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Canada just made more room for nature
© Mark Byer
News

Canada just made more room for nature

The federal government just announced projects that will help Canada meet its international commitment to protect 17 percent of our land and freshwater by 2020. There's more to do, but this is great news for nature—and for all of us. The announcement allocates $175 million from its Nature Challenge Fund for 67 conservation projects over four years. This is a major milestone on the path to protecting Canada’s threatened natural areas. Hundreds of species that call Canada’s natural areas home lack the protections necessary for them to thrive, and this challenge is only getting worse with the effects of climate change and increasing development. The government received over $800 million in proposals for conservation projects from across the country as part of the Challenge Fund—over four times as much as the government had allocated. The range and sheer number of proposed projects demonstrate that it is possible to meet and exceed Canada’s protected area commitments. This progress must continue as the science shows that we need to protect much more than 17 percent of our land and freshwater to restore and sustain healthy natural areas.

Click here for a backgrounder and more details.

Swallows Sending an SOS
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Swallows Sending an SOS

Since 1970, the populations of Aerial Insectivores (birds who feed by catching insects in flight) have declined more than any other bird group. Studies in Europe and the Caribbean point to significant declines in insect populations, and species like the Barn Swallow or Purple Martins are struggling to find food. Pesticides to subdue insect populations have played a huge role in modern agriculture since the Second World War, and it seems its effects are catching up to our flying insect-dependent birds. The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) in Canada, which includes Nature Canada, recently released the second State of Canada’s Birds report. In this report, we showed how the populations of Canadian bird groups have changed since 1970, and for aerial Insectivores, it is not promising. [caption id="attachment_50727" align="aligncenter" width="642"] Barn Swallow Perching[/caption]

What's Happening?

Neonicotinoids (Neonics) are the latest widely used family of pesticides that appear to also be destroying non-target insect populations and, by extension, the species that feed on them-including our swallows! When there isn’t enough food, reproduction decreases and the population of a species can’t keep up with the mortality rate, resulting in a declining population. Add in the effects of climate change, collisions with human structures and inadequate breeding habitats, and we have a recipe for disaster. Climate change is also, among many other things, negatively impacting aerial insectivores. Birds time their migrations and breeding cycles to line up with food availability. Fluctuations in our formerly consistent weather patterns, due to the changing climate, is making their survival difficult since there is often no longer a reliable food source at migratory stopovers (when these birds need food the most). The natural cycles of migratory birds (or, their internal clocks) are not adapting to the changes fast enough. Through Nature Canada’s Save our Swallows campaign, we have developed simple beneficial practices for rural residents in southern Ontario to follow. If you live in a rural area, consider adopting some of these practices yourself and sharing them with your neighbours. [caption id="attachment_50735" align="aligncenter" width="659"] A young Purple Martin[/caption]

Purple Martins

Purple Martins, the largest member of the swallow species, have a close relationship with humans that started in pre-colonial times when they got used to nesting in gourds hung up to dry by Indigenous peoples.  Now, they are 100 percent dependent upon human-built housing for their nesting habitats east of the Rocky Mountains. This means that we as humans are responsible to look out for them and to help ensure their survival. As part of our Save Our Swallows (SOS) campaign, we are committed to improving the southern Ontario breeding habitats for Purple Martins. With the support of the Ontario Purple Martin Association, we are providing 30 “condos” that can support 14 families in each, placed along Lake Erie and eastern Lake Ontario. [caption id="attachment_50723" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Example of a bird housing unit, or "condo"[/caption]

What Now?

Aerial insectivores like swallows play a huge role in keeping our forests and farms healthy by eating insects that damage crops and vulnerable plants. With your help, we can continue working with farmers to encourage responsible land stewardship. Birds of prey such as the Bald Eagle have recovered since the USA and Canada banned indiscriminate DDT use in the 1970s. This is proof that by spreading awareness of this critical issue, we can change the trend for swallows. Help our birds however possible. You can share Nature Canada’s posts, donate to support the cause, sign the petition, or even fight to advocate for more protected areas. Every effort adds together, and there is proof that conservation efforts work. With just a little cooperation, we can save our birds.  

Remember…

When we take action together, conservation works.

 

How You Can Help:

Sign the Petition: Nature Canada is working to create more protected areas in Canada to save our birds, aquatic animals and other endangered wildlife. Sign our petition to create real change and have your voice heard by our government when it matters most.  Speak Out: Use your voice to demand action from our government against broad-scale pesticide use and support organizations that advocate for nature. You can start by sharing our petition on social media! Donate: Make a one-time or monthly donation to support our work, and join our email list to receive notifications of upcoming campaigns and our current issue-focus. Every little bit helps! Vote with Your Fork: Support sustainable range-fed beef, sustainably run farms and choose produce that is organically grown. Also, avoid mass-produced “big batch” products that increase product demand and food waste by supporting local small batch businesses.     View the NABCI in Canada Report Here: www.stateofcanadasbirds.org Le Rapport est Disponible en Français Ici: www.etatdesoiseauxcanada.org

Saving Our Swallows in Every Community
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Saving Our Swallows in Every Community

This past Saturday, Nature Canada’s Aly Hyder Ali, Ted Cheskey and Alex Bencke organized and participated in an event to save our swallows at Ironwood Organics farm, with owner and farming guru Chris Wooding. The day began in the afternoon, with an encouraging turnout of rural residents and farmers who were ready to learn about nature-friendly property stewardship and share their own knowledge.  

The event began with the construction of nest boxes, structures intended to house cavity-nesting Tree Swallows that have suffered declines due to a long history of mature tree removal from rural forests. The takeaway of this activity was to demonstrate how easy and fun it is to create safe housing for our declining birds.

   

Every nest box that was built on Saturday represents an opportunity for a new generation of swallows.

 

Chris and Mary, the owners of Ironwood Organics, guided two tours around the farm, showing attendees the benefits of organic agriculture and how their heritage plants are grown in harmony with nature.

         

Chris and Mary’s lush green property represents years of proper land stewardship, and they were excited to share their knowledge.

           

The participants were treated to dinner in the sunshine, with a stunning view of the fields and trees - despite the occasional mosquito. Chris, Ted (Nature Canada’s Naturalist Director), and Aly (Nature Canada’s Conservation Coordinator) dove in to the details of what it means for a rural farmer to help save our swallows.

Other knowledgeable attendees, including Don and Marnie Ross of the Thousand Island Watershed Trust, Julie Servant of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, several members of the National Farmers Union and an impressive number of local conservation-focused groups contributed to the discussion.

The conversation included addressing common issues that farmers face, such as what to do for Barn Swallows when replacing an old barn.

   

There was no question that the participants in this event were dedicated, caring, and thoughtful people. All in attendance were looking for ways that they could contribute to solving the problems facing our struggling birds.

Farmers and rural Canadians are not the only people who can help increase bird populations. There are plenty of actions that urban residents can take as well!

 

Some tips include:

  • Making smart consumer choices: purchasing wood and paper products that are certified by the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) or that have the Forest Sustainability Certification (FSC)
  • Choosing local: support your local organic growers and farmers by buying food from farmer’s markets, or even subscribe to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). There are CSA systems across Canada where you can have fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, and other foods delivered to a convenient pick-up location on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. One such amazing CSA system can be found here
  • Purchasing shade-grown and bird-friendly organic coffee and chocolate from Latin America
  • Reducing window strikes by making your windows more visible to birds
  • Making your yard bird-friendly: supervise your pets, keep your bird feeders clean, and provide a clean water source
  • Supporting nature conservation efforts: Donating to and supporting important conservation efforts helps them to continue making progress.
View More Tips 

    With the recent release of the 2019 State of Canada’s Birds Report, we have become even more aware of the ever-increasing population declines facing many Canadian birds. It will take collaboration and teamwork from all Canadians to prevent this population decline from continuing. At Nature Canada we're working to double Canadian protected areas. We must save these important habitats before they disappear forever - and the wildlife along with it. You can help us do this by signing Nature Canada’s petition to save our grasslands and keeping an eye out for future conservation initiatives.   

We can change the future for the better, but it all starts with you.

   
Read Nature Canada’s blog about the 2019 State of Canada’s Birds Report Here  All photos courtesy of Nature Canada staff member Alex Bencke.

Good news for oceans! Laurentian Whale Passage receives full government protection
© Jason Isley/scubazoo
News

Good news for oceans! Laurentian Whale Passage receives full government protection

Whales, turtles and fish will no longer have to compete with oil and gas in Canada's marine protected areas. On Thursday, the government made two big announcements: the Laurentian Whale Passage will become officially protected and new standards are being introduced to ban harmful industry from all marine protected areas across the country. This is a big win for nature. On the East Coast, 20 species of whales and dolphins travel in the migratory passage every year, and it's also a refuge for other species such as the at-risk Leatherback Sea Turtle. Across the country, struggling marine species that depend on protected areas to survive will also benefit. While we expect industrial activity to stop in national parks and wilderness areas, the same protections didn’t exist for their marine counterparts- until now.

What was decided?

At an announcement in Montreal, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson announced a total ban on oil and gas work, as well as mining, waste-dumping and bottom-trawling in all marine protected areas. “We’re losing species’ populations at a frightening pace – including fish, turtles, whales and other marine life. One way we can combat this trend is by creating marine protected areas dedicated to conservation of wildlife and biodiversity. Real protection means no oil, gas or mining activities in these areas. It’s encouraging to see the government is taking that seriously,” said Gauri Sreenivasan, Nature Canada’s Director of Campaigns. “Ensuring high-quality protection is equally necessary for other types of protected areas, such as marine refuges,” she added. Public concern for the Laurentian Whale Passage helped spur the government to look more widely at the issue of what is allowed in marine protected areas. Tens of thousands of citizens made their views known. A National Advisory Panel on the issue was struck in 2018 to bring policy recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Nature Canada’s letter writing campaign to ask Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson to protect the Laurentian Channel demonstrated widespread support for greater marine protections on the East Coast. Over 7730 Canadians wrote to the Minister to ask for a new Marine Protected Area that prohibited oil, gas and mining in the Channel. A second campaign produced a petition with 3500 signatures, calling for a blanket policy that would ban these harmful industrial activities in all Marine Protected Areas forever. The letter and petition were delivered to the Minister earlier this month.

Government of Canada Delivers

Today, the Government of Canada has delivered on both of those important asks. The Laurentian Channel announcement brings Canada closer to protecting 10% of its marine area by 2020—now over 8%. This outcome reflects long-term advocacy efforts by local communities, Indigenous peoples and conservation organizations, including CPAWs, WWF and Ecology Action Centre. The advisory panel was also clear that Indigenous peoples need to be full partners in all decision making regarding marine protection. We look forward to the government's affirmation that Indigenous rights and Indigenous-led conservation will be central to ocean protection approaches in Canada. "Canadians are deeply concerned with the threat of species extinction,” noted Graham Saul, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “We congratulate the government in protecting wildlife and oceans today, and look forward to collaborating with governments, Indigenous peoples and communities to double protected areas in Canada by 2020.”

Media Coverage On this announcement

Press release: Nature Canada applauds protection of the Laurentian Channel and strong new standards for marine protected areas
© Stuart Clark
News

Press release: Nature Canada applauds protection of the Laurentian Channel and strong new standards for marine protected areas

Ottawa, ON (April 25, 2019) —Nature Canada is applauding the federal government’s announcement that the Laurentian Channel will become an official marine protected area and the adoption of new standards that ensure the Channel— and all MPAs going forward— will have full protection from oil, gas, mining and other harmful industrial activities. Over 20 species of whales and dolphins travel through the Laurentian Channel, off the coast of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, every year and the channel is a sanctuary for species already at risk like the leatherback sea turtle. “We’re losing species’ populations at a frightening pace – including fish, turtles, whales and other marine life. One way we can combat this trend is by creating marine protected areas dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and habitat. Real protection means no oil, gas or mining activities in these areas. It’s encouraging to see the government is taking that seriously,” said Gauri Sreenivasan, Nature Canada’s Director of Campaigns. “Ensuring high-quality protection is equally necessary for other area-based conservation measures, such as marine refuges,” she added. “The government has committed that such areas will not count towards conservation targets if they include industrial activities,” Public concern for the Laurentian Channel helped spur the government to look more widely at the issue of MPA standards. A National Advisory Panel on the issue was struck in 2018 to bring policy recommendations to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Nature Canada’s letter writing campaign to ask Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson to protect the Laurentian Channel demonstrated widespread support for greater marine protections on the East Coast. Over 7730 Canadians wrote to the Minister to ask for a new Marine Protected Area that prohibited oil, gas and mining in the Channel. A second campaign produced a petition with 3500 signatures, calling for a blanket policy that would ban these harmful industrial activities in all Marine Protected Areas forever. The letter and petition were delivered to the Minister earlier this month. Today, the Government of Canada has delivered on both of those important asks. The Laurentian Channel announcement brings Canada closer to protecting 10 per cent of its marine area by 2020—now over 8 per cent. This outcome reflects long-term advocacy efforts by local communities, Indigenous peoples and conservation organizations, including CPAWs, WWF and Ecology Action Centre. "Canadians are deeply concerned with the threat of species extinction, noted Graham Saul, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “We congratulate the government in protecting wildlife and oceans today, and look forward to collaborating with governments, Indigenous peoples and communities to double protected areas in Canada by 2020.”   -30- For media inquiries, please contact: Haley Ritchie 613-562-3447 ext.252 hritchie@naturecanada.ca   ABOUT NATURE CANADA Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. For nearly 80  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 95,000 members and supporters and more than 750 nature organizations across the country.  (Hyperlink to website in the Nature Canada)

Government announces protections for 27 bird habitat islands outside Montreal— One small step in a larger challenge to protect nature
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Government announces protections for 27 bird habitat islands outside Montreal— One small step in a larger challenge to protect nature

Environment and Climate Change Canada announced that it will be protecting 27 small islands in the St. Lawrence River, from Montreal to Trois Rivières, Quebec. Close to one of Canada’s most populous cities, the island ecosystems on the St. Lawrence support bird life but face many environmental risks.

What does this mean for nature?

The St. Lawrence is the largest river in North America – just ahead of the Mississippi for volume of water discharged. From Kingston, at the east end of Lake Ontario, to Sept Isle Quebec, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it drains nearly one million square kilometres of land. It is also a busy place for humans. About 30 million people live in the Great Lakes Basin. Montreal, a city of about 3.5 million people, is the largest urban area along the St. Lawrence. The city is located on a series of islands near the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. These islands, within the nutrient-rich waters of the St. Lawrence, provide rich habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife. There are eight Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) within the urban area of Greater Montreal that supports high numbers of waterfowl and several bird colonies. The Environment and Climate Change Canada announcement includes protection for 27 islands in total, adding up to 800 hectares. Islands to be protected in the St. Lawrence on the northeast side of Montreal include les Îles de Varennes et de Verchères and les Îles de Boucherville. While only one of these islands is an IBA, they support populations of species at risk including Short-eared Owl, Bank Swallow, Least Bittern and Bobolink. Further downstream, the St. Lawrence widens into lac Saint-Pierre. At the entrance to the lake is an archipelago of islands, seven of which are included in the Environment and Climate Change Canada proposal. Four IBAs are recognized in and around Lac St. Pierre. These sites are important for waterfowl including Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Black Scoter and species at risk such as Least Bittern and Rusty Blackbird. One of the largest Great Blue Heron colonies in North America is located on la Grande Ile, a provincial nature reserve. It is not clear if the new sites include or overlap with existing IBAs.

Our Take On This Announcement

Nature Canada is pleased with this announcement and the government’s initial progress to protect key areas. Unfortunately, it is just one piece of the puzzle; more is needed to protect the wildlife of these islands from multiple threats and restore the surrounding ecosystem. The St. Lawrence Seaway, which passes near these new protected areas, is a major shipping canal. In 2018 there were 4389 transits, carrying, among other things, 3,210,848 tonnes of petroleum products and 839,210 tonnes of chemicals. Maintaining the passage through Lac Saint-Pierre requires addressing a number of pressing issues that undermine the ecology of the lake. These include dredging of sediments to keep the sea lanes open to ensure safe transit of cargo. Dredging has damaged and destroyed fish and mollusk habitat and released chemicals and heavy metals into the water, exceeding safety limits. These chemicals work their way into the food chain and end up in birds, fish and humans. Intensive agricultural operations around Lac St. Pierre releases fertilizers and other chemicals into the lake’s numerous tributaries resulting in serious pollution issues. The drainage of wetlands around the lake have also resulted in habitat loss. It is clear that protecting a group of small islands in this part of the St. Lawrence is a small step towards protecting biodiversity. All levels of government, NGOs, and private business need to step up to address the bigger contextual issues if this announcement of new National Wildlife Areas is to have a long-term positive impact.

Petition Update: One step closer to making the Laurentian Passage safe for whales
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Petition Update: One step closer to making the Laurentian Passage safe for whales

On Tuesday, April 9, Nature Canada and a team of organizations from the Nature Network delivered a major ocean protection petition containing 7732 signatures to Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Jonathan Wilkinson. The petition brought together voices from across Canada - from locals on the East Coast who see migrating whales every season, to concerned citizens in downtown Toronto or rural Manitoba who want to see the Laurentian Channel protected. Together we delivered a simple but powerful message: the ocean life travelling this migratory waterway off the coast of Nova Scotia needs protection now!

No oil and gas

Protection must mean protection--from boat collisions, bottom trawling, seabed mining and oil and gas. Together with the Ecology Action Centre we also presented the Minister with a second petition with over 3500 signatures that demands an end to oil and gas and other harmful industrial activity in all marine protected areas. There was no escaping citizen voices for nature that day on Parliament Hill. We were there for #NatureDay working with local groups from across the country to bring a message to our elected representatives that Canada needs to double protected areas by 2020. Protecting the Laurentian Whale Passage must be a key part of this action.  We are grateful for all of those who have signed the call to action. Your voice joins a chorus of others. Nature Canada isn’t the only organization working on this area. We want to recognize years of work from other groups, including Ecology Action Centre, World Wildlife Fund and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

What needs to happen now?

We’ve delivered the petitions, and you may be wondering what happens next. Our meeting with Minister Wilkinson was positive. Last week, during the announcement of a new agreement with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the government indicated it will restrict petroleum development in the proposed Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area. We’re seeing early, positive signs that the government may be at a tipping point in the decision to permanently protect the Laurentian Whale Passage. We can’t say for sure when the government will announce a decision on the new protected area and the protection standards that will be applied. We hope it will be a matter of weeks, rather than months. Your signature will help speed the process up. Thank you for your help. There are no guarantees-- so until the Laurentian Whale Passage is protected, we’re still collecting signatures. If you haven’t already, please add your name and help us protect iconic marine species today!

Two New Protected Areas Added to the Map
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Two New Protected Areas Added to the Map

Good news for those who love nature and want to see it protected. This month, two new conservation areas – home to endangered species and unique habitat – have been added to the map. The effort to conserve 17 per cent of our land and waterways and 10 per cent of our oceans by 2020 is well underway. Canada is the world’s envy for our natural expanses and unique wildlife, and it is our responsibility to ensure their protection. This month two new areas – one terrestrial and one marine – have been declared protected by the federal government. Conservation efforts are always worth celebrating.

Banc-des-Américains Marine Protected Area

The Banc-des-Américains, located on the eastern tip of Quebec, is a wonderful example of what a protected area can achieve when different levels of government work together with Indigenous communities and local organizations. With the highly endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and Blue Whale frequenting these waters, March 6, 2019 can be celebrated as a historic date when a key part of these whales’ territory became safe to roam, feed and raise their young. Many other species will benefit from the protection as well from corals to cod. Now an official protected area under Canada’s Ocean’s Act, this area in the Gaspé Peninsula is shielded by law from grey-water disposal, sewage discharge, and crucially, oil and gas activities. This is one of many major marine conservation efforts we anticipate this year that will help Canada reach that important 10 per cent goal.

New environmental protection on Canadian Forces Base Shilo

With 2020 fast approaching, protection of crucial prairie landscape on the Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba represents another mark of progress in protecting at-risk species. Working together, the Department of National Defense (DND) and Environment Canada analyzed 21,138 hectares on CFB Shilo. The rare mixed-grass prairie ecosystem is recognized as an area teeming with biodiversity and home to 17 at-risk species, including the province’s only lizard—the Prairie Skink. DND has agreed to manage the area in ways that support these endangered grasslands and the wildlife that call it home. For it to count towards Canada’s 17 per cent target, the commitment of stewardship must be long term, which is crucial for ensuring the area’s viability. The announcement is good news for wildlife. With land on CFB Shilo and Banc-des-Américains now formally protected , momentum is building. We’re on our way to meeting our targets, and we need to stay on track. Conservation and protections for nature are the key to our collective future.

Black-footed Ferret
courtesy of Pixabay
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Black-footed Ferret

The Black-footed Ferret

The only ferret native to the great Canadian wilderness, the Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a very charming creature. These tan-bodied ferrets are only six-inches tall, with a black-tipped tail, black mask and signature black feet. Although small and slender, their carnivorous instincts makes them fierce nocturnal predators. The ferret preys on Prairie Dogs for 90% of their diet and also take over their burrows. This makes the Black-footed Ferret dependent on the Prairie Dogs’ population. Once the two species shared the Great Plains of North America, but the Black-footed Ferret went extinct in the area by 1937. [caption id="attachment_49305" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] courtesy of Pixabay[/caption]

Desperate Times for the BFF

The agricultural boom in the early 1900s took its toll and resulted in the species being severely threatened in the 1930s. Ranchers and farmers consumed their territory, dividing the ferret's habitat. By 1974, the Black-footed Ferret was believed to be globally extinct in the wild. There wasn’t a shred of hope in seeing these creatures in their natural habitat again, until a small population was discovered on a farm in Meeteetse, Wyoming. The Black-footed Ferret is now the rarest mammal in North America, their total population being only 18 by 1987. The Toronto Zoo has been working on a recovery plan for the Canadian population of the Black-footed Ferret since 1992. The program gives researchers the opportunity to study them in close-quarters while rebuilding the population. The males are generally larger than the females, but only slightly, their lengths varying from 18-24 inches. In captivity, they can live to nine years, but in the wild, three years is the average lifespan. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated few, the Black-footed Ferret’s Canadian population in the wild is returning to numbers no one thought possible.  

Canadian Pride—Into the Wild

Reintegrating the Black-footed Ferret into Canada’s Prairie Grasslands has had its ups-and-downs. Since the 1980s, Black-footed Ferrets have only been bred, born and raised in captivity. Their territory once spanned from Northern Mexico, upwards throughout the American Mid-West, and ended in the grasslands of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Currently, Grasslands National Park houses the largest population of Black-footed Ferrets in all of western Canada. Black-footed Ferrets are still highly endangered. Exotic illnesses like the sylvatic plague and canine distemper threaten populations. Habitat destruction due to suburban and urban development leads to the loss of their main food supply, the Prairie Dog. Reclaiming their home in the Prairie Grasslands of North America is still an uncertain task. There is an urgency to not only preserve their new wild populations, but to share the importance of the Grasslands. The Prairie Grasslands ecosystem is the most endangered on our planet. This seems like a bold statement, but with our forests and oceans getting a lot of needed attention, this vital landscape goes unnoticed. Our Grasslands need just as much help. Home to rare animals, over 70 species of grass, and 50 different wildflowers, this ecosystem is essential to their survival. The Black-footed Ferret now calls Grassland National Park home for the first time since the early 20th century. To continue its success, we’ll need to protect more grassland areas and take care of what is left.

Good news for a rare prairie lizard — New conservation area created at Manitoba’s Canadian forces base Shilo
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Good news for a rare prairie lizard — New conservation area created at Manitoba’s Canadian forces base Shilo

The Governments of Canada and Manitoba have announced that they plan to work together to protect nature at Canadian Forces Base Shilo. The announcement represents a new approach – where Environment Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) are working together to identify the conservation potential of lands on a military base. It’s a new way to think about nature protection, and Nature Canada salutes the effort. It’s an approach we want to see provide long-term protection for the 17 at-risk species that live on the base. As you’d expect, many parts of Canadian Forces Base Shilo in southwestern Manitoba are busy areas with vehicles, buildings and foot traffic. Fortunately, other areas on the base remain natural mixed-grass habitat, and it is in these undisturbed areas that endangered species like the Prairie Skink (the province’s only lizard) make their home. The federal government evaluated the area and as of March 7, 2019, with DND’s support, it has been designated an “Other Effective area-based Conservation Measure” or OECM. The new status recognizes the site as being managed in a way to conserve biodiversity and it means the land can be counted towards Canada’s target to protect 17 per cent of terrestrial areas and inland water by 2020. While the OECM status is new for a military base, it’s not the first time there have been conservation efforts on such lands. In 2003, Nature Canada was part of a push to have 458 square kilometres of CFB Suffield in southeastern Alberta set aside as the Suffield National Wildlife Area. Thursday’s announcement recognizes the biodiversity value of 21,138 hectares of CFB Shilo – tho unlike Suffield, the commitment to protection is not necessarily permanent. The government backgrounder notes the OECM status can be removed at any time if the future land use is not compatible with conservation. Nature Canada welcomes new possibilities for expanding protected areas such as on CFB Shilo. We look forward to seeing how the process can result in effective and long-term protection for nature under international conservation guidelines.

To protect other critical areas in Canada, like the South Okanagan Similkameen, click here!

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