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Latest Feature

 A big step forward for wildlife protection in Alberta's Bighorn Backcountry

Responding to the scientific evidence developed by WCS Canada, the Alberta government has announced plans to create a major new Wildland Park and three new provincial parks in the Bighorn Backcountry. The Bighorn is nestled between Banff and Jasper National Parks and is an integral part of the Canadian Rockies. The new Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park would encompass 3,843 square kilometres of remote and diverse landscapes, mountain headwaters of the mighty North Saskatchewan River, and key habitat for grizzly bears, wolverine, bighorn sheep, and bull trout. Three smaller areas totaling 149 square kilometres would be established as Provincial Parks along the North Saskatchewan River and adjacent to the Ya Ha Tinda ranch area operated by Banff National Park.

In the face of rapidly warming climate, we need to protect and connect large landscapes that have high levels of both topographic and environmental diversity – joining areas from river valley to mountain peak. The new parks in the Bighorn Backcountry will help provide options for a suite of vulnerable fish and wildlife species to shift in response to changing environmental conditions. Two of the provincial parks, meanwhile, could help facilitate safe passage across the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11) for grizzly bears. At a larger scale, these new parks will secure a key link for connectivity in the Yellowstone-to-Yukon region.

The Bighorn Wildland Park, however, would exclude an area covered by coal leases that, if developed, would fragment the watershed, and would also continue to allow off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in several key remote areas important to grizzly bear families and wolverines. These shortcomings threaten security for wildlife and the ecological integrity of the Park.

We want to congratulate the Alberta government on taking vital steps to protect the majestic Bighorn. However, we also hope to convince the Alberta government to address the shortcomings in its plan during the upcoming 60-day public comment period. You can support our call for strong protection for threatened grizzlies and other species by participating in the government’s online survey or by emailing  aep.bighorncountry@gov.ab.ca



Declining caribou populations and biodiversity crisis in the news

 

The worrisome future facing caribou and biodiversity at large is making headlines across Canada. WCS Canada’s work with Canadian Geographic to map out the steady decline of iconic caribou (see above) across the country triggered stories in the Globe and Mail and on CBC Radio’s Day Six. These stories also highlighted findings from the WWF Living Planet report stating that wildlife populations have declined by 60% since the 1970s. The common thread in all these stories is how the ever-expanding human footprint has fed our current biodiversity crisis and how carrying on with business as usual could drive species like caribou to extinction. In fact, another map from WCS shows how Canada is one of just a handful of countries that continues to have large, intact wild areas. But to save these places and the wildlife that depends on them (as do we), we need to quickly find ways to lower our impact on these remaining wild places to ensure a healthy future for our planet.


We need bats.  Now bats need us.

Help us save bats from a deadly disease.


Bats glued to windows, dangling from porches, and adorning the yard are part of the classic scary sights of Halloween. But bats are the ones that should really be afraid.  They are facing a deadly disease that has wiped out millions of bats in eastern North America and that is steadily creeping west.  Our bat team has been working on ways to help bats survive deadly white-nose syndrome, but it’s an enormous task.  Your donation this Halloween will be like filling our bat team’s treat bag with goodies, including more resources to test a potential life-saving solution.


WCS Canada a finalist in the Nature Inspiration Awards! 

    

We are proud to announce that WCS Canada has been selected as a finalist in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Inpiration Awards! Since 2011, WCS Canada scientists have been working around the clock to help bat populations in western Canada. All over eastern North America bat populations are being decimated by an invasive species of fungus that causes a disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS has not yet reached  BC and Alberta, but may arrive any day. Our bat team has launched a multi-pronged effort to protect western bats from the disease and help them recover. This work will be showcased by the museum until a finalist is announced in early November, but we are already convinced that our scientists deserve a medal for their huge efforts to help bats!


Going to great lengths for endangered species

A thought provoking article from the Narwhal looks at the increasingly elaborate and expensive efforts governments are going to to try to save endangered species, such as caribou.  From pens surrounded by electric fences, captive breeding in zoos and even a stuffed cougar, these efforts are last-ditch attempts to restore species on the brink.  But will these efforts work without addressing the issues that drove these species to their precarious position in the first place?  Our Chief Scientist (and caribou expert) Dr. Justina Ray helps to outline the underlying problem

Keeping carbon on the ground

To mark the Global Climate Action Summit, WCS scientists have authored a series of blogs about how we are working with Indigenous Peoples to advance conservation and climate action, from the Congo to Canada’s Boreal.  In the final part of the series, WCS Canada’s Cheryl Chetkiewicz looks at the important role of boreal forests, wetlands and peatlands in storing carbon and how Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas could play a central role in helping to keep these massive storehouses of carbon protected, while also advancing reconciliation around parks and protected areas in Canada.



How can Ontario best approach the development of the mineral-rich Ring of Fire in the Far North of Ontario? How do we protect the millions of tonnes of carbon stored in peatlands and forests in the area?  How do we intelligently design infrastructure to ensure maximum benefit and minimum impact on ecosystems?

If new mining projects and all-weather roads are to be accepted by First Nations communities and others who care about the future of the region, they will need to be planned in ways that ensure they contribute to a more sustainable future. The current piecemeal business-as-usual planning approaches only engage some communities and leave those facing downstream impacts out in the cold. Similarly, conventional project assessments do a poor job of considering cumulative effects and climate change leaving a huge gap in our understanding of what impacts will be in the long term.

A regional environmental assessment, on the other hand, can lead to a big-picture understanding of the impacts of multiple developments and climate change. We discuss why the new Ontario government should start over with a new, more robust planning approach in a piece in Policy Options.

Proposed changes to the Fisheries Act restore lost protections and add modern safeguards

The Fisheries Act is Canada’s oldest piece of environmental legislation, and on February 06, 2018 the federal government proposed changes that will modernize the act, and restore protections for fish habitat that were removed under the previous government. Specifically, the renewed act will restore protection for all fish, rather than just those that are part of a fishery, along with restoring protection for fish habitat. Further, it makes it explicit that scientific information should be strongly considered in decision making. We are optimistic about the potential for a strengthened and modernized Fisheries Act, but the real test will be in whether it achieves the protection needed for Canada’s incredible freshwater, coastal, and marine habitats. 

Credit: Jik jik, licensed unter CC by SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Thank you for helping us help bats

Thanks to generous supporters like you, we met 80% of our fundraising goal
 to support critical bat conservation research in western Canada

This Halloween, WCS Canada’s supporters went above and beyond and raised an amazing $4000 in support of Bat Specialist, Cori Lausen and her team as they continue pioneering research that is helping to prevent white-nose syndrome (WNS) from killing western bats.  The funds raised by our bat-lovers will go a long way to help us to cover the costs of essential research materials such SD memory cards for roost loggers, bat house occupancy monitors and lab costs such as the analysis of guano samples.  From all of us at WCS Canada, we want to say a big “thank you” to our donors for supporting this important work.  See the posts below to learn more about Dr. Lausen’s research and remember – it’s never too late to donate!

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