Posts Tagged "prairie"

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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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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Jane’s Walk 2016 – nature photography at Northeast Swale

Posted by on 25. March 2016 in Blog / Journal, Workshops | Comments Off on Jane’s Walk 2016 – nature photography at Northeast Swale

Jane’s Walk 2016 – nature photography at Northeast Swale

I will lead a nature photography walk to Meewasin’s Northeast Swale. This guided photo walk is part of the 2016 Jane’s Walk festival taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We will focus out lenses on wild critters and details in nature found on a beautiful prairie landscape along the northeast edge of town. Date: Saturday, May 7, 2016 Time: 7 – 8 p.m. Jane’s Walk is a global movement of neighbour-led walking tours inspired by urbanist Jane Jacobs. The idea behind Jane’s Walk is quite simple: encourage people to walk, talk to their neighbours and build a community based on diversity. The Saskatoon festival will start on Friday May 6th and end on Sunday, May 8, 2016.     The nature photography field trip will take place immediately after the guided nature hike with Renny Grilz and Louise Jones (6 – 7 p.m. at the same location). Renny is a Resource Management Officer with the Meewasin. He is an ecologist with over 20 years of managing conservation areas for biodiversity across the Prairie provinces and specialized in native plants. Louise Jones is Chair of the Northeast Swale Watchers, a group of concerned citizens who came together in 2011 to monitor plans for development in and around the NE Swale. Come early and learn about things you will be photographing later during the golden evening light. What to bring: your camera, a macro lens (or a zoom lens that can focus close enough to photograph lichens on rocks), snacks, drinking water, insect repellent and a wind-proof jacket. Optional but recommended: a tripod that can be lowered close to the ground. We will be walking on rough terrain; please bring shoes with adequate ankle support. Event will be cancelled in case of a heavy rain. There is no cost to participate.     Location (updated directions): Meet at the Meewasin Northeast Swale on Lowe Road (Range Road 3050). Drive north on Central Ave (north of Attridge, intersection next to Dutch Growers) to Agra Road  where Central turns to gravel. Pass Fedoruk and turn right on Agra Road and drive to the intersection of Lowe Road, Agra Road and Fedoruk Road. Turn left onto Lowe Road. Look for an orange portapotie and parked vehicles. Northeast Swale is next to the slough on the east side of road before reaching the Sas­katchewan Wildlife Federation building (Range Road 3050 Saskatoon S7S 1N1). Location coordinates: 52°10’36.9″N 106°34’29.7″W (view on the Google Map) Alternate route: if Central Avenue is under construction: Drive north on Central Ave, turn right on Somers Road, turn left on Konohoski Road until the intersection with Fedoryk Drive.  Turn right on Fedoryk Drive and turn left onto Lowe Road; Northeast Swale is next to the slough on the east side of road before reaching the Sas­katchewan Wildlife Federation building (Range Road 3050 Saskatoon S7S 1N1).  ...

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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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Saskatchewan landscapes – an illustrated talk

Posted by on 23. April 2015 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on Saskatchewan landscapes – an illustrated talk

Saskatchewan landscapes – an illustrated talk

Just a reminder that on Friday, April 24, 2015 I will present an illustrated talk Saskatchewan Landscapes at the Frances Morrison Central Library (311 – 23rd St East, Saskatoon). The show starts at 2 p.m, and admission is free. Drawing from over 15 years of exploring the wilds of Saskatchewan, I will share images from my favourite places in the province. If you are passionate about Saskatchewan landscapes, join us for a journey of discovery and inspiration.     In the eyes of many Canadians, Saskatchewan landscapes are no more than endless fields of wheat and barley. In reality, our province is blessed with an immense diversity of landscapes, ranging from sand dunes, rugged badlands, dry grass prairie, to emense boreal forests of the Canadian Shield.     During the first part of the presentation, I will take the audience on a virtual journey around the province; from Cypress Hills and Grasslands National Park in the south, to Prince Albert National Park and Churchill River in the north.     After a few short audio-visual clips, I will talk about my sources of inspiration and what drives me to devote a large part of my life to explore and capture the beauty of natural environments. I have spent may years photographing “birds and the bees”. Recently, I have put more effort in documenting lives of people who live and work on the prairies.  ...

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