REGINA, SK: From June 24 to June 27, Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson will tour Saskatchewan’s southern grasslands in the company of other international conservation advocates. The group, all prominent figures in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of conservation organizations, is hoping to draw attention to the global significance of conservation programming and bird habitat at risk on federal community pastures now being transferred to Saskatchewan.

The event is called “Prairie Passages.” Ms. Atwood, who will be communicating with the media and her 392,000 Twitter followers during and after the tour, has a great love for Canada’s birds and wild places, a bond she developed early in life on long canoe expeditions with her entomologist father, Dr. Carl Atwood.

“The ecological value of these large tracts of unbroken prairie is internationally recognized,” Ms. Atwood said. “We have heard that 16 at-risk bird species on Saskatchewan’s most critical grasslands may be losing their legislative protection and conservation management. That concerns us, as it should concern all Canadians.”

Ms. Atwood added that Saskatchewan’s prairie landscapes and rich bird life is a secret too well kept. “This is a chance to help celebrate Saskatchewan’s grasslands as a destination, so we will be using social and conventional media to highlight the beauty of Canada’s publicly owned and managed grasslands.”

Ms. Atwood and Mr. Gibson decided recently to make time in their summer schedule to come and see for themselves and find out what might be done to bring attention to the plight of these birds and their habitat now hanging in the balance.

A film crew will be filming the tour and interviewing participants as they visit the community pastures to see the birds, while speaking with grazing patrons, pasture managers, conservationists and biologists.
Ms. Atwood and Mr. Gibson have extended invitations to Premier Brad Wall, Saskatchewan Environment Minister, Ken Cheveldayoff and Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart to discuss protecting the species at risk on these public grasslands.

After their three days in the field on a privately led tour, Ms. Atwood and Mr. Gibson will speak at a banquet to be held in their honour at the Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina. ($100 a plate dinner, cocktails 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27; dinner served at 7:30 p.m.)

The tour is hosted and co-sponsored by Public Pastures—Public Interest and Nature Canada. For more information and tickets to the dinner, see PPPI website.
(ATTACHED: Background, Media opportunities, Contact information, Broadcast media release).

Background on Prairie Passages Tour:

Margaret Atwood is a novelist, poet, literary critic and one of the world’s best known – and best-selling – authors. A Companion of the Order of Canada, and Fellow of the Canadian Geographic Society, she has written more than 40 books, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, Cat’s Eye and the Booker-Prize winning novel The Blind Assassin. Her most recent novels are Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Year of the Flood (2009). Ms. Atwood is the recipient of multiple awards, medals and prizes for her writing. Among others, Oryx and Crake was short listed in 2003 for seven awards including the Man Booker Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Orange Prize, while Alias Grace: A Novel won the Giller Prize.

Graeme Gibson is one of Canada’s foremost contemporary writers and editors and is the acclaimed author of Five Legs, Perpetual Motion and Gentleman Death. His most recent work is The Bedside Book of Birds: an Avian Miscellany (2005), “a wonderful collection of poetry and prose, folk tales and myths, which pay tribute to our feathered friends. . . .” (Mail on Sunday (UK)). It was hailed by Globe and Mail as “the most spectacular bird book of the year”. Gibson is a past president of PEN Canada and the recipient of both the Harbourfront Festival Prize and the Toronto Arts Award, and is a member of the Order of Canada. He has been a council member of World Wildlife Fund Canada, and is chairman of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory in Ontario, Canada.

Nature Canada is a member-based non-profit conservation organization. Its network includes 40,000 supporters and more than 350 naturalist organizations across Canada. Their mission is to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature.

Public Pastures—Public Interest draws together rural and urban Canadians who share an interest in conserving the great public grasslands of Saskatchewan. The province’s community pastures are ecological and cultural treasures that belong to all of us. They protect endangered species as well as soil and water quality, and provide cultural, economic and ecological goods and services that reach far beyond the pasture land itself.

Media Opportunities:

1. Ms. Atwood will be available for select pre-tour interviews. Contact PPPI media contacts below to inquire about an interview in the week preceding the tour.
2. A brief welcome event will be held June 24 at noon in Regina. Details TBA in a subsequent media advisory.
3. Media access during the tour will be limited to one or two individuals at a time. Anyone interested in travelling with the tour for a half day should inquire by contacting the PPPI media contacts below.
4. Ms. Atwood and Mr. Gibson will appear at a come and go reception in the town of Val Marie at the “Prairie Wind and Silver Sage” gallery and museum on Main Street, at 7:30 on the evening of June 26.
5. For all other media inquiries, use the PPPI media contacts below.

Ted Cheskey
Nature Canada manager of bird conservation
613-562-3447 ext. 227