Green Bites - Enews April 2016

Current Issue: April 2016

Spotlight on Conservation

Planning a Castle that lasts

The majority of Albertans love their parks and protected areas.  A recent Alberta wide survey shows that 88% of Albertans want more wilderness protected and 83% want these areas protected, even if they never visit them.  So it was good to see a commitment to protect Alberta ecosystems in the recently released Alberta Budget 2016, “Alberta contributes to Canada’s international commitment to protect 17 per cent of terrestrial ecosystems under Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.” 

The establishment of new parks and protected areas, however, needs to be meaningful and represent all regions from native grasslands to Rocky Mountains. We also need to have management plans that follow the international guidelines for protection to ensure that nature is the number one priority in these areas. We look forward to working with the government, not only to meet these international targets, but to surpass them.

As a first step, the Government of Alberta announced its intention to amend the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) to protect the Castle as a Wildland and Provincial Park last fall. This is an integral step to preserve clean water for downstream communities, safeguard our province’s biodiversity, provide habitat to important wildlife such as grizzly bear and cutthroat trout and provide places for Albertans to connect to nature. But, there is still work to do.

For meaningful protection to occur, the management plan for the Castle must make conservation a priority. While much of the Castle remains as wilderness, the cumulative effects of intensive land uses such as oil and gas, forestry, grazing and off-highway vehicle use, have damaged many areas. Studies of linear densities in the Castle (the number of long, straight, narrow features such as cut lines, roads and trails) indicate there are linear disturbances far above the thresholds for species at risk in Alberta such as grizzly bear, cutthroat trout and bull trout. This means trails; roads and other linear features will have to be reclaimed in order to protect our waterways and species at risk.

CPAWS is working to ensure that the Castle management plan makes nature a priority.  It is integral to protect, restore and plan so that this incredibly valuable area will be in good repair for our children and grandchildren. Given the high ecological and social value of the Castle, the management plan for this special place should do the following:

• Make nature a priority and include plans for restoring damaged areas.
• Develop recreation trails and facilities only where it’s ecologically appropriate.
• Be grounded in science and be evidence-based using the precautionary principle to drive process and outcomes. 
• Ensure Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use is not permitted in the provincial parks as this land-use has proven to be very destructive to wildlife, soil and water quality, and disturbing for the majority of other recreation users. Current management of Alberta’s provincial parks does not allow off-highway vehicle use and this would set a very dangerous precedent in our province. OHV activities that harm the land or water of the Castle should not be allowed in our ecologically important protected areas.

While OHV use does occur on the landscape, it is important to note that these users represent a very small minority of Albertans. In the South Saskatchewan Region of Southern Alberta, only 2% of residents participate in off-road vehicle use in summer and fall, and only 3% in winter and spring1. Proper planning, management and enforcement of this land-use on public lands will be critical to ensure the health of the landscape for the future. Protected areas are special and need special consideration.  The way we manage recreation in this province has not been effective in the past and it is time to get it right.

Alberta is the first province to publically commit to the goal of protecting 17% of its terrestrial landscapes by 2020. Alberta’s true advantage is our natural heritage – let’s make sure our plans protect it properly for the benefit of future generations and a healthy tomorrow.

Treading Lightly in Nature

Photo by Daniela Mitrache

Often when we attend community events, we get the question – does CPAWS prefer that people stay out of parks and wilderness areas so they remain pristine? This is always our answer: we want people to spend time in nature! It’s important to connect with nature to appreciate it, and become stewards of it. It is critical for our health to spend time in nature. What we do hope for is that people will be kind to Alberta’s parks and wilderness areas. Here are 21 places you can go to enjoy nature this summer.

21 Breathtaking Alberta Hikes To Do This Summer

By Cyla Panin

1. Alder Trail
1.6 KM
Alder Trail is an easy loop hike in Bragg Creek—perfect to soak up the great outdoorswithout dealing with burning calve muscles later.

2. Lake Agnes Trail
6.8 KM Return
The Lake Agnes Trail hike, also known as the Teahouse Hike, is a moderate hike with spectacular views of Lake Louise. If you plan on visiting the Teahouse at the summit, bring cash.

3. Sulphur Mountain Trail
5.5 KM
Sulphur Mountain Trail is a steep hike that rewards you with incredible views of Banff. No gondola required!

4. Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots
5.8 KM
If you follow the Johnston Canyon trail to the upper falls and keep going another 3 KM, you will find the most marvellous mineral spring pools.

5. Aylmer Lookout
11.8 KM
Aylmer Lookout Hike is a day hike for strong hikers. The walk along Lake Minnewanka is a breeze compared to the steep climb beyond. Hikers will be rewarded with incredible views of the lake and surrounding mountaintops.

6. Wilcox Pass
12 KM
Wilcox Pass is a day hike near Jasper, Alberta. The hike is moderately difficult and hikers should be prepared for unpredictable weather. But incredible views of the Rockies await those who persevere!

7. Sentinel Pass
12 KM Return
Sentinel Pass is a day hike with steep switchbacks and glorious views of the Valley of 10 Peaks. This is a moderate level hike.

8. Elk Pass
11 KM Return
Elk’s Pass is a day hike that begins in Alberta and ends in B.C. The hike has a moderate elevation and should be suitable for intermediate hikers. Those who want to camp near Elk Lake will find some wilderness campsites at the end of the hike.

9. Helen Lake
12 KM Return
This moderate hike takes you through lush forest with an incredible destination: Helen Lake, tucked away in the mountain range. If you time it right in the summer, you may even see fields of beautiful wildflowers.

10. Buller Pass
13 KM Return
Buller Pass is an advanced hike, taking you through forested areas, past a lovely waterfall, and up a steep pass where, if you make it through, you will be given a great view of the beautiful valley below.

11. Nigel Pass
17 KM Return
Nigel Pass is a great day hike for beginners. Hikers will find a relatively easy, scenic path near the Columbia Icefields. Once you make it to the pass, you will find gorgeous views of the Brazeau River.

12. Tonquin Valley
70 KM
If you’re a backpacker looking to explore the Jasper area, the Tonquin Valley offers incredible scenery and trails that can take you on a week-long journey! A hike of this length should be attempted only by experienced hikers with proper training and safety equipment.

13. Hayburger Trail
10 KM
Hayburger Trail, in Elk Island National Park, is a fantastic walk through forests and meadows. This trail is a good place to view wildlife–you may even come upon a moose or plains bison over yonder.

14. Rae Glacier Hike
4.5 KM
This hike is moderate and takes you by Elbow Lake and on to the remains of Rae Glacier. You will find beautiful views of the lake and you can *carefully* explore the glacier!

15. Lillian Lake
12.6 KM Return
Crossing the Galatea Creek, this difficult hike has a moderate elevation and beautiful scenery. If you wish to make this an overnight trip, there is camping available at Lillian Lake.

16. Mount Allan Hike
16 KM Return
The Mount Allan Hike is a long and difficult day hike in Kananaskis Country — even for experienced hikers. But the challenging journey ends with breathtaking views of the town of Canmore and the surrounding Rockies.

17. Lower Galatea Lake Hike
16 KM Return
This moderate hike takes you through forested patches and past Lillian Lake towards Galatea Lake. The views from Lillian Lake and Galatea lake are worth your trip, and the path is studded with charming bridges.

18. Pocaterra Cirque
7 KM
The Pocaterra Cirque is a scenic hike with views of forests, meadows, and a lake. This is a moderate hike and is suitable for recreational hikers.

19. Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
6 KM
Jump back to pre-historic times with a journey through Alberta’s badlands. Trails in this provincial park will afford you impressive views of hoodoos.

20. Akamina Parkway
12.5 KM Return
This hike begins near Waterton in Alberta and crosses over the B.C. border. This hike is suitable for beginners and brings you through the Akamina Parkway to Wall Lake.

21. Red Rock Canyon Loop
.07 KM Return.
If you’re looking for a nature walk in Waterton National Park, the Red Rock Canyon Loop is a great, though short, excursion. You will have stunning views of the canyon and the red rock it’s named named after.

Environmental Education

Every Day is Earth Day with CPAWS

April is Earth Month. To mark this important month, we want to share the purpose of our environmental education department efforts. We are driven by a big picture concept that guides the work of all our staff. We work to preserve, protect and properly manage parks and wilderness spaces in southern Alberta. A huge part of that from an education perspective is raising awareness about the conservation issues and talking about what we need to do to address these issues. To do this, we hope to inspire students to become passionate about the natural environments we are so lucky to have at our doorstep here in Alberta and encourage them to take action to conserve these environments.

For us at CPAWS, every day is Earth Day. We work hard all year to connect students to our wonderful wild spaces. One very effective way to grow kids’ love for nature is to let them experience it firsthand. In southern Alberta, we have an extensive interpretive hiking program with this goal in mind. We extended our outdoor programming this winter with our new interpretive snowshoe program. Our guides engaged 250 kids in Grades 4 to 9 through the joy of snowshoeing. One teacher's comments sums up the great success of the program:

"I enjoyed seeing students out in nature engaging in an activity they may not have the opportunity to do frequently or at all in some cases. I enjoyed seeing students rise to the challenge as they navigated the terrain. Our guide did an excellent job making connections and explaining concepts with the students.”

Now that we’ve wrapped up the snowshoe program we look forward to our spring season. During May and June, we plan to lead over 60 hikes for 1500 students! Classes will visit Fish Creek Provincial Park, Mount Yamnuska, Ribbon Creek or Sheep River and learn about topics such as species at risk, water stewardship, forests, parks and grizzly bears through interpretation, exploration, games and field studies.

Taking on action projects is important to us at CPAWS Southern Alberta, and ties in seamlessly with what Earth Day is all about: people who take action and inspire others to do the same because they are passionate about the health and preservation of our planet. This month, consider taking on an Earth Day-friendly action project. You can do this alone, with family members, classmates, coworkers, or with the entire community. Here are a few projects to consider:

• Pledge to reduce water use
• Reduce waste by recycling or composting
• Educate others about the issues facing our environment
• Organize a litter clean-up or a bake sale to raise funds and awareness about a conservation issue.

For more ideas to engage in conservation and action this Earth Day, check out our Resources for Environmental Education. The possibilities are endless and here at CPAWS we believe that everyone in Alberta can find a meaningful way to show their love and respect for our wonderful, precious Earth!

People in Nature

Family Farm Inspires Love of Nature

How does Kirsten Olson, our CPAWS office and program fund administrator connect with nature? She takes her two children to the family farm near Cremona. The farm includes beautiful natural areas with trees, streams and wetlands. There is also a glacial erratic: a huge rock that was transported there during the ice age: the perfect place for climbing and exploring and the backdrop for generations of family photos.

Kirsten loved growing up in the country – it inspired her appreciation for nature. She especially loved seeing wildlife and had the chance to see moose, a black bear, a lynx, deer and fox wander through the yard. She spent many hours of her childhood watching coyote pups play outside their den. She had to be very quiet so that she wouldn’t scare them. Now with life as busy as it is, she finds it hard to imagine having the time or patience to spend long hours observing nature, but it was these experiences she missed the most when she moved to live in London, England and later in Southern Japan.  Now that she has children, she wants them to share her love for nature, which is why she takes them out to her parents’ farm twice a month. She loves to see them outdoors picking berries, helping in their grandparent’s garden and playing on the same rock she played on with her brothers.

Kirsten credits motherhood with leading her to work at CPAWS three years ago. She has a much deeper appreciation for environmental protection after having her children, and she wanted to have a small part in ensuring that there were still wild places for future children to love and explore. Now she spends her time at CPAWS working on grant proposals, research projects, day-to-day finances and administration. Her favorite part of the job? Spending time with co-workers who share her love for good coffee, and of course - nature. 

Our Partners in Conservation

Alberta Real Estate Foundation

This month we would like to recognize and thank the Alberta Real Estate Foundation for supporting us with the recreation and wilderness values project for Alberta.

Field of Dreams, by Kari Lehr

Inspired by Nature

Bears and The Natural World

I have always been fascinated by bears; they fill me with a curious sense of wonder and delight mixed with dread. Painting bears allows me to both relax and have fun with paint and colour; I love to paint them as portraits with an almost human-like quality and connection to the viewer. Through my work, I seek to find that still, quite place in consciousness which allows us to feel a connection to each other and the natural world.

Kari Lehr graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1987. She
focused her career on illustration for almost 20 years while living in Calgary
and raising her three children. In 2004 she and her family moved to the
Crowsnest Pass and it is in this inspiring mountain environment that she now
pursues her own art.


Student Sustainability Day for Science Odyssey

Bid on a garden box or check out the Tomatosphere™ project! Grades 4 and 9 students from the Connect Charter School invite you to drop in and see the creative ways they are taking action for the environment at Student Sustainability Day on May 6 at 1 pm. Bid on a garden box designed and built by Grade 9 students or see if you can guess which tomato was grown from seeds that were in space-like conditions with the Grade 4 class Tomatosphere™ projects. Visit Events for more information!

Date: May 6 at 1 pm

Location: Connect Charter School, 5915 Lewis Drive, SW, Calgary, AB.

A Journey Through the Mountains and Meadows of Kananaskis

Discover the high alpine meadow swathed in flowers, explore the fragrant woods of Jumping Pound Creek and gaze upon sparkling mountain tarns ringed with golden larch. Join John McFaul of Alpenglow Nature Hikes for a virtual hike through the majestic mountains and meadows of Kananaskis Country at the Fish Creek Environmental Learn Centre, Wednesday, May 25 from 7 to 8 pm. For more information or to register visit

Y2Y Featured in Documentary

National parks, such as Banff and Yellowstone, are protected all over the world. That’s the good news.
However, scientists have been warning for decades that most protected areas are too small to preserve wide-ranging wildlife species over the long term, and it will only delay inevitable extinction for many species that require large, protected ecosystems in order to survive.
The solution, say conservationists, is to restore and maintain viable wildlife corridors that keep animals connected over vast ecosystems, and between large protected areas. It’s the vision behind Y2Y and the reason they exist, and it’s also the theme of a new film, called Wildways: Corridors of Life, by celebrated documentary filmmaker James Brundige.

Y2Y will be hosting a screenings and discussion on June 22 from 6:45 pm at the Lux Cinema in Banff. Reception to follow at the Whyte Museum in Banff. For more information visit Y2Y.  


Goats on weed patrol

The City of Calgary is introducing a unique pilot project that will study the use of goats for targeted weed control. Beginning this spring, a herd of goats managed by a professional shepherd and highly trained herding dogs will be dispatched to two Calgary parks to help control weeds, including Canada thistle. 

“We know that grazing has the potential to offer several benefits for managing landscapes in Calgary,” says Chris Manderson, Urban Conservation lead for Calgary Parks. “Targeted grazing for weeds is environmentally friendly and sustainable, and there’s evidence from other cities that indicates that it can also be cost-effective.”

The City is committed to controlling pests and weeds in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, and wThis pilot includes the collection of data to analyze the effectiveness of grazing on controlling weeds.

“We’re especially interested in seeing if we can use grazing in areas that may be unsafe for work crews and equipment, such as steep slopes and nearby water bodies where we avoid the use of chemical herbicides”, says Manderson.

The goats will appear in Confluence (West Nose Creek) Park and possibly at a second location in a nearby green space, just as the Canada thistle begins to flower - an effective time for controlling this particular weed. The timing is weather-dependant; however The City anticipates the herd will arrive late May or early June.

Read news at your convenience

Do you see articles that spark your interest but don't have time to read right away? One option (there are many apps) is to install the Pocket app. With the click of a button, you can save articles and videos to enjoy at your convenience. Saved articles are viewable on your phone, tablet or computer while you are waiting in line, during the commute to work and even offline. Get Pocket at (from Alpine Club of Canada Newsnet).