazine, Wikipedia
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Canada’s West Coast Wonders
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Canada’s West Coast Wonders

From the flowing streams to the old growth forests to the peak of the mighty mountains, Canada has amazing and beautiful nature to experience. One videographer, Florian Nick, travelled 5500 kilometers to explore the landscapes of British Columbia and Alberta and shared with us his experience. This video is a great reminder of how lucky we are to have these various ecosystems in Canada and how it is so important that we protect these lands for future generations. So how you can help protect our lands and waters? Join us in asking our federal government to ensure there is new funding for protected nature in the 2018 budget! If enough of us speak up, we cannot be ignored. Canada committed internationally to protecting 17% of our lands and inland waters by 2020, but we’re currently at only ten percent. Your voice today will help support our wildlife and wildlands! ALIVE | Canada 4K from Flo Nick on Vimeo.

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