Posts Tagged "environment"

Grasslands on Canada’s top 10 endangered places list

Posted by on 26. May 2016 in Blog / Journal, Conservation | Comments Off on Grasslands on Canada’s top 10 endangered places list

Grasslands on Canada’s top 10 endangered places list

The National Trust for Canada (NTC) has released today its latest Top 10 Endangered Places at Risk. NTC is a national charity that leads action to save historic places of cultural and natural significance. The organization’s goal is to inspire Canadians to identify and celebrate their heritage landmarks, cultural landscapes and communities, and conserve them for present and future generations. Two prairie landmarks made the top 10 list: Saskatchewan’s grasslands and wooden grain elevators. These places that define identity, community spirit and a sense of belonging are slowly eroding due to neglect, shift in economics priorities, inappropriate development and weak legislation. First published in 2005, the NTC Top 10 Endangered Places List has raised awareness and supported efforts by local groups working to save them. Incidentally, I have extensively photographed these disappearing natural and cultural icons over 18 years of my travels throughout Western Canada. I shared images and stories with wide audiences about the importance of maintaining these historic places and what they mean to our cultural identity and quality of life. Temperate grasslands are one of the major biomes on the planet. Because grasslands provide a very important source of food for human populations, they are one of the most altered ecosystems we inhabit. The majority of native grasslands in North America have been converted to grow crops for food and fuel and have lost their ability to stabilize the planetary systems. In the 1930s, a combination of unsustainable farming practices and extremely dry climate conditions caused extensive degradation of topsoil. You are probably familiar with the negative consequences of Dust Bowl and the impact on thousands of prairie farmers who abandoned their homesteads during the height of Great Depression. In 1935, Canadian Parliament established the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration with a goal to reclaim badly eroded agricultural lands and manage fragile grasslands through the Community Pasture Program. With a careful, conservation-based management, the CPP was successful in stabilizing and restoring grasslands throughout the Prairie Provinces. Today, 1.8 million acres of grasslands in the Community Pasture Program network represent the last remaining large tracts of prairie habitat, home to many species at risk as well as aboriginal and homestead heritage sites. In 2012, the federal government discontinued the CPP and initiated the transfer of federally managed community pastures to the provinces. Provincial interest in managing the land varies; the government in Manitoba expressed interest in supporting the unified management of pastures with conservation as a strong priority. In contrast, the Saskatchewan government is not interested in supporting conservation-based management and decided to relinquish control to small user groups and market forces. The second heritage icons that are vanishing from prairie landscapes are, once ubiquitous wooden grain elevators. These prairie sentinels are deeply embedded in Canada’s farming psyche. Nearly 6,000 grain elevators used to dot rural landscapes of Western Canada. They formed a sense of identity and belonging to a place. They were symbols of farming life and the strength of rural communities. Changing technology and industrialized scale of contemporary farming made many of the wooden structures obsolete. They have been torn down at an alarming rate. Today, less than 14 percent of the traditional wooden structures still stand. Only 23 elevators have received heritage designation, a minimal form of protection if there aren’t sufficient funds raised by local communities for their...

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Jane Jacobs – a 100 years of progressive urban thought

Posted by on 4. May 2016 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Jane Jacobs – a 100 years of progressive urban thought

Jane Jacobs – a 100 years of progressive urban thought

Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) an American born journalist and activist, best known for her work on improving the quality of life in urban communities, was born on this day 100 years ago. Jacobs saw cities as ecosystems that had their own structure and dynamic that would change over time according to how they were used. She promoted city planning with higher population density (and criticized car-centric culture of suburban sprawl), advocated for support of local economies, and for mixed use of smaller, more nimble city blocks. In her influential and most cited book, The Death and Life of American Cities, Jacobs argued that urban development and renewal did not respect the rights and needs of most city inhabitants.     Jacobs carried her fight for community-based urban planning to Canada in mid 1960s. After moving to Toronto in 1968, she published six more books about city planning, economics, ethics governance and culture. Jacobs is credited, together with sociologist and historian Lewis Mumford, with inspiring the New Urbanist movement. I can personally relate to her ideas how people can build a solid foundation for their communities (see Jane Jacobs – Ten Big Ideas) especially by: Strengthening social capital – everyday activities and interactions among people that occur in neighbourhoods slowly build up a network of intertwined links between neighbours. This eventually provides a foundation for mutual trust, cooperation and resilience to stress in difficult times, Promoting citizen science – the people best equipped to understand the complexity of urban life (and its connection with the natural elements within city limits) are “ordinary, interested citizens”. With open eyes, and not limited by assumptions imposed by professional training and code of practice, city residents can more freely learn from what they see and encounter in their daily lives.     A strong believer that local residents should have input on how their neighbourhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to become familiar with the places they live in. I am proud to have participated in last three Jane’s Walks, citizen-led walking tours towards community-based city building inspired by the ideas and work of Ms. Jacobs. This year I will lead a nature photo walk to a beautiful prairie landscape on the northeast edge of Saskatoon (more info after the link). Hope you will be able to join us and continue Jane Jacobs’ legacy....

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Saskatchewan election – vote for the grasslands

Posted by on 3. April 2016 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Saskatchewan election – vote for the grasslands

Saskatchewan election – vote for the grasslands

On the eve of the 2016 Saskatchewan election, it is disappointing to see that the environment and sustainable development have not been a serious topic of debate. We have heard almost nothing what the major political parties will do to safeguard our disappearing native prairie landscapes. The prairie ecosystem is one of the most altered and threatened in North America; only 20% of Saskatchewan’s native prairie remain, and in some areas, such as in the Regina Plains, there are less than 1% native prairie left. Even protected areas do not have a secure future, as a series of political measures have recently undercut their status.     Why should we be concerned how our elected leaders will manage natural resources that belong to the people of Saskatchewan? When we look at the most imperilled ecosystem in Canada, there many reasons why Saskatchewan grasslands matter (as compiled by writer and naturalist Trevor Herriot): Because they are rare and threatened by cultivation and other kinds of development. Because they support endangered species. Because they are diverse. Because they protect soil and water Because they sequester carbon. Because they support ranching economy and culture. Because they contain the cultural heritage of the prairie. Because people need native prairie places they can visit. Because all natural land has value that goes beyond economics. Because we have a responsibility to the future.     When you go to the polls tomorrow to elect the provincial government for the next four years, vote for a MLA representative that cares about, and is interested is supporting our grassland heritage.  ...

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Conservation groups call for protection of former PFRA pastures

Posted by on 4. November 2015 in Blog / Journal, Conservation | Comments Off on Conservation groups call for protection of former PFRA pastures

Conservation groups call for protection of former PFRA pastures

The 23rd Prime Minister of Canada was sworn into the office this morning. There are high expectations from the new federal government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau to repair damage caused by the departing Conservatives, especially in the area of environmental protection and climate change. Three large conservation organizations: Nature Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and Alberta Wilderness Association are calling the new Liberal government to announce an immediate pause in transfer of community pastures formerly managed by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) to provincial control, until a legally binding plan is in place to protect their ecological value.     Former Conservative government announced in 2012 that it was cancelling the community pasture program, administered by the PFRA, and transferring the Crown land to the provinces. The Saskatchewan government, in turn, announced that it would sell or lease the former federal community pastures to individual pasture patron groups. Twenty out of the 62 pastures covering 720,000 hectares have already been transferred to patron groups or associations in Saskatchewan. Management structure and the ability to sustainably use the pastures differ widely between the groups. Situation is slightly different in Manitoba; the provincial government is supporting a more unified management structure through a non-profit Association of Manitoba Community Pastures. The AMCP is currently operating 14 pastures, with 9 more to be included in the network.     The community pasture system was created in 1930s with a goal to reclaim badly eroded soils, conserve natural prairie landscapes and provide grazing resource to small and medium size mixed-farm producers. Over the years, the management system under PFRA was developed to include maintenance of critical wildlife habitat, biodiversity protection and increase ecosystem resilience to climate change through water retention and ground aquifer replenishment. Government assistance in protection and management of these unique grassland areas is critical, especially in today’s ever-changing market conditions. Secure access to grazing space for livestock is important to small rural communities. It is also important to protect natural prairie landscapes from negative impacts caused by drought, over-use, development or conversion to intensive crop production. Call for an immediate pause on transfers of former PFRA community pastures should be followed by a commitment by federal and provincial governments to develop a unified plan to conserve native grasslands across the prairie provinces. We can not afford to lose more grasslands, the most threatened ecosystem in Canada.   Related news: Nature Saskatchewan wants pastures on Liberal agenda (Regina Leader Post) Province passes management of community pasture program to non-profit organization (Government of Manitoba press release)...

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Ian Toews’ Grasslands film screening in Saskatoon

Posted by on 14. April 2015 in Blog / Journal, Conservation | Comments Off on Ian Toews’ Grasslands film screening in Saskatoon

Ian Toews’ Grasslands film screening in Saskatoon

Saskatoon audiences will have an opportunity to view the poetic documentary about Saskatchewan grasslands this week. The film, produced by Gemini award winning filmmaker Ian Toews, will be shown on big screen at the Frances Morrison Central Library theatre, 311 – 23rd Street East in Saskatoon on Thursday, April 16, 2015 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is no admission charge and everyone is invited; bring along a friend or two. Following the screening, author and naturalist Trevor Herriot will provide an update on the state of the province’s grassland, and the work of Public Pastures – Public Interest (a citizen group that draws together rural and urban Canadians who share an interest in conserving public grasslands in Saskatchewan). Author Candace Savage will lead the discussion that follows. We will finish the evening with an informal get-together and refreshments.     The Grasslands documentary is a love letter to Saskatchewan prairies: endangered Greater Sage Grouse perform their mating ritual, herds of bison roam the vast open landscapes. We hear from ranchers and First Nations about their connection to the land. Conservation biologists explain the complexity of protecting the precious remnants of native prairie.     “This film illustrates the beauty and fragility of the grasslands ecosystem, threats to its preservation and efforts to sustain it,” said Trevor Herriot. “The film has been drawing enthusiastic audiences all over the province, a testament the value that Saskatchewan people place on our grasslands. It is an inspiration to those working to preserve this heritage for future generations.” “I wanted to convey that prairie was an expansive, flowing mass of grasslands. And then show people what it is today and what is being done to preserve it,” said the filmmaker and producer Ian Toews.     Originally from Saskatchewan, Toews earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film production from the University of Regina. His works are primarily concerned with the natural environment and often, its degradation. He is the producer, director, and DOP of 7 short films, more than 60 television episodes, and 5 full-length documentaries. Ian Toews’ films and videos have been widely acclaimed and awarded with numerous international awards, including the Grand Prix at the Tampere International Film Festival, the Jury Award at the New York Exposition of Short Film, Canadian Film & Television Producer’s Association Indie Award, 5 Gemini Award nominations, a Canadian Screen Award nomination, and a 2008 Gemini Award win for Best Arts Documentary Program or Series for the long-running arts series “Landscape as Muse”. Toews has screened his films in over 50 countries throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The official Grasslands movie web site: www.grasslandsdocumentary.com You can see the trailer at vimeo.com/102805861 * Portions of this blog post contain information from a press release that I received this morning.      ...

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