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Why We Should Protect The Fraser River Estuary
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Why We Should Protect The Fraser River Estuary

Written by Nature Canada’s writing intern, Gabriel Planas The Fraser River Estuary is a large area of interconnected marine, estuarine, freshwater and agricultural habitats, near Vancouver. With almost 17,000 hectares of wetland, the estuary supports a variety of  habitats such as  salt and  estuarine marshes, mudflats, and deep tidal waters. These habitats are crucial to the 560 species found in the Fraser River Estuary. Killer Whales, Townsend Moles, and even Sockeye Salmon depend on this area for migration and residential purposes. Some species, such as the Western Sandpiper, depend on the region so heavily that roughly 500,000 Western Sandpipers visit the mud flats of Roberts Bank every day. Sockeye Salmon is  the most important commercial species among the hundreds found in the Fraser River Estuary. An estimated 10 million salmon make their way back to the Fraser Estuary every year. While this may seem impressive, due to warming waters, pollution, overfishing and the spread of farmed fish parasites, these numbers are dropping. Image of sockeye salmonUnfortunately, the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of  Fraser River Estuary habitats impact more than just the populations of salmon. Being home to Canada’s third largest urban center that functions on the largest port in the region poses a clear danger to the Estuary, as human populations are estimated to grow to 1.4 million by 2040. This growth in population has influenced current and proposed urban and industrial developments to use land formerly inhabited by local wildlife. Additionally, the conversion of open agricultural fields to berry crops, greenhouses and other intensive uses has reduced farmland habitats used by waterfowl, shorebirds and owls. The push to build the Kinder-Morgan pipeline and increase the volume of crude oil and the amount of Diluted Bitumen being transported through the region  also creates risk for the health of the Estuary. The amount of tanker traffic in the Salish Sea near the Estuary  is expected to rise dramatically, driving up the risk of oil spills drastically. Additionally, Diluted Bitumen extracted from tar sands and transported through the pipeline is considered more toxic and far more destructive to the environment than crude oil, which makes the  prospect of a pipeline or tanker spill even more worrisome. Difficulties for the Fraser River Estuary are not limited to systemic issues, the introduction of foreign species to habitats and recreational disturbances contribute to the loss of habitats within the Fraser River Estuary. It is important for us, as humans, to understand the kinds of consequences our actions can cause. Nature Canada is dedicated to spreading the word about  these at-risk areas and advocating for their protection. Check out our proposed protected areas page to learn more about these unique habitats and what we are doing to ensure a future for them.

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Proposed National Wildlife Area: Lac St. Pierre
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Proposed National Wildlife Area: Lac St. Pierre

Written by intern Gabriel Planas. What is it? Lac St.-Pierre is a widening of the St. Lawrence River 75 Km downstream from Montreal and about 120 km from Quebec City.  Lac St. Pierre is considered the furthest inland where there is still a distinct tidal effect. The lake is shallow, rarely reaching depths greater than 3m.  Aquatic plants are abundant with many species such as Water Celery. These factors make Lac St. Pierre excellent habitat for fish species at risk such as Lake Sturgeon, Copper Red Horse and Striped Bass. Lac St. Pierre has four IBAs that provide habitat for tremendous numbers of waterfowl and other species.  Between 500,000 and one million Greater Snow Geese annually migrate over lac St. Pierre, most of them stopping for many days. [caption id="attachment_37178" align="alignright" width="470"] Great Blue Heron[/caption] On an island on the west side of the Lac is one of the largest heronries in North America, with over one thousand pairs of Great Blue Herons, as well as populations of Black-crowned Night Heron and Great Egret. The wetland contain significant numbers of the at-risk Least Bittern, and the lake also supports continentally significant numbers of waterfowl such as Black Scoter. Some of the lake’s wetlands are also believed to be a significant roost site for swallow species prior to their fall migrations to the south. Issues: There are a number of issues facing Lac St. Pierre that have affected water quality and wildlife habitat. Oil or chemical spills from ships using the St. Lawrence Seaway which passes directly through Lac St. Pierre, is a constant threat due to the high volume of shipping. Dredging of sediments in Lac St. Pierre to keep the lanes open has damaged and destroyed fish and mollusk habitat and released chemicals and heavy metals into the water, exceeding safety limits. Surface water tests often find high amounts of metals such as aluminum, chromium, copper and Iron. Intensive agricultural operations around Lac St. Pierre release fertilizers and other chemicals into the numerous tributaries emptying into Lac St. Pierre resulting in serious pollution issues. Extensive wetlands around the lake have been drained for conversion to agricultural resulting in loss of wetland habitat, impacting migratory bird and fish; populations of Pickerel and yellow perch. What is being done? On the bright side, the importance of Lac St. Pierre to nature conservation is recognized. The area has four IBAs (Important Bird Area). The area is also part of the Lac St.-Pierre Biosphere Reserve, as designated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The Biosphere Reserve is aimed at engaging people in environmental and educational activities to help in its conservation. Additionally, the RAMSAR Convention, which aims to help the conservation and management of wetlands, has recognized this area as a wetland of international importance.  The Quebec and Federal governments recognize Lac St. Pierre as a high priority conservation area.   Despite the best of intentions, protection of this area primarily only extends to bird populations or limited wetland conservation projects. Nature Canada supports efforts to protect Lac St. Pierre as a National Wildlife Area.

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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

15,000 Scientists endorse Nature Canada’s Strategic Plan (more or less)
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15,000 Scientists endorse Nature Canada’s Strategic Plan (more or less)

[caption id="attachment_30818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jill Sturdy Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager[/caption] Earlier this week, over 15,000 scientists issued a “Warning to Humanity” in an effort to raise the alarm of increased environmental destruction of the planet, and what we can do about it. Published in the scientific journal BioScience, the scientists led by William Ripple revisited the 1992 “Warning to Humanity” and collected data and identified trends over the past 25 years. The story is bleak. Most of the environmental indicators measured in 1992 have gotten worse, and globally humanity has failed to curb environmental destruction from increased deforestation, rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels leading to climate change, unsustainable fisheries, mass extinction of species, and uncontrolled population growth. But…All is not lost. There is still hope.Image of a Canadian River In their “Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice”; the scientists  cite actions humanity  can take to help offset environmental destruction including three key areas Nature Canada is actively working on:

  1. Protect large intact ecosystems on land and ocean;
  2. Maintain nature’s ecosystem services by halting the conversion of forests and grasslands; and
  3. Promote outdoor environmental education for children, and overall engagement in nature.
Canada has an incredible opportunity to be a leader in global biodiversity and nature protection. Nature is part of our core and Canadian identity. We are so fortunate to have access to nature all around us. We need to ensure our children get the same opportunities to explore in nature so they grow up to be future nature advocates. At the same time, the federal government has committed to an international target of protecting at least 17% of our lands and 10% of our ocean by 2020, and politicians  need to be held to the fire to meet these critical targets. Let’s take this warning as a challenge to be better stewards of the planet and to act more sustainably. What can you do:
  1. Get outside! Take your kids out into nature on a daily basis. You don’t need to go far to explore nature. Learn more about Nature Canada’s NatureHood program on ways you can connect to Nearby Nature;
  2. Talk to your local Member of Parliament about nature conservation and your desire to see more biodiversity protected;
  3. Learn more about what Nature Canada is doing to push the federal government to meet its targets for increased protection; and
  4. Donate to Nature Canada and help us continue to be a strong voice for Nature.
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Brier Island and Offshore National Marine Conservation Area
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Brier Island and Offshore National Marine Conservation Area

This blog was written by guest blogger Claire Smith.  Image of Red-necked PhalaropeBrier Island and its offshore waters have long been distinguished for their seasonal role in hosting migrating birds. As one of the most significant Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the Maritimes, it is considered a must-see attraction for many bird lovers. More than 100,000 birds are hosted on and around the island annually, belonging to over 331 different bird species. The island hosts the migrations of raptors, waterbirds and landbirds, and as well as an important segment of the North American population of Red and Red-necked Phalaropes. These two species of Phalaropes feed on zooplankton that concentrates in tidal streaks, which are caused by upwelling around underwater ledges. The birds are fortunate enough to find these tidal features at anywhere from six to sixteen kilometers off the shore of the island. Other important at-risk species found in the area are the North Atlantic Right Whale, Fin Whale and the Peregrine Falcon. These species would benefit greatly from the proposed National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA), a designation under Parks Canada’s protected areas system, which would run up to 15 km offshore. The survival of the Endangered Eastern Mountain Avens flower would also be greatly encouraged by the whole island’s status as a conservation area – one in which most human activities could continue without interruption. The entire Canadian population of the flower is found on Brier Island and the neighboring East Ferry Area of Digby Neck. It is estimated its total population is limited to 3200 plants, 95% of which are found on Brier Island. For unknown reasons, the only other place in the entire world that this beautiful wildflower can be found is in high altitude, wet areas of New Hampshire. Protecting this precious endangered species should be a priority for Canadians. [caption id="attachment_28890" align="alignleft" width="274"]Image of the Brier Island Lighthouse Brier Island Lighthouse by Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA 2.0)[/caption] Currently, the wildlife of the island is the focal point of several whale-watching and seabird-watching boat enterprises that are stationed in the island’s only community, Westport. Though these wildlife watching industries are regulated, there is some concern that too many boats doing too many trips per day throughout the summer months could begin to have a negative impact on the marine mammals and birds. A local fishery also exists on the island but it has decreased in size over time. The fishery may have impacted the colonial seabirds, as it supported a large seagull population. It may have also threatened the endangered Avens flower as large gull populations encourage the invasion of weeds and shrubs. The island, the bird species it hosts, and its surrounding aquatic life certainly qualify for, and would benefit from, official protection as an NMCA. Its conservation area status would help ensure its place as a natural marvel and thriving community of the Maritimes for years to come.  

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Federal Strategy needed to protect Wild Lands and Water
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Federal Strategy needed to protect Wild Lands and Water

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Canada urgently needs a strategy to meet its international commitments to protect 17% of our land and 10% of our oceans by 2020 says Nature Canada. Nature Canada’s Eleanor Fast and Alex MacDonald testified at the House of Commons Environment Committee on May 10 with recommendations on how Canada can achieve its so-called Aichi targets under the Convention for Biological Diversity. First, the federal government needs to stop transferring away protected areas it currently manages. Currently, 700,000 hectares of mainly native grasslands are being transferred to the Government of Saskatchewan, which has stated will be sold privately once transferred. These grasslands provide critical habitat for dozens of species at risk, conserve soil and water, and store carbon that would otherwise be released as greenhouse gas emissions. Second, federal efforts to ramp up establish new National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries needs to be accelerated. Overlooked for new funding in the 2016 federal budget, the Canadian Wildlife Service needs significant new resources to take full advantage of these underutilized tools to established protected areas. A straightforward starting point for these efforts is to provide legal protection to Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) where appropriate. Third, there is a tremendous opportunity to work with indigenous governments and communities to establish new protected areas as part of the negotiations relating to the nation-to-nation process that the federal government is committed to. The link to Nature Canada’s brief to the Environment Committee can be found here.

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Protecting the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake
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Protecting the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption] In the Northwest Territories, just bordering Yellowknife, lies Dinàgà Wek’èhodì (dee-na-ga wek-a-ho-dee) – a northern pocket in the North Arm of the Great Slave Lake. The 790 square kilometre region is an IBA-designated, international hot-spot for migrating birds, with the springtime seeing thousands of flocks staged here (and a respectable number of avian residents in the fall, too). In 1990, over 100,000 birds from 29 different species were recorded in the North Arm. Birds that take post here include several goose species – ranging from the Tundra Swan to the Canada Goose – as well as the vulnerable Rusty Blackbird, the quirky-looking Surf Scoter, and the Northern Pintail. All of these birds rely on a steady flow of water to maintain favourable conditions in their habitat. The surrounding region is also very duck-friendly; the forests provide an ideal space for the reproduction of Boreal Ducks. There is currently a movement under the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy to protect this branch of the Great Slave Lake. Doing so will help preserve its vital capacity to sustain thousands of migratory birds each year, and will help keep its waters clean from environmental pollutants. Several First Nations representatives are involved with the project, as well as stakeholder-organizations and sponsors from the environmental and cultural realms. Since the Dinàgà Wek’èhodì region is culturally significant to both the Dene and Métis communities – who have traditionally utilized the area for activities such as hunting and fishing – the input of these representatives will be imperative.Red Winged Blackbird Although there are no imminent threats to the bird-friendly ecosystem of Dinàgà Wek’èhodì, recreational boating activities and pollution have been cited as disturbances that need to be kept in-check. We must also think about what it happening further downstream – the mother-lake that this north pocket belongs to has been matched against the ongoing threat of dam construction around its Upper Slave River pocket (a.k.a. the Peace River). As a result of this activity, the Great Slave Lake has seen a reduction in its water levels. What does this mean for the migratory bird paradise intact upstream? It is currently unknown what impact this will have on these birds and their habitats, but speculative probability assessments have been wary of the impending development projects. Nature Canada is raising our voice to have this area, as well as 6 others, listed as a protected area and you can help!

[button link="http://e-activist.com/ea-campaign/action.retrievestaticpage.do?ea_static_page_id=4826" size="medium" target="_self" color="blue" lightbox="false"]Take Action and Save Wilderness Now[/button]

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