Tag Archive | bird conservation

Alberta Headwaters Petition

(Link to the Petition here.)

In about two months the Alberta government will be releasing its draft of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. This will have a huge impact on the future of the wildlife, plants, and water resources of the headwaters. Naturalist, writer, and former superintendent of Banff National Park Kevin Van Tighem has started an online petition asking the government to “Treat our Alberta Headwaters like the treasures they are.”

Kevin says, “Those responsible for finalizing the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan are under a lot of pressure to protect the status quo for industrial-scale logging in the headwaters, and are being lobbied very aggressively by off-road vehicle users who want no restrictions on their activities.  I believe we have a good Minister; I also believe she’s under a lot of pressure.”

Kevin adds, “Most of us likely remember – I certainly do – when the foothills and Front Ranges were like paradise — before they were brought down to their current state by multiple-abuse.   The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan will have quasi-regulatory status and is meant to be a strategic roadmap to our next fifty years.   It’s really important that those who believe we can do better for our headwaters – the forests, creeks, meadows, trout, grizzlies and wild places that yield all the water that comes down the rivers to where we all live – make themselves heard.”


Here is the text of the petition:

A century of clear cut logging, oil and gas development and out-of-control off-road vehicle abuse has left the headwaters of the South Saskatchewan River fragmented and scarred. Natural river flows are 12% lower than in the mid twentieth century. Climate change will only make things worse.
Alberta is about to release a South Saskatchewan regional land use plan that was prepared with wide citizen consultation. But special interest groups with a stake in business-as-usual want to ensure it contains no limits on off-road abuse, increases clear cut logging, and promotes more development.
Those who care about healthy landscapes, clean rivers and future water security need a chance to inform the government that they support a plan that keeps the mountains and foothills green and healthy by establishing new parks, restricting off-road vehicles to official trails, replacing clear cutting with restoration logging, and repairing landscapes damaged by past industrial and motorized abuse.
Healthy intact headwaters don’t just produce more and better water – they yield better fishing and hunting, more secure and productive habitat for elk, grizzlies and native trout, and the aesthetic and ecological qualities that yield the finest of recreational environments.

If you would like to support this cause and sign this petition, go to the petition website,  and share this with friends and family.

State of Canada’s Birds

Canada’s bird populations have been heavily influenced by human activity, in ways that have helped some species, and hindered others, according to a first-of-its-kind national report on the state of Canada’s birds.

The State of Canada’s Birds report draws on 40 years of data – from professionals and citizen scientists – to present an overview of how Canada’s birds are faring. It summarizes the status of Canada’s bird populations for eight biomes, including the boreal forest, prairies, Arctic and oceans. The report provides a scientific tool to help public agencies and conservation groups identify the most significant conservation opportunities to ensure healthy ecosystems.

The report finds that there are fewer birds now than in the seventies – overall populations have declined by 12%, but changes vary among species. Some species groups are doing well, while others are declining. Overall, more species are decreasing (44%) than increasing (33%). Declines have been particularly severe for grassland birds, migratory shorebirds and aerial insectivores (birds that catch insects in flight) all of which have declined, on average, more than 40%.

However, other species populations have expanded, illustrating that direct conservation efforts can have a positive impact. The ban on pesticides in the 1970s has helped raptors like the Peregrine Falcon, Osprey and Bald Eagle recover. Effective management of wetlands and hunting has aided waterfowl like ducks and geese.

Birds are a crucial indicator of ecosystem health. Healthy bird habitat provides vital environmental services, including food and fuel, clean air and water, fertile soil, pest and disease control, pollination of plants, and a stable, moderate climate.

The State of Canada’s Birds
 report is a collaborative effort of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative in Canada (NABCI-Canada), whose members include federal, territorial and provincial governments, conservation NGOs, and private sector organizations.

The State of Canada’s Birds is available online at www.stateofcanadasbirds.org .

Report Findings

The report highlights several changes in Canadian bird populations since 1970. These include:

• On average, Canadian breeding bird populations have decreased 12% since 1970, the year effective monitoring began for most species.
• Of all bird species, 44% have declined, 33% have increased and 23% have remained stable.
• Grassland birds, including longspurs, meadowlarks, Sprague’s pipit, Greater Sage-Grouse and others, are in decline due largely to a loss of habitat.
• Aerial insectivores – birds that catch insects in flight – are declining more steeply than any other group of birds, but the causes of the decline are unknown.
• Overall, shorebirds have declined by almost half, while Arctic shorebirds in particular, including the endangered Red Knot, have declined by 60%.
• Increasing raptor populations, such as the peregrine falcon, point to the success of direct intervention.
• Waterfowl populations have increased in part due to successful management of hunting and wetlands.
• Conserving Canada’s birds requires concerted efforts by all sectors of society, including individuals, corporations, non-government organizations and governments, both in Canada and internationally.
• Ongoing efforts and resources are needed to maintain the successes in groups such as waterfowl, and to ensure effective conservation of all the other bird species in Canada.

Nature Canada Press Release

Alberta Government Selling Off Native Prairie Grasslands

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Alberta Government has absolutely no respect for the people they are supposed to be representing.

Last year, this same government attempted a secretive deal to sell off native grasslands to a private firm to grow potatoes. The resulting ‘Potatogate’ furor from all segments of society negated that sale. The rumor was that the government decided to back off on that one, wait for the dust to settle and people to forget about it, and try again.

Did they not listen to the people the first time? Did they think we were just going to forget about it?

Now they’re at it again, proposing 16,000 acres of native grassland be turned into agricultural areas. Their “logic” is that the money from the sale of the land will allegedly be used to preserve other high-value parcels. They say the money will be put into a fund for conservation easements for non-profits, who must raise matching funds. There is absolutely no guarantee that any non-profit group will ever be able to receive this money.

As they’re not even listening to their own experts, who has judged the value of these ‘high-value’ parcels? Who has determined these parcels are worth more than the grasslands?

Sustainable Resources Minister Mel Knight is from a northern Alberta riding. Send him an email today at grandeprairie.smoky@assembly.ab.ca and tell him what you think of his complete disregard for the remaining native grasslands in our province. Tell him we haven’t forgotten.

Alberta Wilderness Association Press Release

On August 30, the Alberta government again placed 16,000 acres of Cypress County native grassland up for sale for conversion to intensive irrigation agricultural use. These are all the same lands that were pulled from an impending secretive sale last November after widespread public criticism. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) believes these lands should remain as public native grasslands where well-managed ranching and grassland-dependent wildlife species can co-exist.

“There is overwhelming public support and scientific evidence to keep Alberta’s remaining native grasslands free from intensive uses,” says Carolyn Campbell, AWA conservation specialist. “Many sensitive grassland species have been documented on these specific lands, which our government should be protecting, not actively seeking to destroy.”

Two endangered burrowing owl active nests were recently found on the lands posted for sale. There is also a breeding pair of North America’s largest soaring hawk – the endangered ferruginous hawk – and many pairs of North America’s largest shorebird, the long-billed curlew, a species of special concern. Numerous female pronghorn antelope use these specific lands as a fawning ground, where baby antelope are safely concealed in the native vegetation. All these species depend upon intact grasslands for survival, for the food sources and cover the vegetation provides. Cultivated irrigated land, the primary land use specified in the proposed sale documents, is not adequate habitat for them.

“These lands have been identified for conservation by the South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council in the report it submitted to Alberta earlier this year,” says AWA Vice President Cliff Wallis. “By putting these lands up for sale, the Minister is disrespecting their work and should hold off on any land sales in this area at least until government responds to those recommendations.”

Less than 2% of Alberta’s grasslands natural region is protected. Only 30% of Alberta’s grasslands remain, yet they support 70% of the mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species that are at risk or may be at risk in Alberta.

For more information:
Carolyn Campbell, AWA Conservation Specialist: (403) 283-2025
Cliff Wallis, AWA Vice President: (403) 607-1970

Map of Environmentally Significant Areas classification of the proposed lands for sale Download File

Bird Canada Blog Oct 2010 – Irreplaceable Public Land to be Sold to Make Potato Chips 

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Status of Birds In Canada

Rough-legged Hawk by Pat Bumstead

A new Status of Birds in Canada section has been added to Environment Canada’s web site. It identifies the overall status of each species, describes population changes, discusses some of their conservation needs and provides a mechanism to track the success of ongoing and proposed conservation actions for these species.

The first phase of the site, which has just been launched, reports on a selection of more than 100 landbirds. These landbirds are either of conservation concern or those for which our stewardship responsibility is high, because Canada is home to a large portion of their population. Future iterations are planned to include all of Canada’s birds.

The Web site presents individual species accounts based on an assessment of the available population data from a variety of bird monitoring programs. It identifies the overall status of each species, describes population changes, discusses some of their conservation needs and provides a mechanism to track the success of ongoing and proposed conservation actions for these species. Although results from individual monitoring programs have been presented previously, the Status of Birds in Canada Web site is the first time that data from all these different sources has been pulled together and presented.

Bird monitoring programs provide the data that allow biologists to measure changes in their populations. There are a wide variety of monitoring programs in Canada: some are co-ordinated by government, others by conservation and environmental organizations. By synthesizing information from these various surveys, biologists are able to assess the status and changes in each species. It also allows us to identify those species for which our information is inadequate, so that we can work towards filling these gaps in knowledge.

The landbird monitoring programs that provide data for the Status of Birds in Canada Web site rely in large part on the participation of volunteers who are highly-skilled in the identification of birds. Thousands of these volunteers contribute their time and expertise to the Breeding Bird Survey, the Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Atlases, and many other bird monitoring programs. Their contribution to our knowledge of bird populations and to bird conservation has been enormous. We are extremely grateful to all these dedicated birders.

Source: Environment Canada

The Status of Birds In Canada is a searchable website using common names, scientific names or an alphabetical list. Some examples:

Baird’s Sparrow

Rough-legged Hawk

Posted by Pat Bumstead