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volume 31 number 4
Country and City
researching wetland loss in the rural west and suburban east
celebrating 25 years of art and conservation with wildlife habitat canada
The Flow of Learning
links between wetlands and water quality hit home and abroad
Holiday Gift Ideas
five pages of great merchandise inside
New DUC research is showing that wetland loss in two very different parts of the country is happening at an alarming rate. Along Smith Creek in east-central Saskatchewan (below), and in the Black River watershed of southern Ontario (right), wetlands are disappearing, and waterfowl, wildlife – and people – are being affected.
Country and City T
hese two projects share a common theme: both are examining the ecological goods and services (EGS) that society loses when wetlands are drained or degraded. However, the projects could not be further apart when it comes to the characteristics of the areas where the studies are taking place. “The two research sites are at opposite ends of the urban-rural spectrum and separated by half a country. But they are most definitely bonded together by their incredible rates of wetland loss and degradation,” says Shane Gabor, DUC’s research lead on the projects and manager of DUC’s Freshwater Initiative. “We are taking some of the methodology of a previous research project to determine the impacts of wetland loss and associated
Conservator | 31-4 2010
drainage activity in the Broughton’s Creek watershed located in southwestern Manitoba, and applying it to research projects and wetland loss modelling in Smith Creek, Sask., and the Black River watershed in Ontario. The Smith Creek area is rural and dominated by agricultural production while the Black River watershed includes Lake Simcoe, a popular summer destination on the outer limits of the Greater Toronto Area around Barrie.”
Smith Creek, Saskatchewan The Smith Creek landscape is part of the Upper Assiniboine watershed and is exactly what one may expect a typical Prairie scene to look like. Agriculture is the backbone of the region and the landscapes are similar to the many tranquil postcards promoting Prairie Canada as the world’s breadbasket. The gentle rolling hills found around Saltcoats, Sask., and east to
above left: © DUC/Darin Langhorst
by du n c a n m o r r i s o n
above right: © DUC/Andrew McLachlan
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) recently unveiled two wetland research projects that are specifically designed to prove wetland loss needs to be stopped once and for all.
Russell, Man., along the Yellowhead Highway are blanketed by canola, wheat and other crops. Several major potash operations loom on this horizon near the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. To the passing tourist, this is indeed Prairie Canada. From a DUC perspective, these areas are critical to the continent’s waterfowl production capacity. “Saskatchewan is a very important area in Canada for waterfowl and other wildlife. It is deemed by DUC conservation planners as one of the most important breeding areas within the prairie pothole region (PPR) for waterfowl of North America,” says Gabor. “Unfortunately, wetland loss is significant throughout Saskatchewan, and the Upper Assiniboine River basin watershed is no exception.” Beyond waterfowl production, wetlands provide many benefits, such as providing important habitat for wildlife, groundwater recharge, ecotourism opportunities, flood, drought and erosion prevention, and carbon sequestration. Because of these multiple values, interest in wetlands is increasing and research has attracted funding from all types of organizations. The Saskatchewan research is being funded by RBC’s Bluewater
Project. The study will look at the impacts of wetland loss on water quality, water quantity and greenhouse gas emissions. According to Brent Kennedy, DUC’s Saskatchewan manager of provincial operations, the Smith Creek study will highlight how wetland values can be incorporated into sustainable agriculture and into other land use practices. “Farmers earn their living by producing food, feed and fibre in their land, and they need to make decisions that are in the best interests of their enterprise,” says Kennedy. “The bottom line is the most important line for any business, and farming is no exception. The market signal to farmers is that wetlands are of little or no value, so there is no incentive to keep them on the landscape. Working with farmers, government, industry and other partners, DUC is trying to find ways to change this misconception and demonstrate that wetlands have considerable value to landowners and society in general.” The summer of 2010 brought many challenges to many areas of Prairie Canada. Much of the region received a deluge of rain beginning in mid-May and continuing until late September. Millions of acres went
Smith Creek Regina
To the passing tourist, this is indeed Prairie Canada. From a DUC perspective, these areas are critical to the continent’s waterfowl producing ability.
Conservator | 31-4 2010
left: © DUC/Duncan Morrison
Black River Toronto
“Human activities such as draining wetlands and paving over woodlands have had significant long term consequences to the ecosystem and the Lake Simcoe watershed.” Jim Brennan Ontario manager of provincial operations, Ducks Unlimited Canada
unseeded. Other crops drowned in saturated fields and those that did survive endured a delayed harvest that ran well into October. While DUC cannot control Mother Nature, the retention of now-drained wetlands or the increased restoration of wetlands may have slowed the unencumbered flow of water across the land in some areas. “DUC’s goal is to stop wetland loss. We want this study to help improve understanding of wetland values and the impacts of wetland loss to garner public support for an effective and efficient government policy that protects wetlands,” says Kennedy. “We do not have an effective wetland policy here in Saskatchewan and we want this study to help raise the urgency to develop one quickly.”
Black River Watershed, Ontario Located in central Ontario, within an hour’s drive from half the population in the province, the Lake Simcoe watershed is one of the closest resort destinations north of Toronto and is a part of the province’s celebrated cottage country. Lake Simcoe provides drinking water to eight municipalities, supports a significant tourism and recreation industry, has an abundance of agricultural lands including specialty crops growing in areas such as the now-almost-completelydrained Holland Marsh, and is home to nearly half a
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Above: a drainage channel torn through a Saskatchewan field empties wetlands from the property. DUC research, both here and in southern Ontario, aims to show the value of keeping wetlands intact on the land.
million rural, urban and suburban residents. Aside from the Great Lakes, Lake Simcoe is the largest inland lake in southern Ontario and is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. “Human activities such as draining wetlands and paving over woodlands have had significant long-term consequences on the ecosystem of the Lake Simcoe watershed,” says Jim Brennan, DUC’s Ontario manager of provincial operations. “The ever-increasing and relentless land use pressures in southern Ontario such as urban sprawl, infrastructure and agriculture have led to the continuation of wetland loss trends.” The recently released DUC report Southern Ontario Wetland Conversion Analysis clearly demonstrates that Ontario continues to lose wetlands at an alarming rate. By 2002, 72 per cent, or 1.4 million hectares, of southern Ontario’s wetlands had been lost or converted to other land uses. This loss represents only large wetlands (greater than 10 hectares in size) and if the research investigated the loss of all wetlands in Ontario, the percentage of loss would be even higher. The 375 square-kilometre Black River watershed is a diverse landscape on the southeast side of Lake
Simcoe. The headwaters of the Black River originate on the Oak Ridges Moraine, and flow north mainly through natural features and agricultural areas before reaching the community of Sutton and the outlet into Lake Simcoe. Despite the importance of wetlands to the health of the watershed and Lake Simcoe, approximately 50 per cent of the Black River watershed’s wetlands have been lost. In a study supported by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), wetlands were identified economically as one of the highest forms of natural capital, providing an estimated $435 million in EGS to the Lake Simcoe watershed each year. With support from the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund and using the collaborative expertise of the University of Guelph and other watershed partners, DUC is building on the LSRCA’s report by conducting research that will provide the science for estimating the environmental and economic values of wetlands at the watershed scale. This economic evaluation will not only estimate the value of the existing wetlands in the Black River watershed but will also predict the value lost through wetland destruction, and estimate potential values that could be achieved through restoration. “Wetland loss within the Black River watershed has the potential to impact not only residents in the immediate area, but also those who live near Lake Simcoe where the Black River empties,” says Gabor. “The research project results will be communicated in an economic business case to key stakeholders, the public and governments. This study has the potential to guide future land use and help achieve water quality objectives for not only the Black River watershed but the entire lake.” At an even higher scale, the results from this study can be used to highlight the implications of wetland loss in all Ontario watersheds. With such a condensed population base living, vacationing, working and commuting throughout the watershed, the accelerated land use pressures facing wetlands in the Lake Simcoe study area are intense and the need to stop the trend of wetland loss is immediate. The impact of wetland drainage on water quality should be of concern to everyone in Ontario. “We must stop wetland loss and start restoring the wetlands we’ve already lost,” says Brennan. “DUC believes that increased protection and restoration of Ontario’s most vulnerable ecosystems is crucial to conserving our wetland legacy. Wetland loss impacts our quality of life and our economic well-being and stopping this loss is going to require a commitment from all Ontarians.” A
“The two research sites are at opposite ends of the urban-rural spectrum and separated by half a country. But they are most definitely bonded together by their incredible rates of wetland loss and degradation.”
upport . Help s servation DUC o t n Donate d wetland co untry. n o a c h e researc ur part of th com in yo orrow. ortom f s d n wetla
Shane Gabor Project research lead, Ducks Unlimited Canada
This season, we wish you peace.
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Leav e a Co nserva tion Lega cy Can ada.
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Every waterfowl hunter in Canada has contributed to the Wildlife Habitat Canada Foundation (WHC) for the last 25 years, helping WHC to invest more than $35 million in thousands of conservation projects throughout the country. However, the WHC’s role in conservation is not as well known as it should be.
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the 1970s, Canada’s wildlife habitats were deteriorating, and agencies and organizations responsible for wildlife were seeking a national mechanism for their protection. Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) was at the forefront of many discussions during this time to try to find solutions to stop the accelerated loss of wetlands and associated habitats in Canada. In 1983, led by Jim Patterson, Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) developed an independent foundation named Wildlife Habitat Canada. With the leadership of Environment Minister Charles Caccia and the encouragement of a broadly based National Habitat Coalition, WHC was to serve three roles identified by Environment Canada: a catalyst for action, an assessor of policy and a financial supporter of habitat initiatives. David Neave, a widely known proponent of habitat conservation, was selected as WHC’s founding Executive Director. Through work of a founding committee, the inaugural volunteer board of directors was appointed in 1984 to bring these objectives to life. The new foundation’s first funds came in the form of a $3 million grant from Environment Canada. Going forward, core funding for the organization would be generated from the sale of the $4 Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp to migratory bird hunters in Canada. (Over the years, the cost of the stamp has risen to $8.50.) The stamp was required to validate the migratory bird hunting permit. Revenue from the permit is used to offset the costs of managing migratory birds and hunting while the proceeds from the sale of the stamp would be made available to the Wildlife Habitat Canada Foundation. Also, WHC would generate additional funds by selling the stamp to the public and through the production and sale of limited edition lithographic prints. WHC also made “conservation edition” prints and mint stamps available for other conservation organizations to sell to support their own efforts. The backbone of the entire plan was built upon the conservation ethic of waterfowlers who were the front-
line contributors through the now mandatory purchase of the migratory bird stamp. There were extensive consultations with the hunting community as Wildlife Habitat Canada was being planned and put in place. Not surprisingly, given the willingness of hunters to give back to the resource, strong support was garnered for the establishment of a stamp which would initiate a new source of funds dedicated to habitat conservation in Canada. Recent reviews have demonstrated that this support remains strong over the years. Although the “Duck Stamp” was new to Canadian hunters, a federal Duck Stamp was created in the U.S. in 1934 and had proven popular with hunters as 98 per cent of the funds generated by the stamp were directed toward the acquisition of wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The new Canadian program spearheaded by WHC was different in that funds were to be used to address habitat conservation priorities regardless of land ownership. The challenge was making sure the interests of those paying the bulk of the WHC fees were considered. This provided DUC with an impetus to ensure that the conservation of wetland habitats remained a priority for the WHC since it was waterfowlers who were providing a critical part of the funding.
ith a broad mandate and a large and diverse country, how would this new organization approach its mandate? To increase its understanding of habitat conservation issues and priorities, WHC researched and produced The Status of Wildlife Habitat in Canada – Problems, Issues and Opportunities. The findings and conclusions in this report provided the framework for WHC’s granting program. Published by WHC in 1986, the habitat status report provided a remarkably accurate and concise assessment, much of which is relevant today. WHC funds began flowing into habitat conservation partnership projects in 1985; since then, WHC has generated $80.6 million in revenue. A whopping 66 per cent has come through the sale of the habitat
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WHC Founding Board of Directors Founding executive director David Neave Appointments by the Minister of the Environment Robert Bateman, artist David Suzuki, biologist and TV personality Robert Delury, natural resources management consultant, N.W.T.
Selected for the board Bert Hoffmeister, conservationist and retired B.C. forester Elmer Kure, conservationist and farmer from Alberta Provincial representatives
Conservation organization representatives Louise Beaubien-Lepage, Nature Conservancy of Canada Stewart Morrison, Ducks Unlimited Canada (first chairman of WHC)
Arthur Smith, Fish and Wildlife Branch, P.E.I. Richard Goulden, director, Fish and Wildlife, Manitoba
Ducks Unlimited Canada has played a key role on the WHC Board of Directors. Past board members include Stewart Morrison, DUC Executive Vice-President, John Bain, Ontario DUC Regional Director and Rod Fowler, DUC Executive Vice-President. Current WHC board members include Kevin Harris, DUC New Brunswick Provincial Chair (current WHC vice chair) and Jeffrey Nelson, DUC CEO.
conservation stamp while only seven per cent has been generated through the sale of prints and ancillary products. The balance of $22.2 million has come from conservation partnerships with government and industry partners. From its inception, WHC became an advocate and partner in the formation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). The WHC worked in the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture partnership with provincial governments in Eastern Canada, and with like-minded provincial Crown corporations and nongovernmental organizations in the West. WHC made multi-year funding commitments in each province to address waterfowl habitat conservation issues across the country. DUC was a key player in many of these early projects. From 1986 to 2010, 54 per cent of WHC’s funds have been identified as investments in NAWMP projects and an even greater percentage have been invested in
Conservator | 31-4 2010
wetland conservation. The WHC became a valuable mechanism for wetland habitat conservation. Prior to this, conservation interests would never be able to buy enough land or restore enough habitat to sustain wildlife populations on their own, and parks and other protected areas were becoming isolated “islands of green” in pressured landscapes. WHC stressed the critical role of landowners and land managers – farmers, ranchers, woodlot owners, foresters, conservationists – in maintaining and managing the habitats that surrounded and linked conservation lands. Putting its resources behind this conviction, WHC was a leader in the evolution of the stewardship movement across Canada and worked with partners to build knowledge and capacity to encourage private land conservation. With leaders like Minnedosa, Man., farmer Robert (Bob) McNabb on the board, WHC funded stewardship programs that complemented the works of others, many of which have become core programs of agencies and organizations today. WHC went on to establish national recognition programs in the agriculture and forestry sectors to highlight the outstanding voluntary contributions of landowners to habitat conservation. As the joint ventures and NAWMP gained momentum through the 1990s, WHC continued to fund and support the plan.With substantial levels of funding now flowing into land securement and restoration programs for waterfowl, WHC made another assessment of the status of habitat conservation in Canada and observed that the environmental agenda was changing. Public policies were placing higher expectations on industrial sectors to conserve habitat as governments were offloading responsibilities and downsizing their operations. Market forces were being brought to bear on industrial practices (particularly forestry) and companies were looking for conservation partners. Forest companies were managing extensive areas for timber and fibre production, and their practices also had profound impacts on habitat. To fill this niche, WHC became involved in the establishment of international forest management standards, while developing in-house programs to encourage biodiversity conservation in forested landscapes and to recognize successful forest stewardship efforts. While these programs and activities directed funds away from WHC’s grant-making, they were considered to be high priorities by the board as WHC sought ways to stimulate better conservation practices on extensive landscapes controlled by this important sector. Neave retired in 2000 after 17 years as Executive Director. When he left, he felt very strongly that the WHC’s mission and strategy remained relevant, and that there was much more work to be done, particularly in the areas of agriculture and forest policy.
Strokes of brilliance, unforgettable images
anada’s landscapes – and the wildlife they support – have long been a favourite subject for artists. When WHC was being established, founding board member and renowned Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman offered to create the image for Canada’s first habitat stamp, and donate the proceeds from the use of the image to WHC. When news spread within the duck stamp collector community in the U.S. that Bateman was creating the first stamp, he received some advice. “I received a phone call from a dealer in Texas who did a lot of business selling duck stamps and images,” recalls Bateman. “This dealer was very earnest and urged me to paint a male mallard as the image, since he felt this would be very popular in this specialized market of 10,000 collectors. I didn’t think that the world needed any more mallard art. I wanted to create something unique and special, like a hen mallard with her brood in a wetland. This concept was very unpopular with this fellow, and he told me I would not make a lot of money with it. I told him I was not doing this to make money.” As Bateman was reflecting on this conversation, half an hour later, the dealer called him back to say, “Bateman, if you don’t want the money, then donate it to wildlife habitat, but create an image that will sell!” So, Robert Bateman created the now famous image Mallard Pair – Early Winter. “I painted the hen in full profile to capture the intricate colouration of her plumage, and the male from the back. Their placement on thin ice signifies the fragility of species due to habitat loss.” The image broke all records for duck stamp sales in North America, generating millions for habitat conservation. Bateman, who remains a strong supporter of
Above: Robert Bateman’s Northern Wetland – Lesser Scaup is WHC’s 25th anniversary stamp image. Right: Bateman’s Mallard Pair – Early Winter was featured on WHC’s inaugural stamp, while DUC’s Ken Ferris earned 1993 stamp honours with Early Spring – Hooded Merganser (below right) WHC, has been commissioned to produce images for WHC in 1985, 1987 and in 2009. In 1990, after five years of commissioning the images for stamps, WHC – in partnership with Environment Canada and Canada Post – launched a competitive process to select the image for its stamp and print programs. Entries were judged based on the presentation of both waterfowl and habitat. Artist participation grew rapidly, from 18 in 1990 to 93 in 1994. Canadian artist Ken Ferris, now a DUC fundraising manager in British Columbia, entered the competition and won twice, in 1993 and 2000. “This is a very professional competition and one of the best that I entered,” said Ferris. “Winning definitely helps Canadian artists build their reputations and to make a little money. It certainly helped me.” For more information on WHC’s artist stamp and print program, visit www.whc.org
Show your passion for saving wetlands. Make a difference as a major sponsor. By upgrading your sponsorship to a Platinum level, you can play an even bigger role in conserving Canada’s wetlands. For as little as $3 per day, your contribution to Ducks goes a long way in sustaining waterfowl populations, protecting wildlife habitat and ensuring generations to come enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. Step up your commitment to Canada’s wetlands. Find out how you can upgrade your donation to a major sponsorship level. Call 1-866-384-DUCK (3825) or visit wft.ducks.ca/majorsponsorship
Above: Wildlife Habitat Canada’s 2010 stamp was created by Pierre Girard of Ste-Anne-de-Sorel, Que. His image, entitled Springtime at the Marsh – Green-winged Teal, is the 26th entry in the WHC’s successful program.
oving forward, WHC recognized that it needed to review its priorities and direction. The foundation made a major effort to establish a stronger link with its core financial supporters: waterfowl hunters. WHC released a report entitled Investors in Habitat: Hunter Contributions to Wildlife Habitat Conservation in Canada. The report revealed that since 1985, hunters had contributed more than $335 million to habitat conservation, $28 million of which was due to the annual purchase of the Habitat Stamp by waterfowl hunters. The report also demonstrated that hunters had contributed over 14 million hours of volunteer effort to conservation and they had invested over $40 million into conservation projects specifically benefiting non-game species. In 2005, meeting Treasury Board requirements, Environment Canada commissioned an independent public consultation process on the Wildlife Habitat Canada Conservation Stamp Program for 2000 to 2004. This review, and another in 2007, illuminated strong support from stakeholders, in particular waterfowl hunters, conservation organizations and WHC partners for the continuation of the transfer of funds to WHC for grants. The conservation community valued WHC as a consistent source of funding support and an experienced and credible national presence in habitat issues, and valued its ability to forge partnerships. However, the review clearly pointed to the perception that the organization had shifted its focus and that less funding was granted to on-the-ground conservation projects. The review also stressed the need for strengthened communications by WHC on its activities and accomplishments. The conclusions from these reports and evaluations shaped the direction of the organization under new
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WHC president David Brackett, the past director general of the CWS. Brackett was very familiar with both WHC and Environment Canada and was well known in the Canadian conservation community. Working closely with Environment Canada, WHC addressed the issues identified in the evaluations, very effectively re-establishing the prominence of its grantmaking program and focusing its resources on the habitat conservation needs of waterfowl. Brackett retired in 2008 and longtime waterfowl conservationist Len Ugarenko took over as WHC’s president. Ugarenko’s previous position was NAWMP co-ordinator for the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and he has further sharpened the WHC focus on wetlands and waterfowl habitat conservation, and the need to communicate WHC’s activities among stakeholders, including waterfowlers. WHC has recently embarked on an ambitious effort to engage youth in out-of-doors activities in an effort to foster deeper connections with nature. Working in partnership with the Robert Bateman Get to Know Program, WHC created the inaugural Canadian Youth Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp to generate funds dedicated to youth education and conservation programs.
ooking back on 25 years, Wildlife Habitat Canada has done a lot of good things for wildlife habitat, Canadians and waterfowl. The waterfowl hunters and conservationists who purchase the stamp deserve to be proud of what WHC has accomplished based largely on their funding support. However, time has proven that the issues facing habitat are substantial and much more work still needs to be done. The core strategies that WHC was founded upon – to provide national leadership for habitat conservation in Canada by being a catalyst for action, an assessor of policy and a financial supporter of habitat initiatives – remain central throughout North America today. We are all running in a conservation marathon. It is a long and hard journey, but it’s worth it – because without habitat, there is no wildlife. It’s that simple. A
Wildlife Habitat Canada is a national, non-profit foundation dedicated to the conservation, restoration and enhance ment of habitat in order to retain the diversity, distribution and abundance of wildlife in Canada.
Contact Wildlife Habitat Canada (613) 722-2090 www.whc.org
The flow of learning by l au r e n a n d r e s
d wetlan ort DUC that help to p p u s Help rograms nists. ervatio ion p educat r future cons ou w.com shape morro o t r o f ds wetlan
hen I looked out over the Yamuna River with a group of Indian students last year, I felt compelled to pull my scarf tightly over my face to ward off the gaseous toxins that it emitted. The river was black with sewage and bubbling with methane. Without protest from any students, we rolled back our sleeves, donned plastic gloves and started pulling layer after layer of garbage from the Yamuna’s black muddy banks in a symbolic cleanup drive. Some even rolled up their pant legs and walked in to reach for garbage farther out. Wading into one of the world’s 10 most polluted rivers to pick out garbage isn’t normally my idea of a vacation. However, for the six months I lived in Delhi volunteering with an environmental non-governmental organization called Swechha (www.swfc.org.in), it was a somewhat regular occurrence. Swechha’s work aims to connect students and professionals to the environment through workshops, river cleanups, field trips and tree planting drives. While there I participated in many of these events – and I learned a lot about this suffering environment. The fact that students eagerly jumped at picking up garbage in that moment was significant. As a group composed of Swechha staff and Grade 9 students, we had just travelled with the river for 12 days from her
Conservator | 31-4 2010
source in the Himalayas to her demise in Delhi. We camped on her banks, bathed in her rapids and spoke to villagers who drank, washed, irrigated and prayed with Yamuna. At the start of the trip these students scoffed when we reviewed our trip itinerary and mentioned a river cleanup in Delhi. “Garbage? We don’t pick up garbage,” one of our group said. Yet, when we arrived at the polluted waters, they were seeing it through new lenses. They didn’t hesitate to lend a hand to clean the source of their drinking water. So what caused this complete turnaround in their behaviour? Prior to this trip most students had never even seen the river in Delhi, let alone a clean river in the mountains.Through the experiential immersion of this trip, students made a connection between human uses of water and the current state of the river, travelling with it and watching it change as it moved through cities. Thinking and feeling are engaged by outdoor learning and the more actively immersed students are in their field experiences, the more memorable and effective that experience is likely to be.
have had the privilege of standing with students at the water’s edge on this side of the world too. Nets in hand, armed with excitement and the joy of being in an outdoor classroom, the Grade 5’s and I look out over an urban wetland, watching musk-
right: © DUC/Darin Langhorst
Unlike the mossy smells of a forest or decomposing smells of a wetland that signal life and a healthy ecosystem, the smell of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India, is one of death. Due to massive pollution, the Yamuna has zero per cent dissolved oxygen. While it provides Delhi with 70 per cent of its drinking water and is considered a living Hindu goddess, it is unfit even for animals to bathe in. There are no plants, fish or muskrats in this water; only sewage, garbage and the poorest in the country bathing and diving for coins.
rats dive and choosing the best spot to go scoop for insects. While I don’t have 12 days with these students – only a few hours in the field on any given day – the attitude change in students from start to finish is notable. Typically the students who arrived with the most disdain for insects are the hardest ones to round up by the end; their excitement from new discoveries keeps them running back to the water’s edge for one last look. This experience came with my former position as a wetlands educator, working for a unique partnership that unites Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Parks (in Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary) and the City of Calgary. Programs are delivered in schools and at outdoor wetland sites, each progressively supporting and developing students’ knowledge of, emotional connection to, and value for wetland ecosystems. While just being at a wetland is enough to make a lasting impression for most students, research recognizes that multiple contacts with a topic deepens the learning and enables students to retain details of their experience long after they have left their nets behind. Through the partnership approach, students construct, explore and discuss aspects of wetlands three times over a threemonth period, connecting their whiteboard to the field and their field experiences to personal values. Experiential education takes into account the various learning styles of students as well.Visual, aural, reading and kinaesthetic styles of learning have been summa-
rized into a modality called VARK. Basically, in order for a group of people to retain information, the presentation should incorporate aspects of each of these learning styles. Writing, drawing a wetland, verbally describing their drawing, physically scooping up insects, watching them move with an air bubble on their abdomen – together, these allow for the wonders of wetlands to be absorbed in a multitude of ways. Knowledge of ecological issues or areas is no longer enough, as students’ environmental attitudes and behaviours in the long term are more positively impacted by personal experience in natural areas. How can we expect students to be stewards of wetlands and water if they have never felt the connection themselves?
fter witnessing a river that has literally been killed by human actions, the necessity of educating in a way that allows for meaningful absorption of wetland learning is important to me. Wetlands are phenomenal natural filters and are capable of removing numerous pollutants from water, so they’re important to keep around if we want to avoid a black,Yamuna-type river flowing through our country. The value of experiential education in fostering care, respect and lasting stewardship in students is phenomenal, and essential to the future of our water and our water resources in Canada. A
After witnessing a river that has literally been killed by human actions, the necessity of educating in a way that allows for meaningful absorption of wetland learning is important to me.
Conservator | 31-4 2010