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2018: The Year to See Alberta’s Wild Horses
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2018: The Year to See Alberta’s Wild Horses

The following is a guest blog from one of Women for Nature members, Sandy Sharkey who is a photographer and nature explorer by heart. Growing up, she spent countless hours catching frogs, saving baby birds, and pouring over every page of the complete Funk and Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia series… dreaming about seeing each and every one of the animals in those books. You can see more of her amazing photography and thoughts about how amazing nature is at: www.sandysharkey.com. The wild stallion appeared at the edge of a forest, his thick bay coat glistening in the sunshine.  Ears perked, eyes alert, he watched me as intently as I watched him.  A spindly twig was tangled in his forelock.  This either added to his wild appearance, or gave him a comical look.  Before I could decide, I realized that I too had a twig stuck in my hair.  This is what happens when you spend a lot of time in the bushes. I felt a kindred connection with this horse. [caption id="attachment_35949" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Photo by Sandy Sharkey.[/caption] Ninety minutes north of Calgary, the small town of Sundre (population 2729) is considered the gateway to Alberta’s Rocky Mountain foothills, home to the wild horses that have survived here for over two and a half centuries.  A large mural stretched across the Sundre Museum proudly displays a pictorial history of the area’s wild horses, tough sturdy animals that roam the forests, bogs and grasslands in close-knit family bands. Just after sunrise on a crisp January morning, I joined my expert guides Darrell Glover and Duane Starr (founders of the organization ‘Help Alberta Wildies’).   Both retired, Darrell and Duane work tirelessly to increase the awareness and protection of these wild horses.  On any given day, they fill the role of ‘guardian angels’.  Darrell regularly flies his Cessna airplane over the rangeland to ensure that the family bands are healthy, safe, and documented.  Duane is by his side, using his instincts and expertise as a wildlife photographer to capture wild horse images that are as much a form of art as they are a source of documentation. On this day, we were a trio in a 4 by 4 truck, headed for the ‘back roads’ of the Alberta foothills.  Within minutes, a cow moose appeared, stopping for a quick glance before lumbering on.   As we continued our climb through majestic forests with sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, a red fox popped out of the snow.  A tasty rodent had eluded him this time, but he went right back to work, burying his nose into a snowdrift. ‘Horses’!  Darrell spotted them first.  A small family band of Alberta wild horses stood knee-deep in snow on the edge of a forest.  Three mares and a stallion with a twig stuck in his forelock.   We quietly got out of the truck, stepping through thick brush to get a better view, but keeping a respectful distance.   The wild horses had thick winter coats that glistened in the sun, and manes the colour of midnight.  I was struck by their beauty.  The mares ignored our presence, digging to uncover the forage beneath the snow.   But the stallion remained curious and watchful.  Then with a toss of his mane, he gave his mares the signal, and the horses galloped through the deep snow and disappeared into the forest. [caption id="attachment_35947" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Alberta wild horses standing by the edge of the forest, captured by Sandy Sharkey.[/caption] We continued on, and found more bands of wild horses at the forest edge, or in clearings or bogs, each sighting different from the rest but equally exhilarating.   Last spring’s foals were now almost as tall as their mothers, prancing about and kick their heels into the fresh mountain air. Our drive through the foothills was an easy loop.  My mind kept repeating the same thought:

Most people have never seen a wild horse.

There is a belief among the First Nations people that a spiritual connection exists between mankind and wild horses.  If wild horses come to you in your dreams, you are blessed with certain powers. You don’t have to search far and wide to find the wild horses of Alberta.   Stallions tend to keep their family bands in familiar territories.  With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, a wild horse sighting is pure gold for a nature lover. At the end of our loop, the sun began to set on the foothills.  Duane, Darrell and I headed for home (or in my case, my motel room) but not before the day delivered one final gift:  a large band of wild horses on the edge of a bog, with two dueling stallions in a sparring match.  Kicking up heels, kicking up snow, boys doing what boys do. [caption id="attachment_35945" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Two dueling Stallions, photo by Sandy Sharkey.[/caption]
For your next wildlife experience, the wild horses of Alberta will leave you breathless. In fact, if you contact ‘Help Alberta Wildies’, Duane or Darrell will be glad to tell you where they are.   And maybe even escort you to them, since they were likely going out to see them that day anyway. The Rocky Mountain foothills are home to red fox, lynx, cougar, wolves, bears, moose and elk. The wild horses of Alberta have earned their place as one of the star attractions in this pristine wilderness. For more Alberta wild horse images, please see www.sandysharkey.com.
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The Magnificent Snowy Owl
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The Magnificent Snowy Owl

It glided toward me in perfect silence, ghostly and powerful, back-lit by the sun and almost invisible against the backdrop of the winter-white field near that lonely train station. Its eyes bright and yellow - the hunter was scanning the stubble in the field for unwary mice or squirrels.


[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Valerie Assinewe Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Valerie Assinewe. Anyone who has seen a Snowy Owl will always remember the sight. The owl's bright, piercing yellow eyes and snow-white feathers make for a striking impression, and due to elusive nature, catching a glimpse of a Snowy Owl is a truly unique experience. Despite being so easily recognizable, there are many of us that aren't as familiar with the Snowy Owl as we may believe. Here are a few facts on this magnificent species: Where do they live? The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiaca) is a bird of the high Arctic tundra, always found in proximity to its food sources. Although a large number of these owls stay in their northern range during the winter, some migrate into southern Canada. What do they look like? The Snowy Owls have a rounded head with no ear tufts. Their eyes are a piercing yellow and the bill is black.  It is the largest bird in the Arctic. Adults weigh 1.6-2.9 kg and are 52-71 cm long with a wingspan of 126-145 cm: interestingly, the female is larger than the male.Image of a Snowy Owl Young male owls get whiter as they age. Some adult males are completely white, while others retain small flecks of black and brown on the body and wings. Females are darker than males, with dusky spotting, and never become totally white. On the ground they appear bulky because the legs and feet are covered with feathers. What do they eat? The Snowy Owl is a carnivore, and its diet is typically small mammals. It prefers lemmings when these are available, but also preys on ground squirrels, hares, rabbits, and voles. They hunt birds such as ducks, geese, grebes, murrelets and songbirds. They eat fish and even carrion. How do they reproduce? Snowy Owls usually breed between May and September. Breeding pairs may form on the wintering grounds, or as the adults arrive in the Arctic. Nests with optimal visibility are on the ground, often built on mounds or boulders. Depending on the prey availability, the clutch size can be 3-16 eggs; if food is scarce, the owls may not breed that year. The eggs are incubated by the female for 31-33 days, during which the male provides her food. The young leave the nest after 2-3 weeks, but they are not able to fly well until ~7 weeks. The young are fed by the parents for up to 9-10 weeks, until they are able to hunt for themselves. Captive Snowy Owls have lived up to 28 years, but those in the wild have an average life span of 10 years.  Interesting stuff
  • The Snowy Owl was selected in 1987 as the official bird of Quebec, a symbol of the province’s support for wildlife protection.
  • Unlike other owls, the Snowy Owl hunts during the day, the species’ adaptation to the 24 hours of daylight during summer months in the Arctic.
  • The Snowy Owl is a sit-and-wait hunter. Look for it perched on a rise or high area near open ground, where it will watch and listen for prey. They will also seek prey by flying low to the ground. Its sharp talons usually ensure a quick and successful end to the pursuit.
  • Wolves and Arctic Foxes are the main threat to Snowy Owls. These and other predators endanger egg and hatchling survival.

The Snowy Owl is not considered endangered under the Canada’s Species at Risk Act.  In 2017, however, the International Union for Conservation of Nature uplisted the Snowy Owl to “vulnerable” status. The IUCN speculates that the declining population may be attributable to the effect of warming temperatures on prey availability: lemmings are especially sensitive to temperature changes because they depend on deep, fluffy and thick layers of insulating snow to breed successfully. Though I treasure the memory of my Snowy Owl encounter, their southern wintering unfortunately exposes them to greater danger of collisions with vehicles and other infrastructure. Join Nature Canada in supporting conservation efforts to protect the Snowy Owl and its habitat, and help ensure that your children have the opportunity for a magic moment - a glimpse of a Snowy Owl in free flight.

Budget 2018: Billion-Dollar Breakthrough for Nature Conservation
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Budget 2018: Billion-Dollar Breakthrough for Nature Conservation

Ottawa, ON (February 27, 2018)—Budget 2018 is a billion-dollar breakthrough for nature conservation according to Nature Canada. "This budget is a game-changer,” says Graham Saul, Nature Canada’s Executive Director. “We congratulate Finance Minister Morneau, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Environment Minister McKenna on making these critical investments. We think that Canada's wildlife would also applaud." Budget 2018 commits Canada to investing $1.3 billion over five years to establish new protected areas and to recover endangered and threatened species. "Investing in protected areas is the way of the future for federal, provincial and Indigenous governments, says Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation. “Providing financial support to Indigenous governments such as the Moose Cree First Nation to protect and manage their sacred places such as the North French watershed is the right step forward to reconciliation." "Meeting Canada's international commitment to protect 17 percent of our lands and waters by 2020 will be a challenge. We need this money to make it happen,” says Hazell.  “Nature Canada and provincial and local nature groups are eager to work with governments, local and Indigenous communities, and industry to take full advantage of the opportunities to protect ecologically important places across the country, whether it’s grasslands in Saskatchewan, Carolinian forests in Ontario, Acadian forests in the Maritimes, or wetlands in British Columbia and Quebec." Nature Canada is Canada’s oldest national nature conservation charity, and is a member of the Green Budget Coalition (GBC). The GBC's recommendations for the Budget 2018 can be found here.


For media commentary please contact: Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel 613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca To contact a French-speaking spokesperson, call: Ted Cheskey, Senior Manager of Conservation Programs 613 323 3331 (cell) For media assistance please contact: Janet Weichel McKenzie, Nature Canada Media Specialist 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenzie@gmail.com ABOUT NATURE CANADA Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect more than 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network comprised of over 65,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country with affiliates in every province. Learn how you can support our nature conservation efforts across Canada

Le Budget de 2018: Un Investissement Historique pour la Protection de la Nature
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Le Budget de 2018: Un Investissement Historique pour la Protection de la Nature

Ottawa, ON (27 février 2018) Nature Canada est d’avis que le budget de 2018 représente une contribution à la protection de la nature sans précédente. Le directeur exécutif de Nature Canada, Graham Saul, dit tout simplement que le budget « a l’étoffe pour faire une différence, » et que l’organisation « veut féliciter le Ministre des Finances, Bill Morneau, le Premier Ministre Trudeau et la Ministre de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique, Catherine McKenna, pour cet investissement crucial. » Ajoutant aussi, « Nous croyons que, si ce serait faisable, les nombreuses espèces sauvages exprimeraient similairement leur reconnaissance. » Le budget de 2018 présente un investissement de $1,3 milliard qui seront investi au cours des prochaines cinq années. Cet investissement contribuera à la conservation de paysages naturels et des aires marines du Canada, et à la protection et le rétablissement de ses espèces sauvages. Stephen Hazell, le directeur de conservation de Nature Canada, stipule « qu’investir dans la protection de paysages naturels est l’approche qui devrait être adoptée par les administrations fédérales et provinciales, ainsi que les nations autochtones. » Il exprime aussi la satisfaction de Nature Canada de l’engagement des administrations provinciales et des nations autochtones pour établir les aires protégées. « Pourvoir les nations autochtones, comme le Moose Cree, avec les fonds nécessaires à protéger et gérer leurs terres ancestrales, tel que le bassin versant du North French River, est un acte nécessaire à la conservation et la réconciliation. » « Réaliser l’engagement de protéger 17 % des zones terrestres et d’eaux intérieures par 2020 s’annonce à être un défi pour le Canada. Ainsi, cet investissement est nécessaire pour qu’on puisse atteindre cet objectif. » Hazell exprime que « Nature Canada, avec les groupes de conservation provinciaux et locaux, et l’industrie entière, sont prêts à capitaliser de ces opportunités pour protéger de nombreux paysages canadiens, que ce soient les prairies au Saskatchewan, la région forestière Carolinienne en Ontario et Acadienne aux Maritimes, ou les milieux humides en Colombie-Britannique et au Québec. » Nature Canada est la charité nationale de conservation la plus ancienne du Canada.


Contact pour commentaires aux médias (EN) : Stephen Hazell, Directeur de la Conservation et Avocat Général 613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca Contact pour commentaires aux médias (FR) : Ted Cheskey, Gestionnaire sénior du Programme de Conservation 613 323 3331 (cell). Contact pour assistance aux médias: Janet Weichel McKenzie, Spécialiste de média pour Nature Canada 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenzie@gmail.com

Budget 2018: A Billion Dollar Investment to Protect Nature in Canada
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Budget 2018: A Billion Dollar Investment to Protect Nature in Canada

[caption id="attachment_31283" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] Nature lovers – rejoice: Nature’s protection is taking flight and the 2018 federal budget is an amazing first step! The recent $1.3 billion investment in new protected areas and in species at risk conservation is a groundbreaking initiative for the entire country, and marks the beginning of the most exciting environmental campaign in Canada over the next five years. Nature Canada congratulates Finance Minister Morneau, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna on Budget 2018. We think that Canada's wildlife would also applaud. Going beyond landscapes, inland waters and oceans, Nature Canada is also pleased that the federal government will invest in protected areas to be established by provincial and Indigenous governments. Providing financial support to Indigenous governments such as the Moose Cree First Nation to protect and manage their sacred places such as the North French watershed is surely an important step toward reconciliation. Nature conservation is no longer something that is nice to have, it is something Canada needs to have. Even with this federal investment, meeting Canada's international commitment to protect 17% of our lands and waters by 2020 will be a challenge. Fortunately, Nature Canada, along with provincial and local nature groups, are poised and ready for the next steps. Nature Canada is Canada’s oldest national nature conservation charity, and is a member of the Green Budget Coalition (GBC). The GBC's recommendations for the Budget 2018 can be found here. Working with governments, local and Indigenous communities, and industry, we are ready to take full advantage of the opportunities to protect ecologically important places across the country, whether grasslands in Saskatchewan, Carolinian forests in Ontario, Acadian forests in the Maritimes, or wetlands in British Columbia or Quebec.


Why not send a letter of thanks now to key government officials and remind them of the work needed to protect 17% of our lands and waters by 2020? To read more on the Budget 2018, please see the following:
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Imperiled Species of the Ottawa River Watershed
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Imperiled Species of the Ottawa River Watershed

This blog was written by Sean Feagan. Environment and Climate Change Canada is currently conducting public engagement for the Ottawa River Watershed Study. This study aims to gather information about how best to protect, manage, and conserve the watershed, in part through public consultation. [caption id="attachment_35830" align="alignleft" width="300"] Ottawa River Watershed[/caption] The Ottawa River Watershed covers an immense area across two provinces (Ontario and Quebec), and has vast importance to the people, economy, and history of Canada. In addition, the Ottawa River Watershed contains an exceptional array of flora and fauna. These species inhabit the aquatic environments of the Ottawa River and associated tributaries, as well as surrounding terrestrial habitats, which include a diversity of wetlands and extensive forests. While the Ottawa River Watershed still contains many pristine areas, particularly upriver, it has experienced an extensive history of intense industrial activity, including logging extraction, dam construction for hydroelectric generation, and pulp and paper milling. Additionally, much of the land area of the watershed, particularly downstream, has been altered for agricultural activity and industrial development. Given these impacts, many of the species contained within the watershed have declined or become otherwise imperiled. Here are a few examples of the over thirty species at risk within the watershed: Perhaps the most threatened species within the watershed is the American eel, which has declined by up to 98%, mainly as a result of river damming along the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. There are ongoing efforts to help the species recover within the watershed, including the catch and release of over 400 eels into the Ottawa River last summer to facilitate their movement. While ladder and bypass systems have been installed at some of the dams along the Ottawa, many others feature no mitigation measures to facilitate eel movement. While the Government of Ontario has released a recovery strategy for the species, and other [caption id="attachment_35831" align="alignright" width="150"] Spotted Turtle, photo by Helmy Oved.[/caption] conservation efforts are underway, the long-term persistence of the American eel is in serious peril. The Ottawa River Watershed supports a diverse assemblage of fascinating turtle species. The eight species of turtle inhabit a diversity of habitats within the Ottawa River and associated tributaries, as well as neighboring wetlands. Seven species are considered at risk, including the spotted turtle spotted turtle (Endangered), the Blanding’s turtle, stinkpot turtle, spiny softshell turtle, and wood turtle (each federally listed as Threatened), as well as the snapping turtle and north mapping turtle (both listed as Special Concern). Recovery planning for these species is underway, but they continue to be threatened by accidental mortality from roads, poaching, and habitat loss. The Ottawa River Watershed also supports a rich avifauna. [caption id="attachment_35829" align="alignleft" width="150"] Least bittern, photo by Steve Arena.[/caption] Perhaps one of the strangest bird species in the watershed is the least bittern, which is a member of heron family, listed federally as Threatened. It is one of the smallest herons in the world, as it typically measures from about 28 to 36 cm in length, weighing up to around 100 g. The species is elusive, as it is highly secretive, possesses excellent camouflage, and freezes in place when altered of potential danger. The species usually inhabits cattail marshes, many of which have been destroyed or altered for development and agriculture. Many of the confirmed breeding sites that remain in Canada exist within the Ottawa River Watershed in Ontario. [caption id="attachment_35828" align="alignright" width="150"] Kirtland's Warbler, photo by Joel Trick.[/caption] The diverse forests of the Ottawa River Watershed supports a rich community of songbirds, including many species of North American wood warblers. One of the rarest species in North America, the Kirtland’s warbler, has two confirmed records of nesting in Canada, within the Ottawa River Watershed near Petawawa, Ontario. As part of its federal recovery strategy, critical habitat for this species has been identified at a few select sites within Renfrew County. Other imperiled warbler species contained within the watershed include the spectacular cerulean warbler (Endangered), and the Canada warbler (Threatened). It is clear that the Ottawa River Watershed possess a spectacular array of wildlife and plant species, many of which are imperiled. If you would like to voice your opinion regarding the value and conservation of these species within the watershed, participate in the Ottawa River Watershed Study online at Placespeak, or participate in an upcoming meeting on March 1st, held in Gatineau, QC.

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Winter 2018 Is The Time To See Some Snowy Owls!
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Winter 2018 Is The Time To See Some Snowy Owls!

[caption id="attachment_35593" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Aniko Pollak Aniko Pollak, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Aniko Pollak.  Nature Canada’s February Calendar Month is the Snowy Owl and what a perfect month to choose the species! We are in the midst of winter and there have been many reports of Snowy Owls in southern cities and towns across Canada. This is the time to get all your winter gear on and go looking for them. Snowy Owls have so many interesting features:Image of a Snowy Owl

  • They are largest owl by weight in North America.
  • Males are almost entirely white, with some brown spotting - while juveniles and females sport a much higher density of brown spots.
  • Their feathers are thick and insulated keeping them warm in the cold arctic winter. They even have feathers covering their talons!
  • Their average wingspan is four to five feet, which allows them to glide through the air - hardly making any noise to avoid prey detection.
  • They are diurnal, meaning that they hunt day and night, not like most owls!
Snowy Owls mainly live in the arctic where they breed during the summer months. However, during winter months they may migrate in extremely large numbers to southern Canada and northern United States, known as irruptions. Speculation on what causes Snowy Owl irruptions might involve the regional population fluctuations of lemmings. An extreme abundance of lemmings one season may lead to an extremely successful breeding success the next, which spikes the Snowy Owl population!  Winter 2018 is an irruption of Snowy Owls in Canada! That is why 2018 is a great year to go outside or check out some open fields for Snowy Owls.  Try looking for them in fields, and open farmland. They like to be perched on fence posts, atop of telephone wire posts, and overhanging branches!

Our Thoughts on the Environmental Laws Introduced to Parliament
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Our Thoughts on the Environmental Laws Introduced to Parliament

[caption id="attachment_31283" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] The proposed Canadian Impact Assessment Act, or Bill C-69, was introduced to Parliament this week, and the Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada, Stephen Hazell, has shared the organization's thoughts. In the video below Stephen shares thoughts on the reform, and touches on whether or not these environmental laws will actually help Canada to reverse its losses in biodiversity and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the proposed Canadian Impact Assessment Act is taking steps forward on the Harper government's 2012 law, and, as Stephen mentions below, it is "on balance, a pretty good effort at improving environmental assessment." The good news is that the law presents a defined process for engaging communities - meaning that we will now have environmental assessment professionals consulting with Indigenous and local communities. Moving forward, the government will make decisions on whether or not projects go through based on the input from the environmental assessment agency, and is required to publicly justify the reasoning behind their decision making. The bad news is that, simply put, the budget and other policy statements are not included. The budget is, as Stephen mentions below, "the most important set of decisions that any government makes in any given year," and Nature Canada believes that there should be an environmental analysis of the budget and other proposed policies to ensure the key issues are addressed and that Canada is positioned for a sustainable future. For more detail on Nature Canada's thoughts on this proposed bill, and to find out how this bill will impact Canadians, watch the video below.

To support stronger environmental laws here in Canada, make sure to sign our petition and speak up for stronger environmental laws!
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Conserving the future of Biodiversity in Canada, one talk at a time
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Conserving the future of Biodiversity in Canada, one talk at a time

[caption id="attachment_35797" align="alignleft" width="150"] Kayla O'Neill, Carleton University Practicum Student[/caption] This blog was written by Carleton Practicum Student Kayla O'Neill. Did you know in Canada the Black Footed Ferret was once extirpated, and was only reintroduced into the Grasslands National Park in 2009? (Danielle Fraser). Biodiversity loss and population decline in several species has become a big problem, especially in Canada. Provinces such as British Columbia and Ontario are rich in biodiversity, which also makes them have higher rates of threatened or endangered species. On February 2nd, The Canadian Museum of Nature held a series of speeches from expert panelist to talk about the current state of biodiversity in Canada and what Canada as a whole could be doing different. There was a consensus that although Canada is trying, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to be able to conserve our lands and biodiversity better. We need to stop looking at biodiversity loss as an international problem, and see it is a problem in our homelands. Panda bears tend to be a poster species for endangered species worldwide, but in Canada, there are 40 species that have been assessed as more endangered than Pandas. (Dan Kraus) [caption id="attachment_30310" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Black-footed Ferret Photo of a Image of a Black-footed Ferret. Flickr Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)[/caption] Problems such as over exploitation, pollution and habitat loss and degradation (including climate change) are prime reasons as to why biodiversity loss is still a prominent issue. Looking into the problem of habitat loss and degradation should be a starting point for trying to solve this problem. As Daniel Kraus pointed out, even if as a whole, problems such as pollution or climate change are fixed, it will not solve anything if there are no habitats for species to come back to. To look into this issue more, Changing the Conversation is hosting a 4 part series on Biodiversity Conversations: How Important are the common loon and polar bears to Canadians. The third one coming up, on February 16th, will look into drivers and barriers behind biodiversity. The Women for Nature expert panelist will be looking at the local, regional and national resolutions of biodiversity conversations, the need to identify critical habitat, and the role of keystone species. They will dive more into what could be done individually and collectively. They will continue to tackle the biodiversity issue in Canada, one conversation at a time. To listen in, joins us in partnership with Women for Nature February 22nd, 1-2:30 pm EST here

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New Federal Law Improves Resource Project Reviews, Helps Regain Public Trust
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New Federal Law Improves Resource Project Reviews, Helps Regain Public Trust

Ottawa, ON (February 8, 2018) — Bill C-69, the proposed Canadian Impact Assessment Act, improves greatly on the Harper government’s 2012 law, but amendments are needed if the federal government is to regain public trust in reviews of pipeline and other projects and position Canada for a sustainable future. “Bill C-69 represents important reform by emphasizing sustainability, a single-agency approach to assessing resource projects, and eliminating rules restricting public participation in hearings” says Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel. “But amendments will be needed if this law is to support Canada’s international commitments to reverse biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” “Nature Canada is disappointed that the Bill does not require assessment of the sustainability of proposed government policies, the most important of which is the federal budget.” To regain public trust, Nature Canada supports the designation of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada as the federal agency solely responsible for conducting federal assessments. Industry-dominated regulators such as the new National Energy Regulator, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and offshore oil and gas boards have a technical role to play in project reviews, but should not control the conduct of these reviews as they do now. “An important positive element of Bill C-69 is that it requires Cabinet and the Environment Minister to make a public interest determination for any assessed project based on factors such as contribution to sustainability, impacts on Indigenous peoples and their rights, and whether the project affects the ability of Canada to meet its environmental obligations and its international climate commitments” adds Hazell. Nature Canada strongly believes that the law should not just apply to major projects, but also to projects that adversely affect the environment and requires some federal approval. For example, Nature Canada believes that high-carbon projects, projects proposed for National Parks and National Wildlife Areas, and projects requiring federal regulatory approvals under key environmental laws such as the Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act must be assessed by law. Nature Canada supports elimination of restricting public participation in assessments. “All Canadians should have the right to participate in assessments of major development projects such as pipelines. More specifically, we support the elimination of tests to determine standing (e.g., the “directly affected” test) and the guarantee of participation rights in hearings,” says Hazell. Further, the cumulative effects of development in regions facing significant pressures also should be required to be assessed. Bill 69’s emphasis on regional planning is an exciting approach that needs to be fully discussed in Parliament.


For media commentary please contact:  Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel 613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca For media assistance please contact: Janet Weichel McKenzie, Nature Canada Media Specialist 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenzie@gmail.com

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