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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature Saskatchewan
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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature Saskatchewan

NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers. Nature Saskatchewan recently worked with three schools in Regina to give students in five classes the opportunity to participate in the FeederWatch program. FeederWatch is a program that encourages young people to set up bird feeders and periodically check on how many birds show up to their feeder and what species those birds are. The flexible nature of the program allows participants to choose two consecutive days to check the feeders (and on the same days each week). It’s a program that not only helps track the winter bird populations across the continent but also encourages students to learn more about the birds living in their area. [caption id="attachment_23984" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Downy Woodpecker A Downy Woodpecker at a feeder[/caption] Nature Saskatchewan representatives went to the three participating schools and gave the students a short presentation on what kinds of birds they might see. Throughout the program, students might catch glimpses of finches, magpies, blue jays, or even a partridge in a pear tree. After the presentation, students were provided with materials to make and decorate their own bird feeders. Nature Saskatchewan will also be supplying them with enough seed to get through the winter. Students then set up their feeders under trees or near windows; prime spots for feeders that either protect their visiting birds from the cold when they come to feed or allow the kids to keep an eye on the feeders without always having to go out in the cold themselves. Participating students will check their feeders for visitors during either their recesses or after school programs depending on the school. Their observation period started between November 12th and November 19th depending on the school, and will likely continue until mid-April. This gives students a chance to see a large variety of birds from the hardy ones that stick around for the Canadian winters to the migratory birds who will have begun to return by April. Additionally, teachers of participating classrooms were put in contact with FeederWatch Canada as well as teachers at other participating schools. This will allow teachers and students alike to share exciting bird sightings and ideas about the program. When the FeederWatch program in these schools comes to an end, students will be left with their own lists of observed birds as well as shared data from other schools and other FeederWatch participants from across the continent. After the observations are over and the feeders are taken down, the kids will know a little bit more about the feathered friends that hang around their schools and homes, and maybe some of them will be inspired to set up their own feeders at home to continue watching for birds through the spring and summer.

 
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Political Leadership Needed to Protect Grasslands
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Political Leadership Needed to Protect Grasslands

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] The prairie grasslands in Canada are ecologically invaluable - they are one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada and globally. In Saskatchewan, more than 800,000 hectares were restored and managed for ranching and nature conservation since the 1930s through the federal Community Pasture Program. Unfortunately, the previous federal government cancelled the program in 2012 and has been transferring the management of these precious lands to the government of Saskatchewan, thereby putting these grasslands at risk. Saskatchewan’s current policy is to lease or sell these lands to the pasture patrons (ranchers) for livestock production but without any support for conserving the numerous species at risk or preventing the spread of invasive species. As well, the 5 million dollars in annual revenue from surface leases (i.e., oil and gas production) will also be turned over to Saskatchewan management. These pastures store around 150 million tonnes of carbon when they are properly managed; some of this carbon could be being released into the atmosphere if the pastures are overgrazed or converted to monoculture agriculture or oil and gas development. If you recall, Canada is committed by international agreement to protecting at least 17% of terrestrial areas by 2020, and the 800,000 ha. in Saskatchewan community pastures count towards this figure. With no conservation efforts in place, these grasslands will not be counted towards Canada's target - which is a significant amount of land not being protected. In June, Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and several ranching and other nature groups jointly submitted a proposal to Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay to bring light to the matter and to resolve these grassland issues. In this proposal, we called on the Minster to:

  1. Put a pause on the transfer on the remaining pastures and allow time to consider the conservation options;
  2. Establish an independently managed trust or other mechanism to provide sustainable funding to support the protection and conservation of all the community pastures; and
  3. Review options to maintain federal ownership of the remaining pastures and to allow the application of 5 million dollars in surface lease revenues to fund the trust.
To read more on the issue, click here.
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Saskatchewan Takes Major Steps to Protect Wildlife and Promote Renewable Energy
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Saskatchewan Takes Major Steps to Protect Wildlife and Promote Renewable Energy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (OTTAWA—Sept 20, 2016)— Yesterday was a momentous day in Saskatchewan for wildlife protection and renewable energy. On the same day the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment rejected the controversial Chaplin Lake wind energy project, they introduced new Provincial wind energy siting guidelines. American Bird Conservancy, Nature Canada, and Nature Saskatchewan applaud the Government of Saskatchewan for their progressive leadership on wind energy development and wildlife protection. “Nature Canada supports appropriately sited wind energy development, and these guidelines establish a new standard in Canada for protecting wildlife while providing the industry much needed clear direction on how to avoid costly conflicts and delays,” says Ted Cheskey, Senior Manager for Nature Canada. The guidelines set out clear “no-go” zones for wind developers that, for the first time in Canada, include Important Bird Areas with five-kilometre buffers around them, as well as many other natural features of high significance. The guidelines also include clear language that directs developers to avoid siting projects on native prairie. “We are thrilled about the Government of Saskatchewan’s decision and the new guidelines,” says Jordan Ignatiuk of Nature Saskatchewan. “Bird conservation has made a big leap forward, thanks to these new provincial guidelines.” “When it comes to wind energy, placement is everything. Large, commercial wind energy facilities should not be built in major migratory routes, breeding areas, or other sensitive habitats for wildlife, such as wetlands,” says Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign “There are plenty of other places wind turbines can go that will result in fewer birds killed. ABC recognizes that Canada and the United States share billion of migratory birds, and that we need to work more closely together for their conservation,” adds Hutchins. Grassland birds and shorebirds, species for which the Chaplin Lake area is of great importance, are in serious trouble, based on recent reports such as the State of North American Birds and the Partners in Flight 2016 Report. “This is exactly the type of action that is needed to meaningfully start helping the species in trouble,” says Cheskey. -30- For more information please contact: Nature Canada Ted Cheskey, tcheskey@naturecanada.ca, Senior Conservation Manager, (613) 323-3331 American Bird Conservancy Michael Hutchins, Ph.D. Director, Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, (202) 888-7485, mhutchins@abcbirds.org Nature Saskatchewan Jordan Ignatiuk, Executive Director, (306)780-9293 office, (306) 551-0152 cell For further media assistance, please contact: Janet Weichel McKenzie 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenze@gmail.com About Nature Canada Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada. About American Bird Conservancy American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.

Prairie Grasslands in Saskatchewan named as one of Canada’s Top Ten Endangered Places for 2016
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Prairie Grasslands in Saskatchewan named as one of Canada’s Top Ten Endangered Places for 2016

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Prairie Grasslands in Saskatchewan have been named as one of The National Trust for Canada’s Top 10 Endangered Places for 2016. The Top 10 Endangered Places List is released annually to bring national attention to sites at risk due to neglect, lack of funding, inappropriate development and weak legislation. The National Trust describes these grasslands as “a storied landscape of natural and cultural value at risk” In 2012, the federal government decided to shut down the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) which had restored one million hectares of community pastures that had been overworked in the Dustbowl years in the 1930s. These community pastures, composed mainly of native prairie, are being transferred to the provincial governments; the Saskatchewan government has stated its intention to sell these public lands as they are transferred to it. Nature Canada and Nature Saskatchewan are calling on the new Liberal government to stop the transfers of these lands until a plan is in place to protect the ecological values of these endangered places—including protection of the numerous species, conservation of soil and water, management of invasive species and storage of carbon.  See how you can help save Canada’s grasslands. For more information on the Top Ten Endangered Places see the National Trust Canada website.

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Grasslands Lobby Swaying Ottawa
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Grasslands Lobby Swaying Ottawa

[caption id="attachment_23643" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Nature Canada teamed up with Saskatchewan-based nature groups in Ottawa last week to lobby for a pause in the transfer of important grasslands to the Saskatchewan government. Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan, Public Pastures Public Interest, and CPAWS Saskatchewan are all arguing that the 27 remaining federal managed community pastures in Saskatchewan should not be transferred until a nature protection plan is in place (the Saskatchewan government has stated that, once transferred, these lands would be sold off subject only to a “no-break, no-drain” conservation easement). Federal management of these prairie grasslands has meant stronger protection for threatened and endangered species, conservation of soil and water, and continued sequestration of greenhouse gases. The previous federal government wrongly decided in 2012 to eliminate the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) and transfer one million hectares of grasslands without any plan to protect species at risk or ensure sustainable ranching. [caption id="attachment_27299" align="alignright" width="225"]From left to right: Stephen Hazell, Rick Ashton, Trevor Herriot, and Gord Vaadeland. From left to right: Stephen Hazell, Rick Ashton, Trevor Herriot, and Gord Vaadeland.[/caption] Based on our meetings with advisors to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and senior civil servants, it seems that the new Liberal government is at least listening. Any pause on transfers of these federally managed grasslands should be part of a strategy to conserve native grasslands across the prairies by supporting positive stewardship practices by ranchers and nature groups on private lands as well as establishing protected areas such as National Wildlife Areas. Grasslands are one of the most imperiled ecosystems in Canada. PFRA grasslands include almost all the best remnants of mixed-grass prairie in Canada, providing critical habitat for at least 31 species at risk such as: Greater Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owl, Swift Fox, and Ferruginous Hawk. These grasslands also provide an important carbon sink for greenhouse gas emissions. [button link="http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1909&ea.campaign.id=44681" size="medium" target="_self" color="orange" lightbox="false"]You can help protect these grasslands by signing our petition![/button] As well, you can also learn more about critical grasslands and other wilderness places to save here.

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Trudeau Government should Protect Grasslands
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Trudeau Government should Protect Grasslands

[caption id="attachment_16447" align="alignleft" width="150"]Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and Legal Counsel[/caption] Prime Minister Trudeau has a great opportunity to protect more of Canada’s grasslands, which are our most imperilled ecosystem. The former Harper government shut down the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) and was in the process of transferring one million hectares of PFRA grasslands to the provinces without any plan to protect habitat for threatened species such as Greater Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owl, Swift Fox and Ferruginous Hawk. [caption id="attachment_23228" align="alignright" width="260"]Swift Fox by Cliff Wallis Swift Fox by Cliff Wallis[/caption] Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and Alberta Wilderness Association are calling on the new government to put a pause on these transfers until a such a plan is in place. [button link="http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1909&ea.campaign.id=44681" size="medium" target="_self" icon="" color="dark green" lightbox="false"]Sign our petition today to help us put a pause on the transfer of grasslands![/button] Read more in this Leader Post article, as well as this Yorkton article. Email Signup

Nature Groups Seek Federal Pause on Grassland Transfers
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Nature Groups Seek Federal Pause on Grassland Transfers

[one_third][/one_third] [one_third]Nature Saskatchewan[/one_third] [one_third_last]Alberta Wilderness Association[/one_third_last]

For Immediate Release October 29, 2015 (OTTAWA, ON, and REGINA, SK) —The new federal government should announce an immediate pause in transfers of grasslands formerly managed by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) until a plan is in place to protect their ecological values say Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and Alberta Wilderness Association. “We simply cannot afford to lose more grasslands -- the most imperilled ecosystem in Canada” says Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation. “Saskatchewan grasslands are critical habitat for threatened species such as Greater Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owl, Swift Fox and Ferruginous Hawk as well as providing a carbon sink for greenhouse gas emissions. Transfers of management responsibility of PFRA community pastures to the Saskatchewan government should be halted until Canada and Saskatchewan agree on a legally binding plan to protect the ecological values of these grasslands”. “Given its election commitment to National Wildlife Areas, the new government should move forward quickly on public consultations towards establishing a National Wildlife Area for the 28,000 hectare Govenlock community pasture to protect wildlife and the carbon sink while providing for ongoing cattle ranching” says Jordan Ignatiuk, Nature Saskatchewan’s executive director. “Financial arrangements need to be put in place to ensure protection of species at risk and the carbon sink in those PFRA grasslands already transferred to the province.  Manitoba has moved in this direction on its 24 PFRA community pastures, now it is time for Saskatchewan and Canada to plan how to protect the ecological values of the 62 PFRA community pastures covering 720,000 hectares in our province”. “A federal pause on transfers of PFRA community pastures should be part of a larger plan to conserve native grasslands across the prairies” says Cliff Wallis of Alberta Wilderness Association.  “Canada should support a plan for nature conservation on the community pastures that haven’t yet been transferred, as well as conservation actions by ranchers and nature groups on private lands. These plans should be developed in full consultation with all those concerned about these grasslands and recognize current positive stewardship practices”. -30- About Nature Canada Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network of more than 45,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country, with affiliates in every province. Nature Canada focuses on effecting change on issues of national significance including bird conservation,  citizen science initiatives, urban nature initiatives, building a national network of conservation organizations, building a network of volunteers to care for critical natural habitat sites across Canada and being a voice for nature at the federal level. Media contact Stephen Hazell Director of Conservation and General Counsel Cell: 613-724-1908 Email: shazell@naturecanada.ca Jordan Ignatiuk Executive Director, Nature Saskatchewan Cell: 306-551-0152 Email:  jignatiuk@naturesask.ca Cliff Wallis Alberta Wilderness Association Cell: 403 607-1970 Email: deercroft@shaw.ca

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