Green Bites - Enews June 2016

June 2016

Spotlight on Conservation

CPAWS responds to new Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

On June 1, the Government of Alberta released the new draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (2016-2021).  CPAWS Southern Alberta will be reviewing the plan in detail and will encourage public feedback on the plan by July 15.  At first glance however, we can see the new plan shows some areas of progress and some areas of serious concern. 

Grizzly bears were first listed as Threatened in Alberta in 2010 due to concerns over low population numbers, deteriorating habitat caused by fragmentation and high levels of human-cause mortality. 

The document identifies public motorized access associated with increasing road density as a major contributor to human-bear conflicts that have resulted in grizzly bear deaths. Human-caused bear deaths result mainly from:

• poaching
• vehicle and train collisions
• self-defense kills
• hunters mistaking a grizzly for a black bear

These grizzly bear deaths are often facilitated by motorized access into bear habitat, which then puts bear populations at risk.

The draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan makes some progress to outline a provincial strategy of actions to address threats to the overall species population but fails to do address a number of issues. 

Here is our initial overview:

Strengths
Major highways in Alberta are fragmenting grizzly bear habitat and causing populations to become isolated.  One of the strengths of the new plan is recognizing the need to connect our grizzly bear populations across these major highways and ensure bears can move safely throughout the Rockies and foothills. 

CPAWS Southern Alberta also strongly supports the plan’s renewed focus to support communities and landowners in bear country through education and conflict-mitigation strategies.  To ensure this part of the recovery plan is successful, community programs will need dedicated funding to help people co-exist with grizzly bears as the species recovers.

Concerns
Much of the grizzly bear habitat on Alberta’s public land is highly fragmented with roads and motorized trails many times greater than the research indicates is good for bears.  These trails allow people to access core habitat areas, increasing the risk of conflict and of bear deaths. It is critical to limit disturbances and provide safe habitat for recovering grizzly bears. However, by focusing on limits to public roads only and excluding the effects of trails, the new plan actually increases the number of roads and trails that can be built in core grizzly habitat.

The plan states that research on the effect of motorized recreation has not been done in Alberta.  In the absence of this research, caution is absolutely necessary when applying thresholds.  We know research in North America demonstrates that human conflict with bears, facilitated by motorized access, is the highest risk to bears.  Therefore, it should not be assumed that motorized recreational trails into grizzly bear habitat do not increase mortality risk. Rather there should be a focus on restoring motorized trails to sustainable levels.

Another key area of concern is the removal of the Porcupine Hills from designated Core Habitat to merely Support Habitat.  The Porcupine Hills contains high value grizzly bear habitat and is important for facilitating the movement of bears.  Downgrading this area would remove the limitations on road and trail densities in the Porcupine Hills, potentially pushing bears onto private lands and could allow for higher tolerance for deaths and relocations. As one of the last vestiges of grassland grizzly habitat on public land it is important to retain this area as core habitat in the plan.

The new plan will also accommodate higher allowable human-caused mortality rates in the Castle and Livingstone grizzly populations.  As these populations appear to be increasing, it is more important than ever to reduce conflicts in these areas for the safety of bears and people.  Having higher tolerance for grizzly deaths in this region could prevent action on addressing critical issues like intense off-highway vehicle (OHV) use and logging in grizzly bear habitat which may cause grizzlies to be displaced onto private land where the habitat is more secure.  There should be a large focus on supporting communities and ranchers in the Castle and Livingstone population areas to reduce conflicts with bears.  

Albertans are proud of their majestic wildlife.  In particular, grizzly bears symbolize the wild and free spaces that Albertans value. There is room in Alberta for recreation, ranching, and resource development, but we also need to conserve and connect our best wildlife habitats. Managing the landscape for grizzly bears also provides habitat for many other species, helps maintain fish and healthy aquatic ecosystems, and protects clean and abundant supplies of water for downstream users.

It is important for Albertans to provide their input into this plan before July 15. Take Action HERE.

Planning the future of Alberta

The Government of Alberta is currently creating a strategy for managing linear disturbances such as the number of roads and trails on public land as well as the recreational use of those trails in Alberta. The first of these plans are being developed for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone area north of the Crowsnest Pass. (INSERT MAP). This is precedent setting, as it will determine the direction for planning in the rest of the province.

The Porcupine Hills and Livingstone are important sources of water for communities in Southern Alberta and are key habitat for threatened species such as grizzly bear and westslope cutthroat trout.  These critical areas also facilitate the movement of animals throughout the region.

Roads, trails, and associated motorized use can have a big impact on the health of headwaters and on wildlife.  Unregulated motorized recreation can also disturb the wilderness experience for those who enjoy low impact recreation.

Many areas within the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone have been heavily damaged by poor planning and recreational abuse.  Some areas in this region have four times the number of roads and trails than what science indicates is a tipping point for wildlife and watershed health. Many areas are no longer enjoyable for those seeking a quiet wilderness experience. Private lands adjacent to these areas that have been conserved through land trusts and easements are also compromised by poor public land management. (PHOTO?)

The linear disturbance and recreation plans will be critical to conserving our special eastern slopes landscape. The plans are moving in the right direction by identifying the key priorities of
• headwaters protection;
• biodiversity;
• and landscape connectivity

However, we need to ensure these critical environmental values are truly the top priority and peer-reviewed science informs management plans.

CPAWS Southern Alberta is working with government, landowners, conservation organizations and other stakeholder to support and strengthen these plans and ensure nature comes first. 

The linear and recreation plans should:
• Use science-based thresholds to limit the number of roads and trails allowed on the landscape without causing harm to fish, wildlife and water. 
• Consider low impact recreation and wilderness values in linear and recreation planning.  Areas should be set aside for wilderness experiences for Albertans to enjoy and to bolster tourism in the region.  Motorized recreation, forestry and industry need to be limited to areas where it will have minimal disturbance on water, wildlife and other recreation users.
• Plan for restoring damaged areas and unregulated trails. Many high value areas are currently heavily impacted by unregulated uses and need to be restored and conserved.
• Include the organizational capacity and associated resources to effectively manage and enforce linear and recreation plans. Without the capacity to implement the plan, we will not see the necessary changes to conserve the health of this important landscape on the ground.

We have an opportunity to create strong plans that will conserve this incredible landscape for Alberta.  Let’s make sure we make the right choices for the health of the land, water and of our communities.

Treading Lightly in Nature 

Herbert Lake photo by Murray Robertson

Top swimming spots in southern Alberta

Unless you are a fan of polar bear dips, you only have a brief window of opportunity to enjoy outdoor swimming in Alberta. Considering we are a land-locked province, we have a surprising number of beautiful spots to take a dip. Make the most of your summer in these amazing places!

By Michelle Butterfield

1. Sylvan Lake
This may be an obvious choice, but still a good one. Sylvan Lake is near Red Deer and has a 1.6 kilometre long beach. The perfect spot for swimming, or if you want a break from that, they have volleyball, fishing, sailing and more.

2. Castle Falls
Visit this beautiful waterfall and enjoy the shallow pool at the bottom of the falls in the beautiful Castle Falls Provincial Recreation area. 

3. Johnson Lake
This lake if close to Banff and it is a popular swimming and hiking spot for locals and tourists. The water warms up in the summer months and a rope swing provides hours of fun for kids of all ages.

4. Quarry Lake
This lake is located just off Spray Lakes Road in the Town of Canmore and has a fantastic mountain view. It’s one prettiest places to swim and it’s fed by an underground spring, as opposed to chilly glacier runoff common to most mountain lakes. The lake may be more than 100 metres deep in some areas, but at the shallow end of the lake is a sandy beach that is perfect for kids.

5. Herbert Lake
The water at this Lake Louise local remains chilly even in the summer months, but locals and visitors don’t seem to mind. There’s a diving board at the back of the lake, so keep an eye open for the path that will take you there. It’s a great spot for a hike too!

Do you have a favourite swimming spot in southern Alberta? Tell us about it and we can share in the next issue of Green Bites! Send your suggestions to communicationssab@cpaws.org.

Environmental Education

CPAWS Action Challenge winners for 2015 to 2016

The CPAWS Action Challenge Contest is a chief component of our environmental education programs. We work with thousands of students each year, providing them with knowledge about Alberta’s species at risk and their habitats. Our goal is for students to take their learning beyond the classroom to create a positive impact on the environment. We want students to care about the environmental issues in our province and demonstrate that by taking on an Action Challenge project that shows their commitment to environmental stewardship. Classes and individual students who have taken on Action Challenge projects may enter our Action Challenge Contest. Each June we select classes that demonstrated extraordinary conservation action. Congratulations to the 2015-2016 Action Award Winners!

And the winners are...

Awesome Action Award – Killarney School

The Awesome Action Award is for elementary students (grade 2-6) that take on the most exceptional action project.

This year’s winners are the Grade 4-6 students of Killarney School. They were inspired by our new Stories in the Snow interpretive snowshoe program this past winter.

The Killarney students held an Emerging Environmental Leaders Forum. Students chose to research topics including invasive species, GMO foods, pollution, water consumption, habitat loss, species at risk and global warming. It culminated with many children writing letters to members of government advocating for their chosen issue. Congratulations, Killarney!

Thank you to the City of Calgary for donating a composter to the school for their hard work. During the celebration, each student got to make a seed bomb to take home. Thank you to Wild About Flowers for offering a discount on native flower seeds and Living Soil Solutions for donating the worm castings for the seed bombs.

 

             

 

Hazel Gillespie Water Rangers Award – St. Sylvester School

The Hazel Gillespie Water Ranger Award is for the best Action Challenge project taken on by a class of any grade that is focused on water conservation and stewardship. This award is named after Hazel Gillespie, who invested in the initial development of our Water Rangers program that inspires students to become good water stewards.

Our 2015-2016 winners are the Grade 5 students of St. Sylvester School. They were inspired by our Water Rangers program and decided to take action to protect water, locally and globally. The students wondered: Why is protecting the world's Freshwater important? What's the big deal about water? Is there really a 'water crisis'? During their research, they consulted with CPAWS and other experts on water issues.

They took action during World Water Week. The students held a Water Symposium for fellow students, school staff, families and community members. Each group of students hosted an interactive booth on topics such as bottled water, water and health, wetland conservation and water treatment. The Grade 5’s also sold reusable water bottles and Water Rafiki bracelets to support clean water in Kenya. They made videos, brochures, PowerPoints and artwork and took photos to document their learning journey and build awareness about water conservation and stewardship.

Thank you to the City of Calgary for donating a Rain Barrel and to Green Calgary for donating a gift basket with a recipe book to make green cleaners, some supplies to get started, a re-usable glass, and a non-toxic hand soap.

         

Gareth Thomson Award – C.W. Perry School

The Gareth Thomson Award is granted to the Junior or Senior High class (grade 7-12) that takes on the most inspiring Action Challenge project. It is named after Gareth Thompson, the founder of the CPAWS Education Department.

This year, we honour the stewardship work of the Grade 8 Outdoor Education students of C.W. Perry School. CPAWS inspired these students through in-class presentations, hikes and snowshoe treks. Each group of students designed a stewardship project with an action goal. Projects ranged from petitions to the Airdrie mayor and local businesses, to social media campaigns and fundraisers (including a Pond Hockey tournament). The students tackled issues such as pollution, species at risk (Woodland Caribou, Northern Leopard Frogs and Bull trout) and watershed conservation.   

Special thanks to Victor Liu, Rebecca Schortinghuis and Howard Trofanenko for generously donating their photographs for school prizes.

People in Nature 

Talking nature around the world

How long has Gustave (Gus) J. Yaki been a supporter of CPAWS? Since the l970s, when it was known as the National and Provincial Parks Association. This long-time advocate of conservation in Alberta was motivated to support CPAWS because it was the champion for a well-run parks system.

Gus Yaki’s lifelong interest in nature began early on growing up on a farm in northern Saskatchewan. His walk to school gave him time to ponder the wonders and mysteries of this remarkable and beautiful planet.

“Ultimately, I saw that everything in nature was connected to everything else,” says Yaki.

While living at Niagara Falls, Ontario, he started a nature club, which soon had one of the largest memberships in the province. This drew him to the attention of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists where he became a staff member. One of his duties included planning field trips.

This experience eventually led him to start his own Natural History tour company, Nature Travel Service, taking people around the world, to show them the beauty of the flora, fauna and physiography of this planet. Ninety-five per cent of the participants were repeat customers - some spending up to two years of their life travelling with him.

“I personally have been to all seven continents and some 76 political entities,” says Yaki. “I say entities, because some places, such as Antarctica and Svalbard (Spitzbergen Islands) are not countries.”

As the result of one of his tours, the book 'Looking for the Wild', about a 100 day journey around the perimeter of North America in 1983, was written by Lyn Hancock, author of some 19 other best-sellers. Participating on that tour was Roger Tory Peterson, the foremost nature artist, photographer and author, and the inspiration for the 50+ books in the Peterson Field Guide series, which apparently have sold more non-fiction copies than any other book except for The Holy Bible. Another prominent participant on that, and on other tours, was Robert Bateman, certainly one of the best wildlife artist that has ever lived.

He retired in 1991, but continued to lead some tours. In 1993, one of his tour participants enticed him to come back west, to Calgary. Since then he has been active in the many nature and conservation organizations, giving talks to various groups and schools, leading nature tours, teaching bird and botany courses, writing articles, compiling a book on the wild plants of Calgary, and representing various clubs or societies on different boards or for different issues.

Currently, he is responsible for organizing outings for 280 birding participants and 100 botany participants each week, and he takes in donations for CPAWS.

“In my spare time, I am a gardener, turning my boring green lawn into a wildflower and wildlife haven,” says Yaki.

Our Partners in Conservation

Thank you to HSBC our title sponsors for supporting the Environmental Education Species at Risk program. Your support is much appreciated as students will learn what they can do to protect the plants and animals that are disappearing in Canada.

Inspired by Nature 

Artwork by Colleen Campbell

Inspired by our relationship with animals 

Colleen Campbell’s work is nearly all about our long-term historical relationship with animals and their spiritual importance to the human psyche. For 20 years, she derived her work from travelling in the Canadian Arctic and the Himalaya. Since the 1990s, her art has originated from living in the mountains. She spends time tracking coyotes and bears, and learning about their lives. She enjoys learning how these animals influence human storytelling and belief systems for the millennia.

Colleen Campbell has a degree in design and two in fine arts. She has lived and worked in the central Rockies since the 1970s. This fall, you can see some of her work on display at the Banff Centre in the lobby of the Professional Development Centre.

Newsflash

For the first time, the Southern Alberta Land Trust is hosting bear safety workshops for ranching families and landowners along the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies in June and July. Bear experts Jay Honeyman, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks, and Mike Gibeau with Southern Alberta Land Trust are leading the workshops.

They are providing landowners with bear awareness training and tips on how to keep bears off their property. They will also show ranchers how to use bear spray and they will take home a can of spray.  The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society of Southern Alberta contributed some of the bear spray cans for the program.

“We like to provide support for ranching families and landowners to minimize human and wildlife conflicts. It’s important as we work on grizzly bear recovery that we can learn to co-exist with bears,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Southern Alberta.