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Richelle Martin: Environmental Advocate & 2018 Recipient for the Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award
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Richelle Martin: Environmental Advocate & 2018 Recipient for the Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award

Richelle Martin is the 2018 recipient of the Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Award.  This fall, will be pursuing a Law Degree at the University of Ottawa. With this degree, Richelle hopes to use law as a tool to have a more meaningful impact in the field, and to strengthen her ability as an environmental advocate. While pursuing this degree is her first foray into the world of environmental law, Richelle’s journey as an environmental advocate is well underway. Having worked with the Nature Trust of New-Brunswick for the past six years, Richelle has been actively using her voice to protect nature in Canada for some time. In her position at the Nature Trust, she was responsible for the management of 50 nature preserves across the Province and the facilitation of community involvement in volunteer land stewardship. From there, the conservation of nature and diversity of living things became the driving force for the path that she has chosen in life.

An Environmentalist from a young age

Her passion for nature is something that strengthened through Richelle’s professional endeavors, but that was innate to her at a very young age. Richelle notes that, having grown up in rural Eastern Canada, “a connection to nature could be easily fostered from a young age. Spring was signaled by the call of spring peepers, summers were spent camping and swimming in the lake, fall brought colourful hardwood forest canopies. Winter meant skating in the backyard pond. I have always admired the extreme changes of seasons where I live and the ability of nature to adapt and thrive.” She notes that, as she has grown up, her admiration for the nature that surrounds us has grown in tandem with her appreciation for everything it does for us. Putting it quite plainly, she shares that, “the food and water that nourish us, the air we breathe, our mental wellbeing, our economy, and the survival of species all depend on intact natural systems. As self-aware citizens of the Earth, it is our responsibility to be stewards of it.” [caption id="attachment_38281" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Richelle on Spednic Lake, New Brunswick.[/caption]

A key piece to the puzzle

Richelle noted how important this scholarship was, and how it is a key piece of the puzzle to help finance her education, and remain an active environmental advocate. This support will award her with more time to become involved in volunteer work and activities in environmental law, applying what she is learning to the conservation of nature in Canada. Looking beyond her next few years of studies, Richelle hopes to use her degree to work with both NGOs and government to develop stronger environmental laws and policies that protect biodiversity. She wants to ensure future generations have access to a healthy environment. She also shared that she sees herself as an educator, with part of her role as a lawyer being to educate the public on their rights, and in empowering grassroots community organizations and people with the power of the law. By empowering grassroots community groups and people, we will be able to use the power of the law to better hold law breakers accountable for harm to the environment.

Richelle extends her thanks to the Labatiuk family for their generous scholarship, which supports people who aim to protect and conserve nature in Canada.

Finally, Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area Established
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Finally, Scott Islands Marine National Wildlife Area Established

[caption id="attachment_37532" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and Legal Counsel.[/caption] Literally decades after being first proposed, the Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (mNWA) adjacent to the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island was established on June 27, 2018, protecting vital habitat for millions of seabirds. Congratulations to Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and her officials for persevering to achieve protection of the 11,546 square kilometers of marine environment surrounding the five Scott Islands (which are already protected under British Columbia law). These islands, and their surrounding marine waters, are one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on Canada’s Pacific coast. The Scott Islands area, an Important Bird Area (IBA), supports the highest concentration of breeding seabirds on Canada’s Pacific coast and provides key ecological breeding and nesting habitat for 40 per cent of BC’s seabirds, including: 90% of Canada’s Tufted Puffin; 95% of Pacific Canada’s Common Murre; 50% of the world’s Cassin's Auklet; and 7% of the world’s Rhinoceros Auklet. The area attracts 5 to 10 million migratory birds each year. Many travel vast distances across the Pacific to feed in the area. Some, such as the Sooty Shearwater, are at risk globally. Others are federally listed species at risk (e.g., Short-tailed Albatross, Black-footed Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Marbled Murrelet, Ancient Murrelet). Environment and Climate Change Canada leads the planning and management of the NWA in collaboration with other federal departments as well as the Province of British Columbia, Tlatlasikwala First Nation, Quatsino First Nation and stakeholders. For more information see the following. UPDATE: On Thursday, September 13, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, spoke on behalf of the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, making the official announcement related to the protection of the 11,546 square kilometers of marine environment surrounding the five Scott Islands.


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Sable Island – “The Smile of the Atlantic”
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Sable Island – “The Smile of the Atlantic”

This blog was written by Sue Ratcliffe, Sue is a photographer with a deep passion for shooting wildlife, horses, birds of prey and people throughout her travels around the globe. Sue’s passion is capturing the beauty and grace of nature, and all that lives and thrives within it. Sue was one of the winners of the 2017 Nature Photo Contest, her beautiful photo of the Bald Eagle soaring over the clear water is the feature image of the Nature Canada Calendar this month. Feel free to email Cheyanne, at crichardson@naturecanada.ca if you have any questions about the Nature Photo Contest or would like to make a donation and get a copy of the Nature Canada Calendar.


Sable Island is a narrow, crescent-shaped sandbar, giving it the name “the smile of the Atlantic”. It is wild, windswept and remote, fascinating and mysterious. For years I have been entranced by the tales of Sable Island and passionately drawn to the wild horses that have long lived there. These famous horses lend a near mythical and ethereal quality to this elusive island whose allure is pure and magical and has long kept us captivated and spellbound. Sable Island is nearly 42 kilometers long and about 1.5 kilometers across at its widest point with shifting sand dunes that change from year to year. The island’s extensive beaches are home to the world’s largest colony of grey seals, and freshwater ponds that sustain rare plant life. Plants, birds, and insects have adapted to life on Sable, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. The island is prone to intense fall and winter storms, frequently making travel there difficult. The only way to get there is by air or by sea. I traveled there with Adventure Canada on “The Ocean Endeavour”, traveling to the island daily on a zodiac. Sable Island is the most hurricane-prone part of Canada and the foggiest spot in the Maritimes. I visited Sable Island in July and encountered fog three days out of the four days we permitted to visit the island. The federal government announced in May 2010 that protection of the island would be transferred from the Canadian Coast Guard to Parks Canada. Sable Island became a National Park Reserve on June 20, 2013. The island is home to over 550 free-roaming horses and are protected by law from human interference as by the 1950s they were in danger of extinction from round-ups. The horses likely descended from horses confiscated by the Acadians and released on the island in the late eighteenth century and soon became feral. Additional horses were later transported to the island to improve the herd's breeding stock. The horses are small and usually dark in color. The herd is unmanaged, constantly exposed to the elements and shifting landscape, surviving off the wild marram grasses that grow in the sand and what grows in the few freshwater ponds. Sable Island has a long and fascinating history spanning more than four centuries. 350 plus vessels have been wrecked due to rough seas, the fog, and sandbars surrounding the island, earning the title “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. Several bird colonies are resident there including the Ipswich sparrow which breeds only on the island. The unique landscape, the history and the wild horses have made Sable Island an iconic place in Canada. It is a photographer’s dream. Myself and my wild horse photography friends, affectionately referred to as “the pony girls” on our trip with Adventure Canada, photographed the horses and all that we experienced on the island. Each day was an adventure as we drank in the beauty of the landscape and sat with the wild horses. We were in awe but blessed for what we were experiencing … not knowing when or if we would have the chance to return. We were experiencing the wildest and most remote island in the world. As we slowly departed Sable Island watching the horses graze, we were in reverence of what we had experienced and the fact that we had finally lived our dream was the more astonishing … wild and natural Sable Island … live your dreams and visit the island that fables are made of.
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Health Canada Proposes Too-long Phase-out of Neonics Harming Birds and Bees
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Health Canada Proposes Too-long Phase-out of Neonics Harming Birds and Bees

[caption id="attachment_37987" align="alignleft" width="150"] Andrea Lesperance, Student-at-Law.[/caption] This blog post was written by Andrea Lesperance, a Student-at-Law for Nature Canada. Health Canada has announced positive but still insufficient action to protect birds, bees and invertebrates from neonicotinoids (neonics) – synthetic nicotine analogues used as insecticides. On August 15, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada announced Proposed Decisions for Consultation on two neonics: Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam. The Special Reviews of these two neonics were initiated based on concerns that they pose risks to aquatic invertebrates. PMRA was “unable to conclude that the risks to aquatic invertebrates was acceptable” from outdoor agricultural uses of Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam. As a result, PMRA proposed cancellation of all outdoor uses of these two neonics on food and feed crops, including seed treatments. This cancellation would take place over a phase-out period of 3 to 5 years—which Nature Canada says is  too long. Further, Clothianidin poses risk to aquatic invertebrates via use on turf and so this use will also be phased-out.  In Canada, neonics are used to control insects on agricultural crops, turf, and ornamental plants. However, neonics are harmful to invertebrates, pollinators and birds.  Environmental groups including Nature Canada are calling for an immediate ban on neonics. Earlier this year, PMRA found that the application of pesticides containing the neonic Imidacloprid adversely affects the survival of bee colonies or solitary bee species. Thus, Health Canada proposed phase-out of uses of the neonic on blooming crops. While the proposed phase-out of Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam is intended to protect aquatic invertebrates, the decision has positive implications for pollinators and birds! Aquatic insects are an important food source for fish, birds and other animals. For more information on the impacts of neonics on bees, birds and other wildlife, see our blog Save the Bees, the Birds and the Planet from Neonics. Aquatic insects are particularly important for aerial insectivores; species that feed on insects while on the wing. Aerial insectivores are the most rapidly declining group of birds in Canada. The threatened Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk and Eastern Whip-poor-will stand to benefit as a result of the neonic ban. Swallows such as Purple Martins are aerial insectivores which would also benefit from a ban on neonics. Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family and they are currently experiencing a decline of about 4.5% per year in Ontario. Learn more about Nature Canada’s Save our Swallows initiative here and here. You can also learn more about Nature Canada’s Purple Martin Project here. Nature Canada and our supporters welcome Health Canada and PMRA’s decision to cancel neonic use but urge them to take immediate action on this issue rather than implement a 3 to 5 year phase out! In fact, 19, 400 people signed our petition asking Minister of Health Petittpas Taylor to entirely ban neonics without delay. An immediate neonic ban would be in line with actions taken by the European Union, which voted to ban Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam by the end of 2018. One approach for Health Canada to take action on neonics is to refuse their re-registration when the current approval expires. Registrations for all 135 pesticides containing neonics approved for use in Canada are set to expire before 2023. Approximately 30 of these registrations will expire by the end of 2019. In our view, there is no reason why PMRA should re-register these neonics once they expire, considering the planned phase out. Nature Canada will be submitting comments on the proposed re-evaluation decisions and our neonic petition to Health Canada and PMRA later this month. Stay tuned for updates! UPDATE, August 29, 2018:  This week, Nature Canada, along with the signatures of 20,000 supporters, submitted a petition to ban Neonics and commentary to the Minister of Health and Pest Management Regulatory Agency expressing concern about the long phase out of Neonic. We will also submit our petition and concerns shortly about the slow phase out of Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam.


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To Bee, or Not to Bee
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To Bee, or Not to Bee

This blog is written by Nature Canada guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. World Honey Bee day is not just a day to support our love of honey and bee-pollinated foods…it’s to give awareness of today’s bee crisis and what that means for the rest of us. Read on to find out a little more about these amazing critters and why you should bee grateful for them!

From A to BEE

Bees are tiny insects with 6 legs and 4 wings, and represent a whole lot of species. In fact, honey bees are only a fraction of bee species. Furthermore, the commercial honey bee, or species used to pollinate human food crops, represent even a smaller fraction. However, all bees are social insects relying on a social hierarchy system within a beehive. They are divided into castes with different responsibilities. These are; the queen, male drones, female workers and larvae. The female workers are divided into three more castes in relation to their life stage. A female begins as a nurse, tending to the newly hatched larvae. Then she becomes a guard and food handler and tends to pollen collected, honey-making, building new cells and repairing old ones. And her last stage will be outside, as part of the team to gather nectar and pollen. If there can be an award for hardest working insect, it’s the honey bee since the female workers will literally wear out they wings by the end of their life!

Explanation of Pollination

[caption id="attachment_38187" align="alignright" width="300"] A bee and poppy, captured by Sandy Nelson.[/caption] Pollination is a symbiotic relationship between flowering plants and animals. Flowering plants, scientifically called angiosperms, reproduce sexually, meaning they have male and female parts. The pollen grains contain the sperm, and the pistils contain the ovaries. Once fertilization occurs, seed development occurs, resulting with the fruit. But since plants can’t physically move the pollen themselves, that’s where pollinators come in. For bees, they travel from flower to flower to collect nectar and simultaneously get pollen attached to their bodies. The bee moves to the next flower and pollen grains drop down. The pollens fall into the pistils and fertilize the eggs thanks to the bee. In return, honey bees use the collected nectar for everything they need to survive. Bee food, honey, and the hive itself, all stem from nectar as the secret ingredient. This is why pollination is symbiotic because it is crucial to both parties. Although mammals, birds, bats and other insects have pollinating species, evolution is pretty specific sometimes, and some plants can only be pollinated by specific animals. The honey bees pollinate a lot of plants for human foods. One third to be exact. One bite out of three fruits and vegetables we love to eat, needs bees to survive. Now imagine these honey bees disappear. Here’s a list just to name a few plants that wouldn’t grow so much; apples, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, coffee, cherries, cranberries, almonds, coffee, zucchini, grapes, avocado, and was coffee already mentioned? And if you put honey in your cup of coffee, well that’s a double whammy. Now while we’re still imagining, think about what the earth would look like without a third of its plants. It’s not a lovely sight. [caption id="attachment_38188" align="alignleft" width="300"] A bee pollinating flowers, captured by Ilana C Block.[/caption]

The crisis!

Over the past decade, beekeepers started noticing a very weird phenomenon with their beehives. Their hives were found with all dead bees. Research began to solve the mystery and discovered that these bees suffered from Colony Collapse Disorder caused by toxins. Where did the bees get toxins? If you guessed from humans, you’re unfortunately right. The use of pesticides is an iffy topic. We see the value to protect food plants from harmful bugs and pests, but we don’t need pesticides full of harmful chemicals that kill everything else. For example, we don’t need neonics. Neonicotinoids, or neonics for shorts, are neurotoxins still being used today in pesticides. Once a honey bee consumes it, it affects the immune system, impair memory and learning, disorientate, increase deficiently in larval development, and interferes with gut flora leading to malnutrition. Since all members of a hive eats the same thing from the same source, adding neonics to the recipe will result in Colony Collapse Disorder. So let’s recap, shall we? We have increased use of harmful chemicals in our farmer’s pesticides, which leads to decrease the number of honey bees, which leads to decrease one third of our food, which will lead to a bunch of new unfortunate factors.

I bee-lieve you, now what can I do?

If one bee can do so much, one voice (you!) can also do a lot. The first thing you did was read this article! The first step is always awareness, people need to know what’s going on and how it will impact their lives. Second step is to get more info, good info, that is! Follow sites like Nature Canada that put nature first, to find out and learn more about any environmental topic. Step three, take action! Whether it’s a donation, or a share on social media, or volunteering, everything helps. Two awesome ideas to help honey bees out right away, is to plant more native flowers and buy honey products from your local farms! Two simple acts that will go a long way!
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Bibliography https://www.beesmatter.ca/ http://www.ontariohoney.ca/ http://www.honeybeecentre.com https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee http://bees.caes.uga.edu/bees-beekeeping-pollination/getting-started-topics/getting-started-honey-bee-biology.html

August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle
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August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle

[caption id="attachment_36590" align="alignleft" width="150"] Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger.[/caption] This blog is written by Nature Canada guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. The Bald Eagle is the second largest bird of prey in North America, after the Californian Condor, however, it is the only native eagle in North America. Within its ecosystem, the Bald Eagle is at the top of the food chain. Its diets consist primarily of fish, but will go for rodents, rabbits, small birds and/or mammals. In Canada, the largest populations of Bald eagles are found on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia since there are vast forested areas adjacent to large bodies of water -- a Bald eagle’s preferred habitat. Being among the largest birds, Bald eagles also hold the record for largest nest in North America! The Bald Eagle obtained its symbolic attributes from the culture and folklore of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas dating back centuries. A well-known mythology is that of that great Thunderbird, a legendary creature of supernatural power and strength, represented in physical form by the Bald eagle. There are many versions of the story, yet the Bald Eagle is said to a scared force of nature. Later on, in 1782, this raptor’s beauty and prestige inspired the newly established States of America, to select it as their national emblem. [caption id="attachment_38133" align="alignright" width="300"] A Bald Eagle perched on driftwood by the shore at Boundary Bay, captured by Tony Joyce.[/caption] Now, why are they called “bald” eagles? They’re not really bald, nor do they have hair, and by all means, they have lots of feathers on their heads! The term “bald” is derived from the word piebald which describes any animals with patterns of pigmented spots on unpigmented background. It can refer to hair, feathers, or scales. For other common examples, think of a Tobiano horses, magpie birds, and ball pythons. Thus, Bald eagles have unpigmented, or white, head feathers, on a pigmented, or brown, body. If you like to birdwatch, or if you wanna add something really cool to your bucket list, you’re going to want to catch a glimpse of the Bald Eagle’s spectacular courtship display. Breeding seasons depend on latitudes where in Alaska and Canadian regions, this is April to August, and in Southern US, November to March. Bald Eagles are monogamous which means they pair for life, or until one dies. Each year they will undergo a flying ritual that functions to reinforce their bond. In other words, Bald eagles are probably one of the most romantic birds since they sort of re-married every year! And if you like acrobatic shows, you’re in for a treat. Some bird enthusiasts describe the ordeal as a courting coaster because they literally fly up and dive down in embraced swirls. Check it out for yourself! Today the Bald Eagle is listed under “Least Concern”, but this is recent only. Their numbers hit a drastic low back in the 60’s when pesticides containing too much DDT was being used. Conservation programs were luckily set up quickly enough to save this iconic raptor. It is only because of these efforts that today the bald eagle has recuperated their numbers. This species is no longer under the full protection of the Endangered Species Act as of 2007, however, it is, and will continue to be, monitored to ensure no drastic declines happen again!


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Bibliography https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-bald-eagle https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/lifehistory https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/baleag/introduction http://www.arkive.org/bald-eagle/haliaeetus-leucocephalus/#text=Facts http://www.native-languages.org/thunderbird.htm

Celebrating Cats: Then and Me-ow
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Celebrating Cats: Then and Me-ow

This blog is written by Nature Canada guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. It’s International Cat Day! For those that didn’t know, is it not a purrfect reason to celebrate? All meows aside, dogs may be man’s best friend, but cats definitely rule! Read on to find out a little history about our feline friends then, and what’s up with cats now.

PART 1 – THEN

Cats have been around for a long time. The first signs of domestication have recently been found to date all the way back 12, 000 years ago! This is about the time when agriculture was developing in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. When new agriculture methods introduced the idea of surplus crops, it came with a cost; rodents. Luckily for humans, rodents attracted wildcats as well. The cats saw the opportunity of a free buffet and seized their chance. Farmers were happy to encouraged this cost-free pest control and voilà, the beginning a positive relationship between cat and human. Among the course of history, the cat has had a strong cultural influence on many civilizations. The most common relationship is that of the Ancient Egyptians and their devotion to cats as an entity. The goddess Bastet, who is represented by a woman with the head of a black cat, is one of the most common known deities of ancient Egypt. She is the goddess of cats, protector of land and the home, guardian against evil, and a warrior. The Romans and Greeks, on the other hand, valued the cat’s duty of catching vermin but did not consider owning a cat, rather allowing cats to roam freely as their guardians. In India and Persia, the cat was magical and mystical. Important feline figures can be found in Indian literature and folklore. All the way in China, cats were part of creation stories as the keepers of time and order. The Japanese also have a high respect for the cat, hence the “Beckoning Cat” statue, commonly known today as a talisman of good fortune and honour. [caption id="attachment_38078" align="alignright" width="300"] Susanne Swayze[/caption] The negative attitude towards cats came with the Medieval times when the Christian Church began to demonize pagan symbols, icons, and rituals. Poor cats, especially black cats, were thought to be the devil on four legs, and such to kill a cat, was to purge the evil within. Some scholars argue that the decrease in cats increased the rodent population, and thereby increased the fleas carrying the Bubonic Plague bacteria. Finally, the Victorian Era restored the compassion towards cats. Queen Victoria had an interest in reading about ancient civilisations, such as the Ancient Egyptians, and began to honour the attitude of grace and guardianship towards the cat. She begun to own cats in her court for which became publicly known - and thanks to her popularity as a royal figure, people followed her trend. “Over the pond”, as they say, cats in North America followed a similar historical pattern. They were brought aboard the ships by colonists to bring to the new worlds as pest control. The Americas also had a dark age, and cats did not have a good time during the Salem Witch Trials. Luckily decades afterwards, cats began earning some of the appreciation they deserve, as feline characters begun popping up in all types of literature. Now let’s not forget Canadian cats! Did you know that in 1924, cats were brought to Parliament as pest control? The Parliamentary Cats as they were known as, were “employed” up until 1955 before pesticides were invented and widely used. The cats were freed but stayed in the general area becoming a cat sanctuary. Volunteers cared and maintained the sanctuary up until its closing in 2013, when finally, the remaining cats were adopted into loving homes.

PART 2 - MEOW

That was then, what about now? Cats today are a favourite pet choice. Although, if there’s one thing hasn’t changed, it is the way we still think of cats as being a little bit on the wild side. We still let our cats outdoors to roam around, we don’t take our cats on walks, nor to cat parks, nor on family outings - can you see the problem here? In 2017, Humane Canada released a 5-year update about the national cat overpopulation crisis. We may love our cats but we don’t treat them as well as we do our dogs. Many owners let them roam outdoors, exposing them to risk from cars, diseases, wildlife, pests, poisons and parasites.  How come? Animal shelters receive twice as many cats as dogs, despite the populations being of similar size. There are countless stray cats and tens of thousands are homeless . A lot of people still don’t spay or neuter their pets, and let them roam outdoors despite the dangers to the cats. As a result, cat overpopulation is a serious issue. [caption id="attachment_38082" align="alignleft" width="180"] Photo by Kitrina Russell.[/caption] Outdoor cats also pose a threat to birds and wildlife.  Environment Canada conducted a study estimating that millions of birds per year that are preyed upon by domestic cats, both feral and pets. For soaring birds and birds that remain high up in the trees, cats aren’t much of a problem. But for the 115 or so bird species in Canada that nest or feed on the ground, they are definitely an issue. Sure, birds might be annoying at 4 am chirping as they welcome the sunrise, but no one wants to say bye to birds forever. Alright then, what can we do? In February 2016, Nature Canada launched an initiative called Keep Cats Safe and Save Birds Lives. Cats and Birds is a coalition of national, regional, and local partners working to raise awareness and educate citizens about cat welfare, bird welfare, and cat and bird welfare together. Already two years strong, it’s time for a little more recognition. This International Cat Day, go check out their website and take action! You’ll find out a bunch of interesting stuff such as healthy alternatives to letting your cat roam outdoors. You can train your cat to wear a harness and take them on adventure walks. If we give healthy and happy enrichment to our dogs with toys and dog houses and dog parks and love, the same thing can and should exist for our cats! Have you heard of “catios”? Because let me tell you, they’re pretty great! Changing the way we treat our kitties will not only change our outlook for pets in general, but we’re also helping bird species not get eaten and well, not go extinct.

Together we can end this cat-astrophe and move fur-ward. We just need to stay paw-sitive and climb that meow-tain of changes!

Written by Nature Canada guest-blogger, Tina-Louise Rossit.
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Sources A Brief History of House Cats Domestic Cats DNA - Genetics Cats Interaction with Humans  Cats in the Ancient World Canadian Parliamentary Cats

Neonics: What these neurotoxins mean for you & Canada’s nature
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Neonics: What these neurotoxins mean for you & Canada’s nature

[caption id="attachment_38167" align="alignleft" width="150"] Kim Willoughby[/caption] This blog post was written by Nature Canada guest blogger Kim Willoughby. By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about the plight of bees and other pollinators worldwide. The prevalence of insecticides is killing them, threatening the food crops that rely on pollinators to produce some of the fruit and vegetables we eat. But that’s only a part of the story. These insecticides threaten all life in some way – including you and your family.

What neonics are

Introduced in the 1990s, neonicotinoid pesticides or “neonics” are the most widely used insecticides in the world to control pests such as aphids, stink bugs, and spider mites. Agricultural applications include foliar sprays as well as soil and seed treatments. The treated plants absorb the nicotine-based neurotoxins, appearing in their roots, stems, leaves, flowers, pollen as well as their nectar. The chemicals also end up in the soil and in waterways – whether or not the soil received direct treatment due to irrigation, rain and even wind. Besides agricultural applications, neonics are also widely used in forestry, pet flea and tick treatments, domestic animal breeding, and in both commercial and residential lawn care products. [caption id="attachment_38147" align="alignright" width="300"] A Wild male Turkey, photo by Sandy Thompson.[/caption]

Why there’s resistance to change

Modern life has come to rely heavily on neonics for many applications during the last three decades. While these pesticides are often convenient and economical tools, the dire consequences of their use are slowly coming into focus. In fact, many countries are beginning to understand that their continued use is costly to society on many levels. In April the European Union voted for a total ban on neonics by the end of 2018 – the only exception being inside greenhouses. Health Canada’s Pest Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has proposed to phase out imidacloprid, one of the types of neonics commonly used, for agricultural and most other outdoor uses by 2021. In May hundreds of scientists, including several Canadian environmental groups, called on global policymakers to ban neonics by the end of the year.

How neonics affect Canada’s environment and wildlife

A growing body of global research indicates that these pesticides are accumulating in the environment and appearing in all forms of life. Soil, rivers, streams, ponds and lakes contain growing concentrations of neonics. The neurotoxins are also appearing in wildflowers, grass and other forms of native vegetation as well as earthworms, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, predatory beetles, frogs, freshwater fish, birds, and mammals.

How they may affect you and your family 

  • While research on human health is ongoing, findings to date indicate that exposure to neonics is harmful and even deadly in some cases, especially to children, pregnant women and seniors
  • Long term or extensive exposure has been linked so far to memory loss, neurological disorders, anencephaly, heart defects and cardiac problems, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders, and autism spectrum disorders
  • Besides fruit and vegetables that have been directly treated with neonics, their residues have been found in milk, honey, tea, wheat, rice, pulses, and freshwater fish
  • Studies show that dogs that have been exposed to lawns or public green spaces treated with pesticides have a 70 per cent risk of developing malignant lymphoma
  • Other research has shown that pest repellent collars and sprays for dogs and cats are carcinogenic to both pets and people

What you can do to make a difference


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Nina Andrascik: A Young Woman for Nature and Young Leader
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Nina Andrascik: A Young Woman for Nature and Young Leader

Nina Andrascik is a Young Woman for Nature and recipient of the Young Leaders grant. This grant is what helped her found WE GO, the Women for the Environment and the Great Outdoors Club which engages female first and second generation Canadians and International students to enjoy Canada’s great outdoors. Nina is also a team member of Ocean Bridge and contributes local service to engage youth in ocean conservation. Nina recently graduated from Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ontario, and will be pursuing a Bachelors of Science (BSc) Natural Resources Conservation at the University of British Columbia, at the Vancouver campus this fall. She is excited to further her studies and to discover everything that British-Colombia has to offer. Nina pinpointed one of the first moments when she felt the most connected to nature was in her grade ten outdoor education class, when she was on a canoe trip through Algonquin Park. Being thrown into a new environment, with just themselves, their canoes, and the natural beauty of the park, the group connected in a way that simply would not be attainable between four walls of a traditional classroom setting.

As a Young Woman for Natures

Awareness, connection and gratitude are the three words Nina used to describe her experience as a Young Woman for Nature. She mentions that a huge takeaway from this experience was the relationship that she built with Dawn Carr, her mentor through the program. Building this relationship made her realize that there are great people that occupy positions of leadership who are encouraging, and interested, and who are ready to take the time to provide guidance and support to the next generation. Conversely, this experience showed Nina the challenges of getting people involved in the environmental movement. Due to the many elements that today’s youth needs to balance, it is easy for youth to miss the chance to get outside and enjoy nature.

Taking Action

Nina said that “being a Young Woman for Nature empowered me, and put me into a leadership position to get others involved.” The grant that Nina received through Women for Nature allowed her to start WEGO, her club that provide outdoor experience to girls in my school who weren’t involved in an outdoor education class to get out and participate in a variety of activities that some had never done before. The short-term goal of WEGO was to get first and second generation Canadians exposed to outdoor experiences and activities to help them establish new friendships and an appreciation for nature and Canada.  Nina shares that “The long-term vision is to have this initiative continue to gain enough momentum to potentially have our head of outdoor ed and school administration consider establishing an all women's outdoor ed class which allow different cultures to more easily participate.

A Nature lover now, and forever.

Nina summed it up perfectly, stating that, “Nature is everything and always will be. It was here long before iPhones, computers, humans, and even dinosaurs. […] Nature has been a constant thing on earth that should be infinite. Nature and the environment is what sustains us and keep us connected to our roots. For these reasons I feel that everyone should feel the importance of protecting our heritage and enjoy the beauty of what was here long before any of us.”
Nature Canada would like to thank the Women for Nature members for generously supporting this mentorship pilot.

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