Posts Tagged "environment"

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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Spring equinox, 2015 solar eclipse and supermoon

Posted by on 20. March 2015 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Spring equinox, 2015 solar eclipse and supermoon

Spring equinox, 2015 solar eclipse and supermoon

Happy first day of (astronomical) spring. On Friday, March 20th spring will officially arrive on the prairies at 4:45 p.m. CST. When I woke up this morning, the ground was covered with a thin layer of fresh snow. Not exactly a spring-like weather.     Let’s then celebrate the vernal equinox, one of only two days of the year when all places on Earth (outside of the polar regions) see the sun rise at due east and set at due west along the horizon. Remember that when you set up your camera to capture the sunrise or sunset this week. The sun appears directly overhead at Earth’s equator and all latitudes get approximately equal amount of daylight and darkness. Actually, the sun has been up for more than 12 hours over the last three days. What’s up with that? Sunrise is defined as the first appearance of sun’s circle above the horizon, and sunset as the last moment we see the sun’s circle before it falls below the horizon. Thanks to atmospheric refraction,  an optical phenomenon that causes light from the sun to bend while passing through the Earth atmosphere, the sun circle appears slightly higher on the horizon that it is in reality. Together, these factors add a few extra minutes of daylight to the equinox.     An even more interesting astronomical event occurred this morning – a total solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the eclipse was not visible from North America. The best places to see it was in North Atlantic, south of Iceland, Faroe Islands and Swalbard, a remote archipelago in northern Norway.   Here is an animated gif showing from where the partial and total solar eclipse could be seen. The small black spot that passes within the elliptical shadow (area where you can see a partial eclipse) is the best area to see the total eclipse. Animation source: NASA Solar Eclipse web site. We will have to wait 19 years, until March 20, 2034, to get solar eclipse and spring (vernal) equinox on the same day. To add to the excitement, the moon on Thursday evening was a “supermoon”. This is a point when the moon reached lunar perigee, its orbit’s at closest distance to Earth.  The moon was in a new phase and not visible. If the moon were visible last night, it would appear slightly larger in the sky. Think positive. The spring equinox marks the half-way point between the dark days of winter and the long, sunny days of summer. Over the next few weeks we will experience the most dramatic gain in the length of daylight hours....

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Wishing you joyful, successful and creative 2015

Posted by on 31. December 2014 in Blog / Journal | Comments Off on Wishing you joyful, successful and creative 2015

Wishing you joyful, successful and creative 2015

Dear friends. I wish you a very happy, successful and above all, creative New Year. May your hearts be filled with joy and laughter, and your days with memorable moments spent with family and friends. Now stop reading this, go out there and breathe the fresh air. Bringing a camera with you is suggested but not mandatory....

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Waldron Ranch, AB protected for future generations

Posted by on 28. December 2014 in Blog / Journal, Conservation, Ranching | Comments Off on Waldron Ranch, AB protected for future generations

Waldron Ranch, AB protected for future generations

Earlier this fall, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) secured the largest conservation easement in Canadian history. This outstanding agreement between the NCC and Waldron Grazing Co-operative Ltd. will protect over 12,357 hectares (30,535 acres) of native grasslands and forested foothills on Waldron Ranch in southwestern Alberta. This spectacular property is located northwest of Lethbridge, along the famed ‘Cowboy Trail’ (Highway 22) between Longview and Lundbreck. The ranch contains large tracts of native fescue prairie, rich history and spectacular scenery. Situated in a broad valley, Waldron connects the 28,000 hectare Bob Creek Wildland Park (the Whaleback) to the west with the 39,000 hectare Porcupine Hills Forest Preserve to the east. The three conservation areas will protect the critical headwaters of streams and rivers flowing east through the Canadian Prairies, and provide habitat and critical movement corridors for local wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, moose and elk.     By securing the conservation easement with the Waldron Grazing Co-operative, NCC will work with the partners to ensure the property’s natural features are preserved for the benefit of wildlife and future generations. Waldron’s diverse habitats will remain preserved, and the lands will be protected from development, subdivision, cultivation or drainage. Seventy-two members of the Waldron Co-op will continue to own and raise livestock on the working ranch. Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between a grantor (landowner) and a holder (in this case the NCC) that is registered against the title and binds all future owners. Terms of the agreement are negotiated between the interested parties, to meet the conservation objectives of the owner and goals of the holder. The main objective is protection of biological, physical or cultural features of the land. Conservation easements are usually initiated by a current landowner, who wants to make sure that the land will continue to have careful stewardship by the future owners. The Waldron Cattle Ranch Ltd. was established in 1883 by Duncan McNab McEachran of Montreal, with financial backing by Sir John Waldron of England. The original ranch was a giant of ranching industry, spanning 260,000 acres of land between Oldman River and Porcupine Hills. At times, more than 20,000 head of cattle and hundreds of horses were raised on the ranch. After changing owners several times, a much smaller holding was purchased in 1962 by a newly formed co-operative. More than 50 years later, members of the Waldron Grazing Co-operative manage the land with a primary goal of maintaining health of the rangeland under their care. The Waldron Co-operative received the 2010 Alberta Beef Producers’ Environmental Stewardship Award and the Environmental Stewardship Award from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in recognition of management practices that ensure a sustainable use of resources, rangeland health and wildlife management. I had an opportunity to visit Waldron twice: in the summer of 2009 and again in 2010. I was thrilled by the beauty of landscape and incredible ecological diversity. Gently rolling hills, lush fescue grasslands, dense carpets of blooming prairie wildflowers and abundant wildlife just called for happy snaps. Here is a small gallery of images captured during those two trips. I owe gratitude to Mike Roberts, General Manager of the Waldron Ranch for outstanding hospitality, and for enabling me to explore and photograph on the land.   Misty morning over pasture at sunrise. Waldron Grazing Cooperative, Lundbreck, Alberta Pasture with prairie lillies. Prairie vegetation changes with the elevation – there are areas on Waldron Ranch where one can see spruce and fir trees. Waldron Grazing Coopeative, Lundbreck, Alberta Pasture at sunrise. Waldron Grazing Cooperative, Lundbreck, Alberta Pasture with wildflowers in bloom. This prairie...

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The Last Cowboy – a short documentary film about the human cost of PFRA pasture closures

Posted by on 5. December 2014 in Blog / Journal, Ranching | 4 comments

The Last Cowboy – a short documentary film about the human cost of PFRA pasture closures

A few days ago a friend alerted me to a marvelous and touching documentary film about Jim Commodore, a retired cowboy at the Val Marie PFRA Community Pasture. This 6-minute documentary conveys a message about the human cost of the Community Pasture System closure, told through the eyes of a long time cowboy Jim Commodore. The Last Cowboy was produced by Megan Lacelle and Kaitlyn Van de Woestyne, journalism students at the University of Regina. Jim Commodore was born at the Val Marie PFRA pasture in 1941 and spent his working career as a cowboy on the federally run community pasture. In a very humble and personal way, Jim conveys a message about the importance of maintaining healthy prairie environments for the benefit of rural communities, everyday people and the ranching culture of southwest Saskatchewan. Jim talks about the need to care for the livestock, for the grass and water, and the need to “always hold the balance”. The Community Pasture Program was initiated after the Great Depression in the 1930s, with a goal of stabilizing the drought-ravaged land and assisting small to medium-size mixed farm operations. After the federal government pulled out of the Community Pasture Program in 2012, Jim, like many other Saskatchewan residents, did not expect that politicians would shut down “probably one of the most successful programs the federal government has ever conducted”. Here is the mini documentary The Last Cowboy by Megan Lacelle and Kaitlyn Van de Woestyne, posted here with permission.   The Last Cowboy from Megan Lacelle on Vimeo.  Val Marie PFRA Community Pasture is located northwest of Grasslands National Park. It is the largest community pasture in Saskatchewan, with over 41,256 hectares (101,946 acres) of strikingly beautiful native prairie. The Frenchman River slowly meanders through the pasture, with rugged valley slopes adding to its appeal. Home to several species at risk, the Val Marie PFRA community pasture is a national treasure, and needs to be safeguarded and sustained for the benefit of future generations. This federally managed pasture is set to close in 2017. It will be transferred to the province of Saskatchewan, which plans to either sell the land or lease it to a yet-to-be-formed pasture patron association. The most poignant moment in the documentary is when Jim laments that the Val Marie community pasture might share the same destiny with him: “I am closing down too. I am at that stage in my life, so I guess, we are closing down together”   I have put together a photography tribute to the life of cowboys on PFRA community pastures, hard-working people who have been looking after the federal community pastures in the Prairie Provinces for over 75 years. At the end of that post, I included a few links to articles about the impact of federal Community Pasture Program closures on small rural communities. I would also recommend a recent article by Andrea Hill published in The Star Phoenix, Still at home on the range. Andrea writes about the impact of federal pasture closures on pasture managers and riders, and how they are adjusting to the change....

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