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Alberta Environmental Farm Plan launches tool to gauge potential wildlife habitat

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Alberta Environmental Farm Plan has introduced a tool to analyze the habitat potential for species at risk, highlighting the concept of every farm and ranch having wildlife habitat. 

The Habitat and Biodiversity Assessment Tool was launched in March as part of a new chapter in the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan workbook on habitat management, meeting the program’s need for a component on biodiversity for species at risk, says Lisa Nadeau, Alberta Environmental Farm Plan’s director. 

“Biodiversity is very broad, and it can be a little bit cumbersome to tackle since there’s so many different angles, whereas species at risk provided us a lens to focus on,” says Nadeau, adding that Alberta Environmental Farm Plan is exploring how it can help producers promote the sustainability of their operations to the public.  

Of Alberta’s species at risk, around 75 per cent are found in the Grassland and Parkland regions, which are major agricultural areas. Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to these species. “The recovery of these species is dependent on environmental stewardship of agricultural producers and land managers,” she says. 

The tool helps producers use the natural features found on their land to inform a plan that benefits the wild species that may call their farm or ranch home. 

The tool’s development was made possible by funding from the Species at Risk on Agricultural Land (SARPAL) program through Environment and Climate Change Canada. “It’s been about five years in the making, and we’re very excited to have finally launched it,” she says. 

When a producer works through the new Habitat Management chapter online, a button will take them to the Habitat and Biodiversity Assessment Tool. The tool asks the producer to enter the legal land description for one quarter section of their property. “They can either pick a representative quarter section or they can pick one that they’re particularly interested in managing biodiversity,” says Nadeau. 

The producer then answers questions about the habitat features on this quarter section. This includes information on whether the land is cultivated, if there’s a farmstead, if it’s irrigated, what bodies of water and wetlands are present and types of pasture and grazing methods, as well as other natural and man-made features. 

After answering these questions, the tool provides three examples of stewardship opportunities that could promote biodiversity on this quarter section and asks if these practices are already implemented, and if not, whether or not you’d consider using them in the future. This builds the practices into a habitat management plan, and the producer can add comments here. 

Based on this information, the tool creates a customized habitat management report that lists the potential species at risk that may be present on their land, based on the habitat features they indicated and location in the province.

“We emphasize that we have not asked them if they have species at risk on their land,” Nadeau explains.  

“There can be some contention around that, and we have not told them that they have species at risk on their land. We’re just saying that you have the potential to create or maintain habitat for these species at risk.”  

This report provides prioritized lists of recommended stewardship opportunities, divided into different packages that the producer can choose from based on what works best for their farm or ranch.

“Generally the first package is the largest package, and that’s the one that we would encourage people to choose from since it has the most potential for impact,” she says. Details on why and how to implement these practices are also included. 

“We also provide a list of easy-to-do stewardship opportunities, so a lot of these are passive things that they can do like not planting trees and shrubs that aren’t native, preventing fragmentation, protecting water quality.” 

The customized plan is voluntary, as is all of the Environmental Farm Plan workbook. Nadeau notes that making larger changes to your operation without an expert’s opinion isn’t recommended. The report includes a list of related organizations to consult when considering implementing these practices.  

Nadeau reports that producers are finding the tool easy to use. “There really isn’t any preparation that they need to do, but just to try not to overthink it when answering the questions and go based off their gut what they think they have on their farm,” she says, adding that it’s not necessary to know what species live on your land.  

The tool itself will be available in other provinces through similar programs in the future, also funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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