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Saving rare species in the South Okanagan Similkameen
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Saving rare species in the South Okanagan Similkameen

What do Vancouverites and Burrowing Owls have in common? Answer: They're both facing a housing crisis. The dry hills and forests of BC's South Okanagan valley are the only habitat in the province suitable for burrowing owls. Sadly, they don't live there anymore. The species was declared expatriated - or locally extinct - in 1980. In the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley, 56 federally-listed species at risk are facing the same possibility. Thanks to habitat loss, climate change and development, there are more endangered animals and plants here than anywhere else in the province Ready to sign our petition to create a National Park Reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley? Great! Read on to find out who you're protecting, and take the time to complete a government survey mentioning these species:   [caption id="attachment_47982" align="alignleft" width="150"] Dave Menke USFWS Photo: Dave Menke[/caption]

The Flammulated Owl (Otus Flammeolus)

Classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Species of Special Concern
- Small owl with stubby, little ear tufts - Large, black-button eyes - Colourful, changing feather pattern – in the Ponderosa pine forests of the south, reddish hues predominate; in the northernmost parts of the region, grayish hues mixed with browns match the Douglas-fir trees around - Habitat is threatened by agricultural activities and forest operations – not good for a creature that dwells in the woods [caption id="attachment_47986" align="alignright" width="150"]Photo: Peter Stevens Photo: Peter Stevens[/caption]

 

Lyall’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus lyallii)

Classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Threatened Species
- White with a moon-shaped spot at the base of its petals – may bear a purple “crescent” on top - Similar to the Three-spot Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), except smaller - Like other Mariposa lilies, it is characterized by a set of three petals interlaced with three sepals, and takes refuge in grassy meadows and dry hillsides - Shade intolerant - A very rare lily in the southern interior of British Columbia; in Canada, this lily species only occurs between the Similkameen river and the Okanagan Valley - Several threats ranging from predators (insects/small mammals), invasive weeds, land alteration via coniferous tree planting, availability of pollinators and reproductive failure   [caption id="attachment_47984" align="alignright" width="150"]Gilaman/Flickr Photo: Gilaman[/caption]

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana)

Classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Threatened Species
Medium-sized; 40-65 mm long - Hues of olive, browns, light-gray shades; dark, raised patches on its back - The soles of its hind feet are spiked with spades – used to burrow - Possess “cat eyes” separated by a glandular bump in the middle (a.k.a. a “boss”) - Resides in dry grasslands and open forests; needs a combination of terrestrial and aquatic habitat - Habitat is threatened by agricultural activity and land development Research on rare species in the South Okanagan was undertaken by our writing intern Blair Scott.

Growing the nature movement, and making 2019 a Year of Action
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Growing the nature movement, and making 2019 a Year of Action

Looking back on 2018 – growing the nature movement

What an incredibly successful year for Nature Canada, and because of your support and the generous support of thousands of Canadians, it was a historic one. The 2018 Federal Budget 2018 was by far the biggest win for nature conservation in a generation. The $1.3 Billion dollar invested is the essential first piece to secure protected areas in Canada. New protected areas announced in 2018 included Scott Island Marine National Wildlife Area and Edhezie Indigenous Protected Area. Strengthened Environmental Laws that will improve environmental reviews of development projects that have potential impact on the environment. Together we are protecting Canada’s land and waters and saving species from extinction. You, the Nature Nation members and Nature Network partners that span across this great country from coast to coast to coast, we have grown by the tens of thousands and Nature Canada is proud to represent this movement of nature lovers.

Looking forward on 2019– focusing on protecting nature

2019 is a year of action! A year to take action to create more protected areas in Canada in order to reach the Aichi target of protecting 17% of lands 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Together, we are defending endangered species and critical habitat from the ongoing threats of climate change, development, industry and urbanization. Your voices are advocating for stronger environmental laws that will protect our wildlife and wilderness and the ecosystems that provide us clear air and fresh water. Your support is saving species from extinction by protecting critical habitat and educating individuals and local government about the importance of taking action to protecting wildlife. 50% of wildlife species are in decline. There is no other way to spin it, we are on the brink of an “ecological Armageddon.” And the best way to protect species at risk is by protecting the critical habitat they call home. From coast, to coast, to coast your support is pushing for more protected areas, prioritizing places that are in urgent need of protection based on threats, habitat importance and species at risk located there.

Your love of nature shines through all year long, thank you for your dedication and commitment to protect nature in Canada.

Crucial Deficiencies Remain in Evidence on Trans Mountain Impacts
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Crucial Deficiencies Remain in Evidence on Trans Mountain Impacts

On January 22, 2019 Nature Canada and BC Nature submitted our written final argument to the National Energy Board hearings about how the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline will affect marine ecosystems and impact marine birds and mammals. In our argument, Nature Canada and BC Nature conclude that: “crucial deficiencies remain the evidentiary record that deprive the NEB of the ability to properly discharge its legal duties”. These crucial deficiencies occur in

  • the areas of malfunctions and accidents (resulting in oil spills from tankers),
  • impacts on species at risk,
  • cumulative impacts from chronic oiling, and
  • impacts on marine birds from routine operations.
Nature Canada and BC Nature further maintain that the NEB should not make findings about ecological consequences of such impacts except where the preponderance of evidence justifies a particular finding.  Where there is scientific uncertainty about impacts, the NEB should err on the side of caution and favour a recommendation that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be justified in the circumstances. Nature Canada stands firm in its conviction that the NEB has not adequately evaluated the potential impact of more oil tankers travelling through the narrow channels of the Salish Sea of British Columbia. Further, the federal government needs to step up to protect threatened marine birds and mammals In the first set of NEB hearings, Nature Canada and BC Nature, represented by Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (Pacific CELL), urged the NEB to conduct an assessment of project-related shipping that would properly consider impacts of a pipeline expansion. The NEB did not take our advice; the NEB’s environmental assessment clearly did not adequately consider risks posed by the proposed pipeline expansion to marine and other birds in the Salish Sea. Our conclusions on this have not changed in the so-called reconsideration hearings, and in fact have been reinforced by updated evidence submitted our expert Anne Harfenist. Under the current conditions, the Trans Mountain project would increase Edmonton to Vancouver pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day, and result in oil tanks moving almost daily through the Salish Sea past critical habitat. Increasing oil tanker traffic with Trans Mountain bitumen in the Salish Sea, with its powerful winter storms and narrow curving channels, will increase the risk of a catastrophic oil spill. It will also create significant noise disruption to the already endangered Southern Resident Orcas on a daily basis. Nature Canada and BC Nature are again represented at the hearings by Pacific CELL lawyers Chris Tollefson and Anthony Ho.

Cree Nation Government proposes an impressive network of Protected Areas
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Cree Nation Government proposes an impressive network of Protected Areas

Nature Canada is thrilled to learn of the Cree Nation Government’s proposal to protect 30% of its territory. Working with the Cree Nation Government and other partners on bird conservation, we know the Cree have a strong connection to the land and a deep knowledge of how best to protect their territories. It's no coincidence that their careful stewardship – over thousands of years – has resulted in some of the richest areas for wildlife, including caribou, bears and rare birds. Many years of work have gone into the Cree Nation Government’s proposal, including careful analysis of watersheds, biodiversity, wildlife surveys and mapping projects. The project combines scientific data (including Nature Canada efforts) with Cree knowledge about culturally significant sites and species. Many of the locations included in the submission to the Quebec Government at the end of November are both ecologically and culturally important. Nature Canada and Cree Nation work on Important Bird Areas Since 2012, Nature Canada has been working in partnership with the Cree Nation Government, as well as the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board, the Cree Trappers Association, several First Nations along the East Coast of James Bay, and Nature Quebec, to protect birds. Our work to date has concentrated in the traditional territory of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, including Rupert Bay, Charlton Island and Boatswain Bay. This year we have also begun work with the Cree Nation of Wemindji. Many local community members were involved in this work, which:

  • identified important habitat and populations for the endangered Rufa Red Knot.
  • confirmed one of the densest breeding populations for the Special Concern Yellow Rail.
  • confirmed a previously unknown breeding population of the Special Concern Horned Grebe.
  • encountered other species at risk including Common Nighthawks, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Red-necked Phalaropes and very large numbers of shorebirds and sea ducks.
  • observed Woodland Caribou and Polar Bears in the course of our surveys.

Edéhzhíe Indigenous Protected Area Established
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Edéhzhíe Indigenous Protected Area Established

Congratulations to the Deh Cho First Nation and federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna on their declaration of Edéhzhíe, a 14,250-square-kilometre plateau as an Indigenous Protected Area on October 11. Located west of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Edéhzhíe covers an area twice the size of Banff National Park with boreal forests and wetlands, and wildlife that includes caribou, moose, wolves and myriad songbirds. It also contains a portion of Mills Lake, which is a key habitat for various migratory birds, including 12 per cent of Canada's eastern population of Tundra swans. Edéhzhíe has been a place of cultural and spiritual significance for Indigenous people for generations, and likely for millennia. Natural resource development will not be allowed in the Indigenous Protected Area, but there will likely be economic opportunities in the form of ecotourism and guardian jobs. Edéhzhíe will be managed through a partnership between the Dehcho and the federal government by a board of directors, a local Indigenous conservation group known as the Dehcho K’ehodi guardians, and the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Edéhzhíe is the first Indigenous Protected Area to be announced since the February 2018 federal budget included $1.3-billion for establishing protected areas and conserving species at risk.  This declaration takes Canada a step closer to meeting our international Aichi Target commitment to protect 17 per cent of all lands and inland waters by 2020. Edéhzhíe would be formally recognized in federal law as a National Wildlife Area under the Canada Wildlife Act.

For more information of this designation, please read the following coverage:

If you have not yet done so, sign the Thank You Letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

A Walk in the Park, and the Importance of Protected Areas
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A Walk in the Park, and the Importance of Protected Areas

Growing up in Toronto, where the city seems to slowly creep ever farther over the landscape, parks provided the perfect green haven away from the concrete jungle. It’s where I saw my first moose, learned how to canoe, and, most importantly, where I first connected with nature. Over the next twenty years, I would realize how far-reaching the positive effects these parks would have, not only on me, but on the national conservation of our wilderness. [caption id="attachment_38437" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario.[/caption] While inspiring me to enter into the field of biology, these parks also gave me my first scientific job - working as a student naturalist. Here, the park shifted from being a playground to a teacher. In the park, we ran a variety of programs including guided hikes celebrating the overlooked plants of the understory and pond explorations where families caught darting aquatic invertebrates. They would peer through foggy glass at these wonderful and freaky creatures from the deep, eyes wide with wonder. Kids would go running back to their campsites to share all the amazing things that they had learned with their family and friends, allowing the knowledge to grow and gain a life of its own. We had some kids return in future years who were inspired to create their own “Interpretive Centres” full of antlers, rocks, and anything they were lucky enough to scrounge up back at home.  It was surreal to know that these park educational programs could form an intricate understanding between the public and nature. It was here that I realized that a park is a place of inspiration, where future generations can learn more about the natural world. Parks aren’t just refugia for humans however. Of course, they are also a home to a beautifully diverse range of species. These areas act as a haven to maintain pristine environments which, in turn, allows wildlife to thrive in peace. After graduating from university, I had the opportunity to delve into this realm wherein I worked on a variety of biomonitoring projects in parks across the country. Some of these projects were hands-off, including using motion-sensing trail cameras and timed audio-recorders to track species remotely throughout the landscape. These tools allowed us to non-invasively capture the shy and elusive critters in the area and gives us insight into their behaviours and habitat preferences. [caption id="attachment_38436" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Snug Harbour in Gros More National Park, Newfoundland.[/caption] For example, at Blue Lake Provincial Park, this system allowed scientists to discover the presence of the Olive-sided Flycatcher, a species-at-risk within Ontario. Other research projects were species-specific. For example, in Gros Morne National Park, scientists set up a fish fence every year in the park’s streams to monitor Atlantic salmon populations. These counts allow them to track the population trends and actively manage this declining species. Over time, I realized that the list of research conducted in our parks goes on for miles, from vegetation monitoring to species re-introductions. Through this vast array of scientific work, we are expanding our understanding of these ecosystems which consequently allows us to better preserve the many species that call our protected areas home. [gallery columns="4" link="none" size="medium" ids="38670,38668,38673,38675"] What I’ve learned through my life spent in parks is that they are wildly complex. From inspiring people to appreciate and learn more about the great outdoors, to actively managing species-at-risk, our parks play a huge role in ensuring that the landscapes and wildlife we enjoy today are still here for future generations. Parks are living organisms, acting as playgrounds, teachers, and scientists. They fill up our imaginations and hearts, transporting us from the confines of the city into vast and untamed landscapes. These parks are so much more than what meets the eye, you only need to take the time to get out there and then you can begin to appreciate and explore. Parks have helped shape who I am today, and I am excited for what else they will teach millions of other Canadians in the years to come. The author drew her inspiration for this post from her time spent as a naturalist for Ontario Parks at Blue Lake Provincial Park.

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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No Drilling in the Arctic Refuge, President Trump!
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No Drilling in the Arctic Refuge, President Trump!

For nearly 80 years, Nature Canada has been an active voice standing up for nature. Over this time, we protected over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today is no different. Nature Canada is collaborating with Indigenous groups and nature and environmental allies in the U.S and Canada to oppose all oil and gas activities on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Arctic Refuge) in Alaska. June 19, 2018 is the last day of the Trump administration’s 60-day comment period on an environmental review of selling drilling leases in the Arctic  Refuge. The U.S Bureau of Land Management recently released a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environment Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program. This decision will affect both Americans and Canadians. [caption id="attachment_37512" align="alignright" width="300"] Porcupine Caribou at Blow River Crossing.[/caption] The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the calving ground to the vast Porcupine caribou herd, which migrates back and forth from Yukon and the Northwest Territories in Canada to Alaska every year—the world’s longest migration of land mammals. It is also home to the people of Gwich’in First Nation who call the land “lizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” meaning “The Scared Place Where Life Begins.” The Porcupine caribou are a symbol of hope for many and an integral part of this northern ecosystem. When they when arrive on the coastal plain, adult female caribou (called cows) are in their weakest state. They go through “synchronous calving” meaning they give birth at the same time as a survival strategy. After birth, the cows depend on the coastal plain's protein-rich food to produce milk. The caribou are incredibly sensitive to disturbance and construction on the land could upset their feeding, breeding and migratory habits and could lead them to abandon their calving grounds. Indigenous communities in the Yukon, NWT and Alaska, along with many other Canadians, oppose oil and gas drilling that will disturb the calving grounds. Drilling poses a threat to the subsistence and culture of these Indigenous people and the wildlife, animals and plants they rely on. Dana Tizya-Tramm, Councilor, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation commented: “From a people that understands resources extremely well by living in the unforgiven environments and climates of the Arctic North, we see the unilateral development of the wellspring of Arctic ecosystems as a significant threat to Indigenous peoples, the lands, animals, and our collective futures. It must be known to produce oil and gas from this area can only be done so by manipulating environmental law and trampling human, and Indigenous rights.”

“Nature Canada believes it is critical we work alongside CPAWS Yukon and the Vuntut Gwitchin to ensure Canadian voices are included in this environmental review. Today’s submission of over 14,670 Canadian signatures and comments is an incredible opportunity for Canadians to speak directly to the U.S government about the serious and irreversible impact oil and gas development would have on one of the last, healthy barren-ground caribou herds on earth.”
  We would like to remind decision-makers that this is also a deeply Canadian issue and we will continue to stand up against oil and gas development on lands that serve as the beating heart of an ancient ecosystem.  We would like to thank our nearly 15,000 members and supporters for signing, commenting and engaging with us to voice your concerns against oil and gas extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Nature Canada stands with the Gwich'in First Nation and supports the efforts of indigenous people in Canada and the United States to protect their human rights, food security, irreplaceable wild lands, wildlife and our climate. We also call for the Environmental Impact Statement to address international treaty obligations of the United States to Canada under the International Porcupine Caribou Treaty and the Migratory Birds Treaty. Nature Canada and its supporters stand alongside 24 allies to strengthen the chorus of concerns to protect ANWAR garnering over 654,787 individual comments in total from all groups. 

Please read Nature Canada's Letter of Submission to the US Bureau of Land Management.

Visit CPAWS Yukon website for further information on the Porcupine Caribou and their migratory journey, and read the Group Thank You Letter to the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act Leaders,the Cosponsor Arctic Cultural Coastal Plain Protection Act from 25 environmental organizations, as well as the Scoping Comments to the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS.
For media coverage on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, see below CTV: Canadians sign letter opposing U.S. Arctic drilling in wildlife sanctuary National Post: Canadians sign letter opposing U.S. Arctic drilling in wildlife sanctuary Winnipeg Free Press: Canadians sign letter opposing U.S. Arctic drilling in wildlife sanctuary Vancouver Courier: Canadians sign letter opposing U.S Arctic drilling in wildlife sanctuary
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Budget 2018: A Billion Dollar Investment to Protect Nature in Canada
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Budget 2018: A Billion Dollar Investment to Protect Nature in Canada

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


Why not send a letter of thanks now to key government officials and remind them of the work needed to protect 17% of our lands and waters by 2020? To read more on the Budget 2018, please see the following:
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A Little Less Canada in 2018?
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A Little Less Canada in 2018?

[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stephen Hazell Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel[/caption] Nature Canada’s Stephen Hazell asks whether the world actually needs a little less Canada in an op-ed published in Ottawa’s The Hill Times on January 17. Considering the harm to nature that Canadians cause, Hazell argues that if the world’s other species could vote on which humans should be voted off Turtle Island, "Canadians would be near the top of their list." By way of examples, he observes that Canada protects less of its land and ocean than any other developed country. Canada produces more GHGs per capita than other OECD countries aside from the U.S. and Australia, and more garbage per capita than any other country. Quick starts for the federal government to shift Canada to a more sustainable course in our 151st year? Hazell argues that a federal investment in protecting land and ocean for nature in Budget 2018 as proposed by the Green Budget Coalition is important. As well, enacting strong, innovative environmental laws this session would move Canada towards environmental, economic and social sustainability. Hazell’s hope for 2018?  Less destruction of Canadian nature, fewer Canadian GHG emissions, and less Canadian garbage. Get that done, and perhaps Canadians can more honestly say at year-end: “The world needs more Canada.

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