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Saskatchewan’s underappreciated trails
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Saskatchewan’s underappreciated trails

By Scott Davidson Over the past two summers, I have hiked and biked nearly 200 kilometres of trails in Saskatchewan’s national, provincial and regional parks. Through this time and apart from those in my adventuring groups, I can count the other humans I’ve encountered on my ten fingers. This begs the questions; are Saskatchewan’s trails underappreciated? Do people simply not know about them or are they simply ignoring them? For many Canadians, Saskatchewan is the equivalent of “the flyover states” in America. While often written off as a place where you can see your dog run away from a week, my time on Saskatchewan’s trails has shown me that my province contains so much more than the endless sea of flatland most picture when they think of it. With two national parks – including Canada’s only national prairie park –, 35 provincial parks and a wealth of smaller, regional parks, there are a wealth of trails to be tackled in Saskatchewan. But again, it seems like there is just nobody using them – apart from myself and the occasional group of friends I take with me. Take for example the Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. At 120 kilometres long, the Boreal Trail is not only Saskatchewan’s longest trail, but also one of its few “real” destinations for backpacking. On the August long weekend of this year, which is typically a time when Saskatchewan residents take advantage of the provincial holiday to escape the city, we spent two nights on the trail and hiked 33 KM. Yet, the only people we saw – apart from each other – were two hikers less than an hour from the trailhead. So why people not exploring Saskatchewan via its wonderful trails? Saskatchewan’s residents know that the province contains much more than the open prairies its reputation is stereotyped upon. The Cypress Hills, located in the province’s southwestern corner contain the highest point in Canada between the Rocky Mountains and Quebec and a far cry from the grasslands that they tower over. Prince Albert National Park represents an accessible leap into Saskatchewan’s vast boreal forest, which covers approximately half of the province. Though it’s a shame that more people aren’t aware of Saskatchewan’s wonderful trails, there is a benefit to this dissonance as well; complete and utter solitude. Many hikers, myself included, venture into nature to get away from cell phones, work and the ever present connectivity of the modern day. So until more people discover the natural wonders that lay on Saskatchewan’s trails – and maybe they will because of this blog post – they will remain a place of solitude for the few who take the time to explore them in full.

Meet the recipient of Nature Canada’s 2014 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award
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Meet the recipient of Nature Canada’s 2014 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award

Kay Jollymore is the 2014 recipient of Nature Canada’s Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award. Originally from the interior of British Columbia, she has recently relocated to Saskatoon to pursue a Master of Arts in Archeology at the University of Saskatchewan. “I’m very grateful to Nature Canada for supporting me as I further my studies in archeology,” said Jollymore. “I’m very excited to conduct research on a little-known area just outside Saskatoon.” [caption id="attachment_17677" align="alignright" width="300"]Eagle Bluffs - Kay Jollymore Jollymore and her husband stand atop Eagle Bluffs.[/caption] Having spent the last seven years working as a consultant archeologist, Jollymore has had the opportunity to visit many remote and beautiful places in Canada. She has fond memories of being flown by helicopter in northern British Columbia to do fieldwork in areas surrounded by stunning mountains and glacial lakes. Jollymore also counts herself lucky to have spent time doing fieldwork in the Prairie grasslands and the tundra of Nunavut. Her current research interests including investigating the region around Little Manitou Lake, an area east of Saskatoon. Jollymore’s graduate research will focus on understanding how the ecology and climate of Little Manitou Lake has changed over time and how that has impacted the people who live there. She will be working closely with Dr. Margaret Kennedy and Dr. Glenn Stuart of the university’s department of archeology and anthropology. “I really love doing field work and pursuing this Masters degree will allow me to work in more regions across the country,” said Jollymore. When she’s not collecting information in the field, Jollymore enjoys spending time in nature with her husband. They have recently picked up birding as a hobby. On their first outing with the Saskatoon Nature Society, Jollymore and her husband spotted birds that are unique to the area and the experience only further encouraged them to explore the wilderness surrounding Saskatoon. [four_fifth][separator headline="h2" title="About the award"] The Charles Scholarship Award was established through the legacy gift of Charles Labatiuk and the Charles Labatiuk Nature Endowment Fund. Charles Labatiuk was an avid nature conservationist, mountaineer and world traveler who enjoyed and excelled as a photographer, writer, gardener, and pianist. These awards were introduced to honour his life and his passion for nature.[/four_fifth][one_fifth_last]Nature Canada Labatiuk Scholarship Crest[/one_fifth_last]

Creating a New Nature Reserve: Malcolm Bluff Shores
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Creating a New Nature Reserve: Malcolm Bluff Shores

Last week, Nature Canada joined Ontario Nature to celebrate the purchase of an important piece of forested land on the coast of Ontario's Bruce Peninsula. Ian Davidson, Nature Canada's executive director, and Mara Kerry, Nature Canada's director of conservation, traveled to Wiarton, Ontario for the celebration. Thanks to the generosity of Hugo Germeraad, a nature advocate, naturalist and long-time member of Nature Canada, a stunning stretch of Bruce Peninsula is now protected forever. This was made possible when Hugo Germeraad bequeathed a gift in his Will for the acquisition of a nature reserve. Located some 40 kilometres north of Owen Sound, amidst one of the largest unprotected expanses of woodland on the Niagara Escarpment, this biodiversity hotspot includes Georgian Bay shoreline, wetlands, woodlands, uplands, escarpment and cliff face. A 4-kilometer section of the Bruce Trail crosses along the top of the property’s terraced bluffs, and the views are breathtaking. Nature Canada has allocated the funds to our sister organization Ontario Nature to purchase a 233-hectare parcel – the largest of three spectacular adjoining properties that together constitute the Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve. “This very generous bequest from Hugo Germeraad will help permanently secure habitat of exceptional importance for Canadian biodiversity, including part of a major flyway for migratory songbirds and raptors heading to and from their northern breeding grounds,” says Nature Canada Executive Director Ian Davidson. “Species at risk who live on this land, including the Eastern Ribbon Snake and the Peregrine Falcon, will be protected. We are deeply grateful to the family for their thoughtful gift to nature.” Hugo Germeraad is remembered by his family as a man “completely in harmony with nature.” Local wild birds would eat right out of his hand. He provided nesting places for migratory song birds, birds of prey – and he was an avid birdwatcher, involved with many local naturalist clubs and a member of Nature Canada since the 1970s.

Double-hulled Tankers Won’t Protect Northern BC Coast From Oil Spills
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Double-hulled Tankers Won’t Protect Northern BC Coast From Oil Spills

Enbridge's Northern Gateway Pipeline Project proposes to take tar sands oil from Alberta to the northern BC port of Kitimat for export to Pacific markets. Enbridge believes petroleum products can be moved safely through the northern BC coast, in part thanks to "modern and double-hulled" tankers.

In a report released last week, Living Oceans Society takes a close look at the limitations of double-hulled tankers and concludes they're not the panacea they're touted to be.
The risk of an oil spill in the northern BC coast is one of the main objections to this project. A spill could cause irreversible harm to the livelihoods of many coastal and aboriginal communities, the area's unique marine ecosystems, the Great Bear Rainforest and 28 Important Bird Areas.
A Joint Review Panel has been established to review the environmental assessment of the project, but a date for the hearings is yet to be announced. Nature Canada plans to participate in the review, together with BC Nature. However, opposition to the project is building and a proposed legislated ban on tankers in the area could put an end to this threat. Watch spOIL for a glimpse of the wilderness at risk.

What’s at stake if Enbridge Builds its Northern Gateway Pipeline Project?
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What’s at stake if Enbridge Builds its Northern Gateway Pipeline Project?

We've reported here on several occasions about our concerns regarding Enbridge's plans to build a pipeline to transport tar sands oil to tankers in the Port of Kitimat, BC.
It is hard to imagine what is at stake if this project is built and oil tankers are allowed to flood the Northern BC coast to the Great Bear Rainforest.
 
Now there's a short documentary that captures it all...
Watch it here, and please spread the word!
Photos by Tom Middleton

How will you connect to nature this Parks Day?
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How will you connect to nature this Parks Day?

Do you remember your first experience of true wilderness? The first time you really grasped the panoplies of form, function and wonder that embody E.O. Wilson's now ubiquitous term "biodiversity"?
The first time you felt a connection to nature?The first time you heard nothing but nature's chorus all around you?
There's something very special in each of these experiences. Something sublime. Maybe a sense that you were in just the right place at just the right time, and that you experienced something truly unique. But how do you get to that place at just that time? I was lucky during my youth and grew up with an expansive wilderness literally in my backyard. I recall experiencing new aspects of nature on a regular basis, connecting to nature, exploring nature from dawn to dusk. But mine is not everyone's experience. Despite Canada being a 'wilderness nation', most of our population resides in urban areas. So if you're one of the roughly 27 million Canadians living in an urban area, how do you connect to nature? First, you find the right place. Second, you find the right time. Nature Canada's suggestions? Where: Canada's national parks, national marine conservation areas or any other protected natural area in your province or territory. When: Canada's Parks Day, Saturday July 17th, 2010. Canada's parks and other protected areas are an ever-expanding showcase of this country's natural splendour from sea to sea to sea. And they're yours to enjoy whenever you want to connect to nature! But given where you live and the fact that parks tend to be wild, you'll probably have to travel. Ah, but road-trips are always fun - why not create a nature-themed playlist for the drive! Parks Day is our chance to celebrate parks and other protected areas every year, and it helps us remember why conserving and connecting to nature is so vital. Canada's national parks system, as one example of a protected areas network, aims to protect a representative portion of each of 39 terrestrial natural regions across the country. The national parks system is complemented by the federal marine protected areas strategy, which aims to protect a portion of each of 29 marine natural regions in Canada's territorial waters. So you've got a great chance to see for yourself some representative examples¹ of Canada's wild species, their habitats and the broader land- or seascapes that support them - protected forever. Ideally, parks and other protected areas should be large enough to protect a full suite of ecosystem processes, such as water and nutrient cycling. Areas should be well-connected across land- and seascapes, encompassing multiple ecosystem types and adequate habitat for populations of wide-ranging species - especially those requiring several ecosystem types throughout their life cycles. A recent report by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society looks at how well Canada's existing protected areas meet these and other conservation objectives. In addition to protecting wildlife and ecosystem processes, parks and other protected areas provide good baselines against which scientists can assess the impacts of human activities and other disturbances on non-protected landscapes over time. In fact, my own M.Sc. (Biology) research used this approach. I've had some of my most memorable natural experiences in Canada's parks and protected areas: witnessing Common Loons and Red-breasted Mergansers drift silently across the lakes of Kejimkujik National Park & National Historic Site in Nova Scotia; standing mere feet away from an adult bull moose in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park; observing the eerie yet peaceful silence of the Rockies in winter at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. I hope for more experiences like these as I continue to visit protected areas with my family over time. What memorable natural experiences have you had in parks or other protected areas? Comment below or connect to our Nature Explorers on-line community to share your experience with others. Don't forget that Parks Day 2010 is also a celebration of Banff National Park's 125th anniversary and the International Year of Biodiversity. Make 2010 your personal year of biodiversity. Give yourself a biodiversity challenge or take our biodiversity pledge. Why not learn ten new things about nature in your region and share what you know with ten other people? Or participate in an outdoor expedition this summer, such as a bird watching trip, to connect with nature? And why not do these things in a park or other protected area...? Happy Parks Day 2010! -Alex Photo 1: La Mauricie National Park, Québec (A. MacDonald) Photo 2: White-tailed deer, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia (A. MacDonald) Figure 1: Map of Canada's parks and other protected areas (Data from the Atlas of Canada and the World Database on Protected Areas) ¹National Parks have been officially established in over 70% of the terrestrial natural regions to date, with new parks in the planning stages in all but 5 of the remaining regions. Progress on national marine conservation areas is improving over time, notably with the recent addition of the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and we look forward to several other marine natural regions receiving official protection soon.

Wee Wilderness Warblings – Summer update on Canada’s new national parks and protected areas
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Wee Wilderness Warblings – Summer update on Canada’s new national parks and protected areas

As spring rapidly passes into summer, many of us are starting to think about camping trips, hiking, canoeing, and a whole host of other great, self-propelled outdoor activities. And what obvious 'playground' do many of us - especially city-dwellers - consider for these activities? Well, National Parks and other protected areas, of course! So, I thought I'd write a wee, warbling update on what's been happening lately with respect to protecting Canada's amazing wild spaces. You can use this for 'wilderness inpiration' as you're planning your outdoor adventures for the coming summer. And if you're planning to visit Wood Buffalo National Park, watch out for the world's largest beaver dam! Since December promising progress has been made on some new national parks (NPs) and national marine conservation areas (NMCAs), as well as progress on some 'older' new initiatives, too. Here's a rough timeline of selected wilderness conservation highlights over the past few months: December 2009:

  • Minister Prentice announces launch of Feasibility Study for the proposed Lancaster Sound NMCA in Canada's arctic. In early April fears arise that a Geological Survey of Canada plan for a 'seismic seabed survey' for oil & gas deposits will derail the NMCA proposal and negate the $5 million investment for Parks Canada's Feasibility Study. This is not the case and the survey may actually accelerate the Feasibility Study.
January 2010:
  • Canada celebrates the 125th anniversary of National Parks in the country.
  • Minister Prentice signs MOU with Nova Scotia to work toward NP or National Wildlife Area designation for Sable Island.
  • Parks Canada issues a request for proposals "to identify representative marine areas" in the Bay of Fundy Marine Region, which may lead to an NMCA proposal being developed for the area.
  • Minister Prentice announces launch of public consultations around 3 boundary options for proposed Nááts´ihch´oh NP Reserve in NWT, which will protect the headwaters of the South Nahanni River. Did you comment on the boundary options? This will be the final step in protecting the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem forever!
  • Government of Canada and the Council of The Haida Nation sign the Gwaii Haanas Marine Agreement, moving toward establishment of the proposed Gwaii Haanas NMCA Reserve.
February 2010:
  • Government of Canada signs MOU with Newfoundland & Labrador to explore boundary options for proposed Mealy Mountains NP Reserve in Labrador.
March 2010:
  • Minister Prentice suggests that Parks Canada deserves a Gold Medal in conservation achievements. Let us know if you agree by taking part in our related Twitter poll.
  • A "national conservation plan" is vaguely cited in the Speech from the Throne...
  • No direct mention of $$ for new parks establishment in Budget 2010.
April 2010:
  • Parks Canada, Nature Canada and the Historica-Dominion Institute jointly announce the 'My Parks Pass' program aimed at getting all Canadian 8th graders into our NPs, NMCAs and National Historic Sites.
  • Minister Prentice announces negotiations with Qikiqtani Inuit Association of an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, a key step forward in establishing the proposed Northern Bathurst Island NP Reserve, a process that has been underway since before 1996!
  • Government of Canada signs Framework Agreement with Łutsel K’e Dene First Nation, moving toward park establishment agreement for the propose Thaidene Nene NP Reserve in NWT, formerly known as "East Arm of Great Slave Lake".
May 2010
  • No new NP- or NMCA-related announcements yet, but we're looking forward to Ministerial announcements on any of the following areas (or others):
  1. Proposed permanent protection for Sable Island (Nova Scotia)
  2. The proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen NP (British Columbia)
  3. The South Coast Fjords NMCA area of interest (Newfoundland & Labrador)
  4. The proposed Southern Strait of Georgia NMCA (British Columbia)
  5. The proposed îles de la Madeleine NMCA (Québec)
  6. The Manitoba Lowlands NP area of interest (Manitoba)
  7. The Wolf Lake (Gooch Aa) NP Reserve area of interest (Yukon)
Keep an eye on Nature Canada's website, our blog and my Twitter page to find out more about new protected areas across Canada. Enjoy your wilderness adventures this summer!

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