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Small Victories, Big Impact
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Small Victories, Big Impact

[caption id="attachment_16447" align="alignleft" width="111"]Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] Standing up for nature sometimes means going to court. Nature Canada is currently fighting legal battles to protect three highly endangered species at risk: Blanding’s Turtle, Greater Sage Grouse, and Whooping Crane. On April 20, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and Nature Canada achieved a big win for nature in a successful appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal. We fought to ensure the court upheld an administrative tribunal decision that the Ostrander wind project would cause irreversible harm to the endangered Blanding’s Turtle. And now, wind energy companies must consider how their projects will effect turtles, birds, bats and other species. Nature Canada and Ecojustice are joining forces in Federal Court. We’re standing up for nature against the City of Medicine Hat and the LGL Oil Company who claim that an emergency order requiring them to protect the highly endangered Greater Sage Grouse is unconstitutional. As a result of the deaths of at least 23 critically endangered Whooping Cranes from starvation in Texas, Nature Canada recently intervened in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Our brief argued that Texas must ensure that the birds have enough water to survive, regardless of the inconvenience to the state’s industrial water users. Our goal is to protect the one remaining migratory flock of about 300 Whooping Cranes that travel between Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Your support means these species at risk have their day in court. And while each case on its own may seem small, with your help we are ensuring nature’s voice is heard and creating legal precedents that mean more protections for species and their habitats. Thank you! blanding-sage-whooping

Spring call goes out to Canadians to record nature in their own backyards
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Spring call goes out to Canadians to record nature in their own backyards

TORONTO, ON (May 1, 2015) – Spring is here and with it NatureWatch and the Toronto Zoo are encouraging Canadians to get into their backyards and local parks and contribute to scientific research at the same time. NatureWatch.ca is launching an enhanced, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly website to encourage Canadian families to reconnect with nature. People can become ‘citizen scientists’ and report sightings of frogs and toads, flowering plants, receding lake ice, and even earthworms. It’s a call to the public for a nationwide effort to help track how environmental changes are affecting Canadian nature. Started over fifteen years ago, the Canada-wide NatureWatch program includes FrogWatch, PlantWatch, IceWatch and WormWatch – with plans for more programs to come. People are given information in these programs on how to use smartphones or computers to pin nature observations on an interactive map. Robert McLeman, a geography professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and one of the organizers of NatureWatch explains how it works. “Imagine you and your kids are playing in the park and you spot a frog. Can you tell what species it is? Grab your phone, open FrogWatch on the browser, and scroll through photos of frogs native to your province until you find a match. You can even hear a recording of the call. Then, you can submit your observation straight from your phone using an interactive map. It’s so easy, a kid can do it – and that’s the point”. "Citizen science is a powerful tool that connects Canadians to wildlife and the local environment and captures information on ecological trends over time," says Julia Phillips, Adopt-A-Pond Coordinator, Toronto Zoo. "The Toronto Zoo is proud to be a long-standing partner of the NatureWatch collaborative and excited to support citizen science initiatives like FrogWatch to inspire Canadians to save and protect species and habitats in their own backyards." Observations entered into NatureWatch are combined to track species distributions, variations in the lengths of seasons, and other important environmental processes. Users can access a map of NatureWatch observations from across Canada, and read reports on how their data is being used in research. Data collected with the help of citizen scientists has been proven to be very reliable for scholarly research, and past NatureWatch observations have been used in peer-reviewed scientific studies.

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 Media contacts: Amanda Chambers Supervisor of Public Relations and Events Toronto Zoo #416-392-5941 achambers@torontozoo.ca   Robert McLeman Associate Professor Department of Geography & Environmental Studies Wilfrid Laurier University #519-884-1970 ext. 2653 or #519-580-0384 rmcleman@wlu.ca   Stephen Hazell M.Sc. LL.B. Director of Conservation and General Counsel Nature Canada #613-562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca   Scott Wallace Senior Research Scientist David Suzuki Foundation #778-558-3984 swallace@davidsuzuki.org   About the Toronto Zoo: Toronto Zoo has been a partner of the NatureWatch collaborative since the program's beginning. The zoo's Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme plays an integral role by coordinating the FrogWatch program in Ontario. The FrogWatch program engages volunteers in monitoring amphibian populations and their habitats to determine trends in species distributions and calling patterns over time More than 1,100 people have contributed 15,000 plus observations to FrogWatch Ontario, and the program is still growing! The Toronto Zoo is Canada's premier zoo and a leader in animal preservation and environmental protection. More than a tourist attraction, the Toronto Zoo boasts a number of leading programs for helping wildlife and their natural habitats – from species reintroduction to reproductive research. A world-class educational centre for people of all ages, the Toronto Zoo is open every day except December 25 and attracts approximately 1.3 million visitors each year. For more information, visit www.torontozoo.com. About NatureWatch: NatureWatch is operated by a partnership of geography departments at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Ottawa, Nature Canada and David Suzuki Foundation, Toronto Zoo, and the Centre for e-learning at the University of Ottawa. All data collected through NatureWatch is publicly available for research use free of charge. NatureWatch does not collect any personal data about participants entering data.

A Breathtaking Photo
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A Breathtaking Photo

This month's featured photo of an Orca comes to us from Eileen Redding, a winner from the Nature Canada 75th Anniversary Photo Contest.

I was on a whale watching tour; east of Campbell River, BC, in the Strait of Georgia. It was a grey, gloomy day. We were only about 20 minutes out when we spotted the pod. I feel so fortunate to have seen them, and to get four breathtaking frames of one breaching in front of us.
From all of us at Nature Canada, we also feel fortunate that Eileen was able to capture such a beautiful moment and share it with us. To learn more about Orcas, please visit our species profile.

Preventing Oil Tanker Spills
Photo of an Orca
News

Preventing Oil Tanker Spills

[caption id="attachment_16447" align="alignleft" width="111"]Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] Energy East, Northern Gateway, TransMountain. None of these projects are just about pipelines carrying Alberta’s oil sands crude oil.  They are also about the giant oil tankers carrying the crude on a daily basis through, respectively, the Bay of Fundy, Hecate Strait and the Salish Sea. All three of these seas are ecologically priceless and biologically rich, renowned for their abundant birds, fish, whales, and other marine mammals.  The Bay of Fundy alone has 14 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) annually hosting over a million shorebirds, with concentrations of Humpback, Fin and endangered North Atlantic Right whales. Boundary Bay Important Bird Area just south of Vancouver adjacent to the TransMountain oil tanker shipping lane may be Canada’s most important IBA on the west coast with millions of birds visiting every spring and fall, hundreds of thousands of resident geese and ducks, and more wintering raptors than anywhere else in Canada. What are the risks that a mishap involving one of these “oil sands” tankers results in an Exxon Valdez-size spill? Such an oil spill could be catastrophic for birds, whales, fisheries and tourism in all of these waters—absent a timely and successful clean-up. What is the likelihood that the combined efforts of governments, industry and local communities could achieve this clean up before the oil does its deadly (for wildlife), polluting work? Skepticism is justified given the evidence of the small April 2015 oil spill in Vancouver harbour and the gigantic 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Both spills occurred in benign weather, on calm seas, and close to oil spill emergency responders.  Neither clean-up operation went well—to put it mildly. What are the chances of a successful clean-up of a major oil spill in the Hecate Strait where storm seas can reach 26 metres in height?;  in the Salish Sea with its powerful winter storms, narrow channels and many navigation hazards? or in the Bay of Fundy with its even worse weather and four to nine metre tides? Nature Canada is on it.  We intervened with experts and lawyers in the Northern Gateway and TransMountain hearings with BC Nature and the Environment Law Centre of University of Victoria.  We have applied to intervene (again with experts and lawyers) in the upcoming Energy East hearings with Nature NB and East Coast Environmental Law. Nature Canada’s job is to be a voice for nature at these hearings. Our job is to ensure that the National Energy Board has heard the best evidence as to the risks of a marine oil spill and the best ways to prevent a spill and clean it up (assuming that possibility exists), as well as the significance of the impacts on nature in case there is a spill. Working through the scientific and technical evidence at these hearings day after day is painstaking work that doesn’t necessarily attract television coverage or newspaper headlines. Nature Canada is nonetheless convinced that our approach is critical to ensuring that the oil company proponents are held to account and that government decisions ensure that the integrity of these marine ecosystems is sustained for our children and grandchildren—not to mention the birds and the whales!

Nature Groups to Focus on Bay of Fundy in Energy East Intervention
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Nature Groups to Focus on Bay of Fundy in Energy East Intervention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 23, 2015 (Ottawa, Fredericton) — Nature Canada and Nature NB have applied to be interveners at the National Energy Board hearings on the Energy East Project, focusing on the risk of oil tanker spills, potential impacts of spills on migratory birds and Important Bird Areas, and cumulative effects on Bay of Fundy ecosystems.

“A major spill of oil sands crude from a tanker into the Bay of Fundy would be unacceptable” said Stephen Hazell, director of conservation at Nature Canada. “Saint John may be Energy East’s sole marine terminal with greatly increased oil tanker traffic in the Bay of Fundy now that the Cacouna terminal in Quebec has been abandoned. Nature Canada’s intervention would provide expert evidence at the hearings on the risks of oil spills in the Bay of Fundy and propose requirements for tanker operating standards, oil spill prevention and response, and financial warranties. Energy East should not proceed unless and until the risk of a spill can be kept to an absolute minimum by virtue of these and other measures imposed by the National Energy Board.” “The Bay of Fundy is hugely important for migratory birds as well as whales and other wildlife, and Energy East tankers would traverse or come close to eight Important Bird Areas (IBAs) with globally, continentally or nationally significant concentrations of birds” said Vanessa Roy-McDougall, executive director of Nature NB. “Nature NB’s intervention would provide expert evidence on the potential impacts of an oil tanker spill on migratory birds and these invaluable IBAs to ensure that the Board’s environmental assessment is based on the best science available.” Nature Canada and Nature NB have retained Halifax-based East Coast Environmental Law and Lisa Mitchell, a Nova Scotia lawyer associated with East Coast Environmental Law, to provide legal representation at the hearings.

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Media Contacts

Stephen Hazell Director of Conservation and General Counsel, Nature Canada (613) 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca

Vanessa Roy-McDougall Executive Director, Nature NB (506) 459-4209 executive.director@naturenb.ca

Lisa Mitchell Lawyer, East Coast Environmental Law (902) 670-1113 Lisa.mitchell@ns.sympatico.ca

About Nature Canada Nature Canada is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year as a national charity devoted to being Canada’s voice for nature, focusing on connecting Canadians to nature and protecting wildlife species and habitats. Nature Canada is the Canadian co-partner in BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations that conserve birds, habitat and global biodiversity.

About Nature NB Nature NB is a non-profit, charitable organization whose mission is to celebrate, conserve and protect New Brunswick's natural heritage through education, networking and collaboration. Founded in 1972 as the New Brunswick Federation of Naturalists, the organization is presently comprised of a dozen naturalist clubs and hundreds of members across the province.

About East Coast Environmental Law Established in 2007 as a non-profit, charitable organization, ECELAW responds to community inquiries, carries out legal and policy research and presents educational resources and opportunities to increase public awareness of environmental laws in Atlantic Canada. ECELAW’s objective is to build capacity in the public and among legal practitioners so that we can work together to ensure that environmental laws are effectively used and strengthened.

Inspiring Voices for Nature
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Inspiring Voices for Nature

[caption id="attachment_16434" align="alignleft" width="117"]Jodi Joy Jodi Joy
Director of Development and Communications[/caption] Hundreds of members shared their “My Nature Canada” promises for nature over the past few months this year as part of our 75th anniversary celebrations. We welcome others to also consider making a “My Nature Canada” promise to protect and celebrate nature. Post it to Facebook or Tweet it to your friends today to remind them of how much nature means to you! As we celebrate Earth Day today, we would like to share some of our favourites to inspire you:


  •  I pledge to do everything in my power to persuade others to respect the delicate balance in this wonderful country of ours” – Greta
  • “When I go in the woods I leave nothing behind but my footprints” – Jacques
  • ‘Clean up hiking trails this summer as I hike” – Terry
  •  “To love, cherish, protect and improve any natural area I find myself in” – Grace
  • “Continue to plant native species in my yard and garden, grow my vegetable garden organically, and to walk in all seasons to marvel at all nature has to offer!” – Penny
  •  “We need nature for life so I will continue to speak out, write letters and act for nature as long as possible” – Joan
  • “Show my tiny grandson the beauty of the natural world every chance I get” – Sandy
  • “Organize a Citizen Science page for my nature club” - Carolyn
  • “Take my grand-children on nature walks and continue to point out the magnificent intricacies of nature at every opportunity” – Yvonne
  • “Work to protect the natural areas in our city for future generations to enjoy” - Lisa
  • “Renew my membership in my local naturalist club and volunteer for bird and butterfly counts” – Rose
  • “Honour nature by continuing to photograph it” – Petra
  • “Bring nature back into our communities by planting native plant species!” - Elise
  • Support those who work hard to protect our environment” - Barbara
Thank you to all our members, for being at the heart of our community that listens to voices of nature and shares the wonder and joy it brings to our lives!

Species spotlight: Orca
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Species spotlight: Orca

Common name: Orca, or Killer Whale Latin name: Orcinus orca Status under SARA: There are several populations of Orca found in Canadian waters, some of which are considered “transient” and others that are “resident”. BC’s Northeast Pacific southern resident population is Endangered; BC’s Northeast Pacific northern resident, transient and offshore populations are each listed as Threatened. The Northwest Atlantic/Eastern Arctic population has been proposed for listing as Special Concern. Range: Members of the various populations are found in Canada’s Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans both in deep offshore waters and in near shore, coastal and estuarine areas. Orcas are not known to occur in the waters of the central Arctic where sea ice is more persistent. Population Estimate: Fewer than 78 individuals are thought to remain in BC’s Pacific southern resident population, while up to 200 individuals could remain in BC’s Pacific northern resident population. Both populations have experienced steady declines in recent years. Size: On average less than 9 m in length for adult males, and less than 7.7 m for adult females. The prominent dorsal fins of adult males can stand up to 1.8 m tall, while the dorsal of females and juveniles are about 1 m in height and tend to appear more hook-like in shape. The Story: This iconic marine species is well-known among Canadians and are easy to recognize given their black and white pattern and tall dorsal fin. British Columbia’s resident populations are unique in that they tend to travel in larger groups, or “pods”, than their transient and offshore cousins, and they show unique behaviours and dietary preferences. Resident populations predominantly feed on fish and not marine mammals, and as such their numbers seem to fluctuate with the availability of their prey - the five different salmon species on BC’s coast (i.e., Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Coho and Chinook salmon). As a result, BC’s resident killer whale populations are critically linked to the fate of salmon, whose own numbers have been declining in recent years. The 2012 Cohen Commission of Inquiry was even formed to investigate the decline of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon. And it doesn’t stop there – impacts on the food supply and habitat that Pacific salmon rely upon can ultimately impact BC’s resident Orcas. Given the intricacy of linkages between BC’s freshwater salmon spawning grounds and the coastal and near shore waters where adult salmon serve as food for resident Orca populations, we need to be prudent and conservation-minded with industrial developments and other human activities that could disrupt nature’s balance in BC – and elsewhere. To provide a voice for nature in these matters, Nature Canada and BC Nature are working with the UVic Environmental Law Centre, as interveners in the hearings for the TransMountain project. This project which would see large increases in oil tanker traffic – and the risk of one or more serious oil spills – throughout the range of BC’s southern resident Orca population. Under SARA, both the critical marine habitat of these Orcas, and the individual whales themselves, are protected from harassment, harm and destruction. Let’s hope that nature's voice makes a positive difference for BC’s southern resident and other Orca populations!

Birds of Prey Visit Ottawa Schools
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Birds of Prey Visit Ottawa Schools

[caption id="attachment_16449" align="alignleft" width="126"]Alex MacDonald Alex MacDonald, Conservation Manager[/caption] Over 1,400 elementary school students got to meet Apollo, a Red-tailed Hawk, and his colleague, Darwin, a Great-horned Owl, as part of Nature Canada’s school tour with Falcon-Ed in Ottawa on March 24th. The tour included stops at 4 Ottawa area schools, each of which received a 45-minute presentation by Falcon-Ed’s biologist and falconer, Geneviève Zaloum, who handles Apollo and Darwin. The presentations not only gave students an up-close view of these majestic birds, but also taught them about what makes birds of prey, or raptors, so unique and important in the ecosystem – and in the students’ own NatureHood. The goal of Nature Canada’s NatureHood program is to connect urban Canadians, especially youths and new Canadians, to nearby nature. Apollo and Darwin are ideal ambassadors of nearby nature for the kindergarten to grade 6 students at Farley Mowat, W.E. Gowling, Stittsville and Bayshore public schools, as both the Red-tailed Hawk and the Great-horned Owl are locally-occurring species. It’s such a pleasure to work with Geneviève, Apollo and Darwin to raise local students’ awareness of nearby nature and the many creatures that call it home. This sort of accessible, up-close learning opportunity is difficult to create in the classroom or in the field, and it helps students to see firsthand how exquisitely adapted these birds are to their environment, while calling attention to their vulnerability to human impacts. And those lessons are transferable to so many other wildlife and habitat conservation issues we face today. In order to create and nurture the next generation of conservationists, we need to help them see and appreciate how precious nature is, before it’s too late. If the students’ reactions to Apollo and Darwin, and Falcon-Ed’s various raptor-related props are any indication, today’s youth can still get excited about nature! Among the comments shared and questions asked, we heard: “Why doesn’t the Peregrine Falcon catch on fire when it dives?” [In response to the explanation that Peregrine Falcons are actually the fastest animal on earth, with aerial dives of up to 300 km/hr] “I learned that the Red-tailed Hawk eats a mouse whole, then keeps the good stuff and spits up the bad stuff, which is called the pellet.” “Nature is everywhere.” [In response to the question: Where is nature?] “I never really saw a real owl in person and it was a great feeling that I saw him [Darwin] and when he hooted.” Working with the staff and birds from Montreal-based Falcon-Ed is always a treat! All of Falcon-Ed’s birds are born in captivity and have been specially trained for human contact and falconry – no wild birds are used. We owe a very big thanks to White Swan for sponsoring our NatureHood program and enabling us to offer these exceptional live raptor demonstrations to so many deserving Ottawa students! StittsvillePS_FalconEd_March24-2015_cropped BayshorePS_FalconEd_March24-2015_cropped WEGowlingPS_FalconEd_March24-2015_cropped

Update: Standing up for Nature in the Salish Sea
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Update: Standing up for Nature in the Salish Sea

Stephen 242x242 with title (Orca - Photo credit: Eileen Redding) Nature Canada and BC Nature are standing up for nature as the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the TransMountain pipeline and tanker project draw nearer. The 1,180 TransMountain project would increase capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day, and result in oil tankers moving almost daily through the Salish Sea past critical Important Bird Areas such as Boundary Bay. On February 26, 2015, our lawyers at the UVic Environmental Law Centre (ELC) filed a motion with NEB to compel full and adequate responses by the proponent Kinder Morgan to our second request for information submitted in January 2015.  BC Nature and Nature Canada are arguing that Kinder Morgan did not respond adequately, for example, to our request for more information on the risk of harm to birds from an oil tanker spill and the resilience of bird populations to recover from an oil spill.  This is the second time that BC Nature and Nature Canada have asked the NEB to compel Kinder Morgan to answer questions about the impacts of the TransMountain project on nature; a similar, partially successful, motion was filed in July 2014. According to Nature Canada’s lawyer Christopher Tollefson, these information requests are extremely important given that the NEB has taken the unprecedented decision to eliminate oral cross-examination from the hearing process.  BC Nature and Nature Canada have objected to the elimination of cross-examination on the grounds that this will seriously compromise the NEB’s ability to assess the evidence and determine whether or not the project is in the public interest. The NEB hearings on the TransMountain project are now likely to occur in the summer and fall of 2015. Thanks to your support, Nature Canada can continue to be a voice for nature on these oil pipeline and tanker projects.

Aglukkaq congratulated on 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets
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Aglukkaq congratulated on 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets

February 9, 2015 (OTTAWA) –  Nature Canada congratulates the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Federal Environment Minister, and her provincial and territorial colleagues on the announcement of Canada’s 2020 biodiversity goals and targets. These goals and targets will provide the basis for measuring and reporting on progress made to protect and conserve biodiversity across the country through initiatives such as the National Conservation Plan. “The best news is that the governments have endorsed the target of conserving at least 17 percent of Canada’s terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, through networks of protected areas and other defined measures.” said Eleanor Fast, Nature Canada’s Executive Director. “Target 2 is also good news. It is essential that we keep secure species secure and ensure that species at risk exhibit trends consistent with recovery strategies and management plans.” “Achieving these biodiversity goals and targets ins just five or six years is a daunting challenge that will demand collaborative efforts by governments, aboriginal peoples, industry, nature organizations not to mention significant new funding.” said Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation.  “Nature Canada is keen to support achievement of the goals and targets wherever we can.” The text of the four goals and 19 targets can be found here. For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

  • Eleanor Fast, Executive Director, 613-562-3447 X247 efast@naturecanada.ca; or
  • Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation, 613 724-1908, shazell@naturecanada.ca

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