Thursday, June 30, 2011

Birds Know No Boundaries

Birds know no boundaries – that was the theme last week at our annual general meeting in Winnipeg. After humans, birds are the most studied living things on this planet, and we have much to learn from them. Through international collaboration – sharing ideas, uniting our efforts – we can achieve so much more than any one group or nation can alone.
With that in mind, here are two news items to come out of a special reception we held, prior to our annual meeting, to celebrate international bird conservation efforts:

First, we added our signature to a birding and guiding memorandum originally signed by the Province of Manitoba and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) in October. Manitoba Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick and Nature Canada Board Chair Richard Yank did the signing honours, before the agreement was sent to Israel for their signatures too. 
Nature Canada Board Chair Richard Yank and
Manitoba Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick
sign international birding memorandum.
SPNI and Nature Canada are partners in BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation organizations working together for the world's birds and people. The agreement represents a commitment between BirdLife International partners and the Government of Manitoba to find ways of jointly promoting birding, ecotourism, and the protection of birds and their habitat.

Partnerships are central to our organization’s work in nature conservation and education, so we’re pretty excited to participate in this unique collaboration. Something else we’re really looking forward to: taking part in a 2012 nationwide tour of our country by Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian nature officials.

For the past 15 years there has been co-operation between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians on the environment in general – and migrating birds in particular – in an effort to show that the land of the Middle East can be shared and that positive interactions between the people and especially the students of the three nations is possible. Next June, the three project leaders will conduct a national tour to share their experience with Canadians.

This collaboration – a joint effort to set aside differences and just focus on a common love for birds – has already succeeded in building a bridge between people in this war-torn region and it has helped to bring together teachers, pupils, conservationists, birdwatchers, academic researchers, and farmers. Now they are bringing their message of peace to Canada while helping to raise awareness about birding and bird conservation. We’re excited to accompany them on part of their visit.

When the nature delegation comes to Canada, they’ll be sure to stop in Manitoba, which brings me to the second news item – Minister Melnick also launched the Manitoba section of a new Pine to Prairie International Birding Trail established between Manitoba and Minnesota. The minister unveiled the route map and highway signage for the Manitoba portion of the 800-kilometre trail that features 68 prime wildlife viewing sites between Detroit Lakes, Minn., and Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park in Manitoba.

It was a wonderful reception filled with good news and inspiring stories – including those of our 2011 Conservation Award winners – thanks to our members and friends for a great time in Manitoba!

Connect with Nature: Celebrate Canada

Photo by the National Capital Commission
(via Flickr)
From coast to coast to coast, we are celebrating 144 years of being a nation. In many ways, we are defined by the landscape: tundra to the north, mountains in the west, rolling plains meeting up with the striking features of the Canadian Shield, to ocean-swept tidal beaches in the east. What better way to mark Canada Day than by getting outside and enjoying everything that nature has to offer?

Most communities offer outdoor festivities of one kind or another, so find out what’s going on in your neighbourhood and gather outside for a great birthday celebration. If you’d prefer something a bit quieter, take a walk and appreciate the natural spaces you can find, even in an urban landscape. Or choose to get away from it all with a backcountry camping trip.

Across the country, Parks Canada is opening their doors on July 1 with free admission to national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. Plus, if you’re coming to Ottawa for the country’s biggest party, official activities will feature the centennial of Parks Canada, the oldest national parks service in the world.

Through forests, lakes, rivers and mountains, Canada was forged from the wilderness. Take the time to reconnect with nature as the best birthday gift you can give your country.

Happy Canada Day from the Nature Canada Team!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June Photo of the Month

Snails are members of the mollusk family, which includes oysters, clams and other shellfish.They feed on the lower leaves of many plants, gliding from one plant to another on a thin layer of mucus. When confronted with adverse weather conditions, snails can seal the entrance to their shell with a mucus sheet and enter a dormant phase that can last for years.

Do you love this photo? Put it on your desktop!

Share your nature photos by joining the Nature Canada Flickr Group. Add your photos to the pool for the chance to be featured as the Nature Canada Photo of the Month!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

National Park Profile: Saguenay-St. Lawrence

Photo © Parks Canada
As part of the My Parks Pass program, and in conjunction with Parks Canada's centennial celebrations, we are highlighting a national park or national marine conservation area each month. With over 200 national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas across Canada, there's an adventure closer than you think!

Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is an area to discover in depth! Since its creation in 1998, this large national marine conservation area has worked to protect the environment of a section of the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay Fjord. Five cetacean species inhabit the waters of the marine park, including the St. Lawrence beluga, a protected species. In all, more than fifteen species of marine mammals have been reported, so don't forget your camera and your binoculars.
  • Whale Watching at Cap-de-Bon-Désir
Did you know that you can see 13 species of whales from the rocks at Cap-de-Bon-Désir? If you're watching closely you might see the threatened St. Lawrence beluga whale or you may even spy a blue whale - the largest marine mammal that has ever existed on the planet.
  • Archaeological excavations at Archéo Topo Centre
Imagine what First Nations communities used as marine resources close to 8,000 years ago. There is so much to do at this centre that you're bound to find something that interests you. Attend pottery or pearl workshops, ask a virtual archaeologist a thousand questions, or play some games to become an archaeological researcher. There is also a brand new permanent exhibit and you can discover the archaeology of the North Shore.
  • Check out the Marine Mammals Interpretation Centre
This is not your typical interpretation centre. It's been totally updated and is really in tune with today's interests. There is a discovery room that you must see where you'll come face to face with a sperm whale that is over 13 meters long. There are also some pretty cool uncut whale movies and videos, sounds from the underwater world and amazing interpretive activities. Don't forget to stop and shop at the gift shop where you'll find a collection of exclusive products.
  • The Discovery Axis on L'Anse-De-Roche Dock
If you love kayaking, this is the place for you! You'll enjoy unforgetable landscapes and learn the mysteries of this amazing ecosystem. Make sure you check out the interpretive panels. And don't forget to bring a picnic lunch!

Find out more about each of these great activities through the Saguenay-St. Lawrence My Parks Pass location page. You can even start planning your trip today!

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Ways to Win with My Parks Pass

All set to hit the road for the
ultimate My Parks Pass experience
Now that school's out, it's time to start planning your summer vacation! Your My Parks Pass grants you free entry to over 200 amazing destinations across Canada - plus giving a discount to your family, too.

So you've already flashed your pass for a chance to win an iPod Touch or iTunes Cards? While you're planning your trip, send us a photo of the gear you'd take on your ultimate My Parks Pass experience for another entry in our prize draw.

Remember to check out the photo gallery if you need some inspiration for your entry or your vacation. And there will be even more ways to enter all summer long, so keep sharing your My Parks Pass adventures for more chances to win!

The Contest is open to all Grade 8 and Secondaire II students who are residing in these provinces and territories in Canada at the time of contest entry and the Grand Prize draws: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut. Contest entries will be accepted online from April 15, 2011 at 12:00:01 AM (ET) to September 9, 2011 at 11:59:59 PM (PT) (the “Contest Period”). Read the full Rules & Regulations.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Celebrating Canadian Leaders in Nature Conservation

Congratulations! Annie Buckton, Robert Bancroft, Myrna Wood and Nature Manitoba are Nature Canada's 2011 Conservation Award Winners.

Annie Buckton
These awards honour individuals or groups for making significant contributions to the preservation and protection of Canada’s wildlife and wild spaces.

“In Canada, nature is embedded in our culture, our economy, our national identity. These awards celebrate some of the people who devote their lives to protecting nature in this country,” said Ian Davidson, Nature Canada’s executive director, “I am truly inspired by this year’s award winners. Their passion for preserving Canada’s natural treasures has raised the bar for what can be done to protect Canada’s iconic wildlife and wild spaces for generations to come.”

In their own special way, each award winner has helped nature conservation in Canada.

Annie Buckton, age nine, is the 2011 Charles Labatiuk Volunteer Award winner. Like so many of us, Annie watched and read stories about the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year. She was moved by the plight of the Piping Plover, a bird she grew to love during summer vacations on Sauble Beach, and one of the many Canadian migratory bird species winging their way into the disaster zone.

Annie found a way to help – she convinced a local art gallery and several area artists to stage an art exhibition to raise funds for clean-up efforts in the Gulf.

Robert Bancroft
This year, Nature Canada is recognizing Robert Bancroft for his lifetime service to nature conservation by presenting him with its preeminent award, the Douglas H. Pimlott Award.

A writer, researcher, and teacher, he has used his expertise in wildlife biology to educate the public about the protection of nature. His influential voice in Nova Scotian conservation, and his actions have had a nationally significant impact in helping to preserve a unique feature on the Canadian landscape, our cherished Acadian Forest.

The recipient of the Nature Canada Volunteer Award, Myrna Wood, shares her fellow award winners’ deep love and respect for nature. Driven by a personal mission to conserve her community’s natural heritage, Wood has worked tirelessly to protect Prince Edward County’s wildlife and habitat.

Myrna Wood
She was instrumental in developing a conservation plan for an Important Bird Area (IBA), and has since been an ardent advocate for the birds that depend on the Prince Edward County South Shore IBA for habitat.

Protecting essential habitat has earned Nature Manitoba the Nature Canada Affiliate Award. This grass-roots organization is making a difference in their part of the country by protecting and preserving some of the province’s most vulnerable natural treasures, and connecting people to nature through its year-round indoor and outdoor programs.

After decades of survey work, Nature Manitoba helped create a prairie preserve in southeastern Manitoba, ensuring the survival of grasses, flowers and wildlife unique to this area. More recently, it has worked closely with provincial conservation partners and the Mosakahiken Cree Nation to protect Little Limestone Lake, by far the largest and most impressive marl lake in the world.

“Like this year’s award winners, Nature Canada is devoted to the cause of protecting wildlife and habitats in Canada, and engaging people to help build a Nature Nation – a place where threatened species are protected, habitat is conserved, and people embrace a culture of conservation in their everyday lives,” said Davidson. “These conservation heroes are examples to us all.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Connect with Nature: Nature, Food and Play

Photo by John Corvera (via Flickr)
It feels like we’ve hit mid-summer this week in Ottawa, but we’re really only a few weeks into the growing season. In spite of that, there’s a harvest bounty right around the corner – berries! My favourite way to enjoy berries is sun-warmed and picked fresh off the vine, but even if you’re just having a strawberry social in the backyard food is a great way to connect with the natural world all around us.

If you’re going out to pick your own berries, it’s a wonderful opportunity to just enjoy the outdoors. You can also spend some quality family time together by taking multiple generations of family members on the trip; I usually go out with my mom and grandmother to a local strawberry patch. While you’re enjoying the juicy goodness of your berries, remember all of nature’s effort that went in to producing them – the seeds, soil, rain, pollinators and sun that all came together to create the fruit you're eating.

To experience the growing process yourself, why not plant a bean tent in your backyard? They make wonderful, edible summer hideaways!
Photo by Zero-X (via Flickr)
  1. Start by clearing space for your tent, raking the soil smooth and marking out a circle the diameter you want for your tent.
  2. Insert poles into the earth around the circle, about a foot apart, and tie them together at the top. This makes the frame for your tent.
  3. Tie strings in horizontal lines around the poles to act as a trellis that will help guide the plants. Remember to leave a space between two poles for a doorway!
  4. Plant your bean seeds around the outside of your tent circle according to the instructions on the package. Water them well as they start to sprout.
  5. Help your young bean plants find the tent frame and trellis strings and begin to guide them upwards. If there are any gaps, you can replant your bean seeds every couple of weeks which will also ensure that you have a constant supply of beans all summer.
  6. Enjoy your shady, natural tent!
 Having a closer connection to our food sources leads to healthier lifestyles, helps us learn about the world around us and can be a lot of fun. Get outside and play with your food this month!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Government Gives Nod to Nature Conservation in Throne Speech, Budget

In last week’s Throne Speech, and then in this week’s Federal Budget release, the Federal Government made a number of promising announcements for those who love nature.

First, the Government announced it plans to “create significant new protected areas,” including a new urban national park in the Rouge Valley of eastern Toronto. Secondly, the Government pledged to “engage a broad range of stakeholders on the development of a National Conservation Plan.”

Talk of a national conservation plan is good. Conserving wildlife, wild spaces, and the environment is a complex challenge, but fortunately there are many people helping. People in Aboriginal, provincial, and territorial governments, nonprofit organizations, local clubs, landowners, businesses, industries, and others are all doing their part.

A national plan to support and coordinate these efforts would make the job of nature conservation so much more effective. I’m looking forward to working with the Federal Government on bringing the plan to fruition.

We learned a few more details from the Federal Budget – including $5.5 million over 5 years to establish Mealy Mountains National Park in Labrador. Nature Canada campaigned for over 15 years to protect the majestic Mealy Mountains region, a place characterized by wild lakes and rivers, glacier-worn mountains, subalpine plateaus, bogs and fens, marine coasts, salt-swept islands, sandspits, coastal plains and boreal forests. The establishment of this National park is great news for the Woodland Caribou, Harlequin Duck and other wildlife that call the Mealy Mountains home.

There were other commitments made in this week’s budget announcement that should benefit nature, including $5 million over 2 years to improve near-shore water and ecosystem health, and better address the presence of phosphorous in the Great Lakes, renewed funding for the Clean Air Agenda, and the ecoEnergy Retrofit Homes program.

The Green Budget Coalition (Nature Canada is a founding member and home for its Secretariat) released a scorecard this week summarizing these and other nature-related budget announcements, which you can see online.

These announcements are promising words that need to be backed up with action. Much work remains to protect and conserve nature in Canada and we at Nature Canada look forward to working with the government to ensure that happens.

Tracking Big Cats in Belize

Photos courtesy of Marcella Kelly, Virginia Tech
 Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl is a volunteer at Nature Canada. She is collaborating on designing and creating a geodatabase for species at risk within Canadian federally protected areas. This summer Sarah is taking a break from Nature Canada volunteering to work with two conservation projects studying large cats in the Americas. 

Recently I travelled to Belize to volunteer with Bernardo Mesa, a wildlife conservation student at Virginia Tech, on his graduate research project. I had never been to Belize before and was immediately taken with the hot, humid climate, the abundant wildlife, and the diverse people there. I was most excited about the prospect of studying jaguars in a country where there is such a large population still surviving today where a new dynamic to the relationship between humans and jaguars is created as people claim and develop the land that was once ruled by the jaguar.

The project that I worked on was comparing the stress hormone levels of jaguars within protected areas to those outside protected areas. Immediately outside of protected areas there is extensive farm land, providing the recipe for human wildlife conflict to occur. Measuring the hormone levels will give an indication of how the jaguars react within these different landscapes.

Hormone levels are measured in scat, which we locate with the help of a scat detector dog. Scat is a non-invasive detection method as well as an abundant source of information. Extracting the stress hormones from scat is the most effective method for this research as the hormones in scat give an overall picture of the jaguar’s stress levels. In addition to hormone levels, scat can be used to measure parasite diversity, indicate diet through hair and bone fragments present, and provide DNA for analysis and comparison with other individuals. The hormone in the scat starts to degrade within a few days due to environmental effects, so in this project an area is visited once to collect any scat present in the area, and then once every four days to collect fresh scat for hormone analysis.

Our scat detection dog, CJ, was hired for the project from PackLeader in Gig Harbor, WA. CJ is an endless source of energy, which makes him unsuitable as a family pet but ideal for this type of work. When surveying trails we will walk anywhere from 6km to over 12km a day in extreme conditions. It is his job to search the trails which often means exploring off trail in dense jungle. CJ is happy to do all this work because searching for scat is a game for him, and his reward is a few precious seconds with a tennis ball. We will always leave a sample or two on a trail when we search so that CJ is rewarded every time we go out and maintains his enthusiasm, even when there is no wild scat to be found.

Video courtesy of Erica Johnson

The dogs are trained on the scent that they are looking for by associating the scent of the scat with the reward. CJ is an old pro and has worked on projects finding animals such as bats and snakes as well as cats. When CJ came to Belize he was already trained on jaguar and puma, but had to be trained on the smaller cats; ocelot, margay and jaguarundi. CJ is a quick study. See him search for the new scent he has just been trained on and sit by the sample to show his handler where to look.

There are some challenges that need to be considered when working with a dog. It is easy to mistakenly train the dog on the wrong scent. Therefore the handler needs to be careful to only reward the dog on samples that he is sure of. Many of the samples used to train CJ initially were from zoos where the species and gender of the animal could be confirmed. You can see in the video that CJ wears a bell when he is working. This is to let us always know where he is even when we can’t see him searching in the jungle. The bell also lets animals know that we are around so that CJ does not surprise anything which could create a dangerous situation. Most animals want to be left alone and will leave with all the noise that we make as we are hiking through the forest. We do have to watch out for some animals, such as peccaries, which we would not want to tangle with.

One of the biggest considerations is that we have to be careful not to push CJ too hard. His drive and enthusiasm means that we have to be sure to give him breaks for water and a rest. CJ is so excited about searching that it can be challenging to convince him to take a break, even when the humans are excited to sit down for a few minutes. Swimming is an excellent way for CJ to cool off. For this reason we try and find trails with streams to survey along so that CJ can take dip. However, water is getting harder and harder to find as the dry season progresses.

The project started in March and will continue until the wet season begins when the heat and humidity combined with strong rains degrade the hormone samples in the scat much more quickly. I am eagerly anticipating the results of the hormone analysis that Bernardo will conduct when he gets back to the lab in the fall. This study will have implications for jaguar management decisions regardless of whether Bernardo finds that jaguars are more stressed in altered human landscapes, or are not overly stressed in these areas. Working in Belize I have gained a new respect for this charismatic and elusive cat as well as this diverse country.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Much Still Unknown About Gulf Spill Effects on Birds

Yesterday I participated in a webinar put on by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service on the impacts of the Gulf oil spill on migratory birds. The presenter, a scientist from the fisheries and wildlife branch of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Department, described the complex assessment process and touched on some of the results of ongoing work.

The bottom line is that there is still a considerable amount of oil not accounted for, and that beneath the silts and muds in many of the coastal wetlands in Louisiana, and beneath the sand of beaches, are several layers of oil and tar in the substrate.

Some of the coastal mangrove islands with bird colonies have been impacted; mangroves have died and birds are forced to nest on the ground, only a metre of so above sea level, exposing their nests to inundation risk. There is still evidence of some light oiling of Pelicans.

The impact on oiled birds, particularly migratory birds, appears less than it potentially was – about 8 thousand birds were observed/ recovered oiled or found dead, representing some fraction, perhaps 10%, of the total killed. Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, (Gulf Coast breeders), Northern Gannet (Canada – Atlantic coast), and Roseate Tern were the most affected species identified.

It is common to see an oily sheen on the water, and there is concern of storms in the Gulf stirring up the sediment and exposing the oil again in the marshes.

Information on toxicology is embargoed, as are many other specific details due to litigation around damages. This may be the case for many, many years. The last fisheries have opened recently, but there is still concern about what people are eating. Every type of study imaginable is underway, but again, with no information forthcoming (e.g. toxicology, ecology). Some partial payment from BP for damages has been made, and the Coastal states have each received large sums which are being dispersed to a range of organizations.

Much more information is available on the NRDA website – though, as I mentioned, many details and results are embargoed.

It's also worthwhile to check out the USFWS Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill website that keeps on tally of birds and wildlife impacted, which is revised from time to time. It breaks down the species found.

Join the Wave!

Yesterday (June 8) was World Oceans Day and Canadian Rivers Day is coming up on June 12. What better time to celebrate water?

By taking a moment to "Like" the RBC Blue Water Project on Facebook today, you will be contributing directly to water conservation projects. RBC has already committed $50 million over ten years for fresh water protection, but when you Join The Wave you'll be adding an extra dollar to that fund. 

Help RBC Blue Water Project create a wave of 50,000 people who have joined the campaign by the end of the week!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 9: Deadline for Public Comment on Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park

Tomorrow, June 9, is the deadline for public comment on Gilead Power Corporation's proposed wind energy plant at Ostrander Point.

ACT NOW – Tell the Province of Ontario what you think about Gilead’s permit applications to destroy endangered species and their habitat.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has posted a proposal on the Environmental Registry for a permit under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) which “would allow Gilead Power Corporation to kill, harm and harass Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will as well as damage and destroy habitat of Whip-poor-will for the purpose of the development and operation of Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park.”

The permit application is posted on the Province’s electronic review board for comment. Nature Canada, Ontario Nature and Prince Edward County Field Naturalists do not believe that issuance of this permit will lead to overall benefit for the species.  Now is your opportunity to comment on the proposed permit through the Environmental Registry. The deadline for comment is June 9, 2011.

This video, recorded during a visit to Ostrander Point on June 1, shows Blanding’s Turtle swimming in a stream beside Ostrander Point Road. This road runs along the eastern side of Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area, an area that provides habitat for many endangered species like Blanding's Turtle.

Nature Canada along with its partners Ontario Nature and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists are in agreement with the belief that climate change poses one of the greatest risks to biodiversity. We fully support the government’s intention to expand the use of clean and renewable sources of energy through its Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. However, in responding to climate change, we must not sacrifice biodiversity and significant habitats.  Protecting wildlife, threatened species and their habitat is vitally important if we are to buffer the effects of climate change and provide options for wildlife that must cope with predicted changes.

It commenting on this particular EBR posting, it is important to note that the ESA permitting process for the Ostrander point project goes forward separately from the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process for the Ostrander project as a whole. We are firmly and publicly opposed to the granting of an REA for the proposed wind farm development at Ostrander Point, part of a globally significant Important Bird Area and an extremely important site for migration for birds, bats and Monarch Butterflies on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

In terms of the ESA permitting process, Ostrander Point provides habitat for many species, including Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will, both listed as threatened in Ontario. In order for an “overall benefit” permit to be issued under the ESA the following legal requirements must be met:

     (i) an overall benefit to the species will be achieved within a reasonable time through requirements imposed by conditions of the permit, and,
     (ii) reasonable alternatives have been considered, including alternatives that would not adversely affect the species, and the best alternative has been adopted, and,
     (iii) reasonable steps to minimize adverse effects on individual members of the species are required by conditions of the permit. (ESA, section 17 (2) c)

We have serious doubts as to whether these requirements have or can be met. Outlined below are our key concerns about this proposed permit.

1. Alternative locations must be thoroughly considered. With respect to the siting of the project at Ostrander Point, it is unclear whether alternative locations have been considered, including alternatives that would not adversely affect the species, and whether the best alternative has been adopted, as required by the ESA. The information provided indicates only that six different layouts of the turbines at the Ostrander site were examined. There is no evidence that this site was compared with other reasonable alternative sites. If indeed other sites outside Ostrander Point were NOT thoroughly considered (e.g., farm land where the landowners are willing, where natural cover has already been removed, and where endangered species are not present), in our view the proposed project does not meet the ESA requirement to consider reasonable alternatives. 

2. The “overall benefit to the species” has not been adequately demonstrated. The ESA sets a high standard regarding permits to damage or destroy endangered species habitat or to harm or harass a member of an endangered species: in the end the project proponent must provide an overall benefit to the species. In other words, the species must be better off than it was prior to the project going forward. In this case, the proponent Gilead Power Corporation, proposes to acquire and manage a property outside the project area. No details on what this “swap” would look like have been provided in the EBR posting. No actual sites or techniques to recreate this already highly functioning habitat have been identified.
To be clear, the benefit must be over and above what already exists if the trade off is to constitute an overall benefit. Merely acquiring other already existing habitat provides no additional benefit whatsoever. Furthermore, in the case of the Whip-poor-will, there is every reason to believe that building massive wind turbines on Ostrander Point will introduce a new and permanent risk to this declining nocturnal species which depends on areal hunting of insects. 

Risk is another critical factor that must be considered when calculating overall benefit. When destroying one habitat and replacing it with another there is a great deal of risk involved, and generally speaking established, functioning habitat is of much higher value than manufactured habitat. This means that for every key habitat feature that is rendered non-functional, a greater number of equivalent habitat features must be created, based on a ratio that takes risk of success into account; for example, a 3:1 ratio would mean that 3 habitat features would be created for every 1 destroyed. The higher the risk, the higher the ratio should be. To further address risk, created habitats should be functional prior to the destruction of established sites. The EBR posting provides no indication of how risk will be addressed. 

Given the lack of information provided to demonstrate that alternative sites have been considered and that an overall benefit will be achieved, Nature Canada opposes the granting of this ESA permit.

Make your voice heard! Let the Province know that no permit should be granted until alternatives sites to Ostrander Point have been considered and measures to achieve overall benefit have been demonstrated.
Also, please keep in mind that original responses are weighed more heavily than are form letters. We suggest that you use the points above to draft your own letter and either post it online to the link below or send a hard copy to the listed address by June 9, 2011. Be sure to reference the EBR registry number: 011-3181.

For more information and to submit comments online click here

Thanks to Ontario Nature for providing some of the content for this blog.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

6 Hot Home Tips for Cool Summer Living

Your Biggest Fan
by Fantastijes
A late start to the summer means that we've only recently dusted our standing fans, planted our vegetable gardens, and started planning our weekend getaways.

But what about all the time that we'll be spending indoors when the thermostat is pushing 30? With a little planning, you can easily keep your home cool and your energy bills down.

If you're looking to beat the heat naturally, stay cool while keeping these green tips in mind:

Create a stir. Circulating air keeps you cooler, and fans use 90% less energy than air conditioners. If you can, set up a cross-current with window fans.

Get with the program. On days when air conditioning is an absolute necessity, set the thermostat to 25C and leave it there. If you'll be away from home for more than four hours, turn the a/c off and program it to turn on an hour before you return.

Invest in low-E. Windows with low-E films keep out the summer heat. As a bonus, they'll also keep heat inside during the winter. Make sure all windows are properly sealed to avoid drafts.

Reflect on your roof. If you're planning on updating your roof, choose light-coloured materials to redirect the sun's heat away from your home. Alternatively, install a radiant barrier inside your roof to accomplish some of the same goals.

Go green – from the top down. Consider a green roof that will not only cool your home, but can provide habitat for wildlife if you plant native, drought-tolerant species. Environment Canada research shows that a typical one-storey building with about 10 cm of grass and growth medium on its roof cuts its cooling needs by 25%.

Don't forget the garden. Plant shrubs and trees that will shield your house from the sun and keep it cooler while attracting beneficial birds, insects, and other nature neighbours.

As an added incentive, following these green tips for staying cool and you'll be contributing to the global effort to fight climate change. Much of the energy that we use during the summer goes into trying to stay cool and comfortable indoors. By 2030, global energy demand is expected to be two thirds higher than it is today. Reducing our household energy consumption makes sense for the planet and the pocketbook.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Connect with Nature: Sun Smart Tips for Outdoor Fun

Photo by nikki (confidence, comely) via Flickr
The sun has made its reappearance in Ottawa this week, and it's got me thinking: how can I make the most of my time outside while staying safe from the harmful effects of the sun? After a bit of research, I found these great tips for enjoying my outdoor activities in the sun.

1. Wear protective clothing. Hats, sunglasses and loose-fitting, full-length shirts and pants are your best defense against the sun's rays. Make sure as much skin as possible is covered to limit your exposure.

2. Use sunscreen or sunblock. Look for a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher that provides both UVA and UVB protection. If you're trying to stay away from the chemicals in sunscreen, try a sunblock that contains physical barriers like zinc oxide that reflect the sun's rays. Whichever product you choose, make sure to apply it according to the instructions for maximum effect.

3. It's all about timing. The sun's rays are strongest between 11am and 4pm. Plan your outdoor activities for earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid these periods of high UV rays.

4. Seek out shade. Rather than spending your time outside in direct sun, find a shady location under trees, umbrellas or gazebos to set up your activity.

5. Drink lots of water. While not directly related to the sun, it's important to stay hydrated while outside, especially in the summer when we're often sweating and losing a lot of the water in our bodies. Keep your water bottle full and nearby for a cool, refreshing drink.

You can enjoy your time outdoors while still being sun safe - it just takes a bit more planning and some sun smart tips!

Health Canada
Canadian Dermatology Association