Page 1

western region ( Prairie/ Boreal ) Yukon • Northwest Territories • Nunavut • Alberta • Saskatchewan • Manitoba

volume 28, number 2, 2007

Important arctic wetland complex slated for protection

D

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) extended its support and congratulations to Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Joe Linklater for signing a management plan to protect one of the most important Arctic wetland complexes in the world, Old Crow Flats in the Yukon. The area’s lakes provide critical habitat for migrating and nesting waterfowl and it is home to major populations of water birds, the Porcupine Caribou Herd, muskrat, moose and fish. The ecological value of the area is so significant that in 1982 Old Crow Flats was designated by Canada as an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention, a designation of the United Nations. It’s one of only 36 Ramsar sites in Canada.

Old Crow Flats is in the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the “people of the lakes.” For thousands of years, the area has been used for cultural, health and economic purposes, including hunting, trapping, research and education, as well as passing down generations of stories from the past. The 1.9 million acres of wetland habitat is awaiting an order-in-council from the Yukon territorial government that will withdraw it from industrial and resource development. DUC has played a pivotal role in advancing this landscape through the protection process. 

L to R: Amy Leach, DUC Yukon programs manager; Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Joe Linklater; Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie; Eric Butterworth, DUC manager of boreal and territorial operations.


Popular educator presented with wetland conservation award

W

World Wetland Day (Feb. 2) celebrations started early in Manitoba when, at a ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at Government House, His Honour John Harvard, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, presented the province’s second annual Lieutenant-Governor’s Greenwing Conservation Award to Robert Adamson for his outstanding contribution towards wetland conservation and education in Manitoba. Sponsored by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), the LieutenantGovernor’s Greenwing Conservation Award recognizes individuals or groups who have demonstrated leadership in a project or activity that has contributed significantly to the public awareness of the values of wetland ecosystems and their benefits to waterfowl, wildlife and people. Adamson was recognized along with three other nominees from throughout the province, including Barry Waito of Louisiana-Pacific (Swan River), educator David Barnes (Brandon) and the Turtle Mountain Conservation District. “The organizations and individuals who have led the efforts to understand and protect wetlands across Manitoba have had a real impact on the health and quality of life of our province,” said Lieutenant Governor Harvard. “And their impact will continue in the future, so long as the wetlands they have worked to protect remain.” As an award-winning teacher at Fort Richmond Collegiate, Adamson has led a wide variety of hands-on environmental education programs that have helped develop the ecological literacy of the school community and many individual teachers and students over his 30-year career. Adamson was responsible for establishing the first Wetland Centre of Excellence in Manitoba, located at James Richardson International’s Kelburn Farm.

In accepting the award, Adamson said, “It’s very rewarding to share this experience with so many individuals who have a common interest and vision of the importance of our environment and its sustainability. It is about community…people who care, and about networking to ensure we can indeed make a difference.” “We all need to take responsibility for the care and protection of Manitoba’s, and Canada’s, wetlands,” said DUC president Peter Carton. “Organizations, together with the efforts of dedicated individuals, especially educators like Bob Adamson, can be very effective. That’s why this award was established: to recognize the contributions of local stewards and conservationists across Canada.” 

Robert Adamson, a teacher at Fort Richmond Collegiate in Winnipeg, is the winner of the 2007 Lieutenant-Governor’s Greenwing Conservation Award for his outstanding contribution to wetland conservation and education in Manitoba. L to R: DUC president Peter Carton, award recipient Robert Adamson, His Honour John Harvard, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, and DUC executive vice-president Gordon Edwards.

New DUC boreal wetland mapping program to aid conservation efforts

I

In recent years, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has initiated an increasing number of research and inventory programs that highlight the importance of boreal wetlands in Canada. It is well established that these wetland ecosystems are important to all Canadians. Wetlands filter our water, recharge our groundwater supplies, mitigate the effects of flooding and droughts, remove carbon from the atmosphere, as well as support diverse floral and fauna. In direct contrast to this vast and important global resource is the relative lack of information on Canada’s boreal wetland resources, specifically wetland maps. These maps, which help focus DUC’s conservation efforts, are needed to determine critical waterfowl habitat, aid with impact assessments of industrial activities, provide critical inputs to scientific research such as climate change, and support various international, national and provincial wetland mapping and monitoring programs (e.g., Canadian Wetland Inventory (CWI)). DUC has been leading the effort to provide detailed (down to one hectare) and accurate (85 per cent accuracy overall) wetland maps for large areas of the boreal forest. This enhanced wetland classification effort is a multi-partner collaboration with several international (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service), national (Environment Canada), provincial and territorial agencies and industries (Al-Pac Forest Industries, Louisiana-Pacific Canada, Weyerhaeuser). To date, nearly 11.5 million

hectares of wetlands have been mapped, with more than 12 million hectares of wetland maps to be delivered in 2007. This wetland mapping effort is unique in that it uses detailed field data collected in helicopters to help guide the classification of large-scale satellite images to map wetlands. Due to the complexity and diversity of wetlands in the boreal plain region, a field guide to boreal wetlands was developed by DUC biologists to help understand and classify the various wetlands (bogs, fens, swamps, marshes and shallow open water) found in this region. A classification approach that uses state-of-the-art software was also developed to meet the challenges of mapping diverse wetland types over large areas. This approach is flexible enough to be adapted and applied to other boreal regions throughout Canada. These mapping products have become the cornerstone of the boreal forest by providing baseline data to undertake other inventory elements, including water bird surveys, associated research products and conservation planning. DUC continues to lead scientific studies to gain knowledge on boreal wetlands, how they function, how wildlife interacts with them, and how they are impacted by industrial development. This information is critical in order to influence wetland conservation in the boreal forest. 


western region (prairie/boreal)

Controlling the scourge of leafy spurge

M

Many people have heard of purple loosestrife, one of a number of invasive plants that threaten Canada’s wetlands. Another lesser known plant that is increasingly on the radar of government, conservation organizations and land managers is leafy spurge, which, like purple loosestrife, tends to compete with native plants and is nearly impossible to eradicate. Leafy spurge is a perennial weed species native to Europe that spreads rapidly in a variety of ecozones, including pastures, aspen forests, wetlands and native grasslands. It was introduced to North America in the early 1800s. Infestation levels of leafy spurge are now the highest across the northern plains of the U.S. and the three Canadian Prairie provinces. It was first identified in Manitoba in 1911, and that is now the most severely affected province, with over 400,000 acres impacted, resulting in an annual economic loss estimated at $20 million. Leafy spurge is commonly known as “wolf ’s milk,” for good reason. All parts of the leafy spurge plant contain a poisonous milky latex compound that inhibits the growth of other surrounding native plants, and that can sicken or kill cattle that eat large quantities of it. It can also cause itchiness and rashes on the skin of humans and livestock. One group working to control leafy spurge in Manitoba is known as the Leafy Spurge Stakeholders Group (LSSG). Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is a member of the LSSG, which was established in 1998 to increase awareness of leafy spurge, examine its impacts, provide communications and outreach and enhance co-ordination among stakeholder agencies. According to DUC habitat specialist Robin Hamilton, DUC’s representative on the LSSG, because the plant spreads rapidly via seed and extensive root systems, “it reduces livestock productivity for landowners, because it can infest large areas of rangeland.” Hamilton adds that leafy spurge reduces the amount of habitat available for waterfowl and other wildlife.

(Top) Leafy spurge is an invasive plant that competes with native plants and is nearly impossible to eradicate. It spreads rapidly in a variety of ecozones, including wetlands. (Bottom insert) These beetles are natural predators of leafy spurge and are one of a number of measures being used to control infestations. In addition to establishing awareness and prevention strategies and encouraging landowners to adopt integrated pest management plans to manage leafy spurge infestations, the LSSG is using biocontrol measures in the form of beetles. These beetles are natural predators of leafy spurge in Europe and have been transported to North America in an attempt to control the weed as it establishes across the country. The leafy spurge beetles are collected in North Dakota and distributed at selected sites in Manitoba. The beetles feed off of the stem and roots of the plant, which inhibits its growth and reproduction. These sites will be monitored over time to determine the impact of the beetles on leafy spurge infestations. The LSSG has also developed resources like an Integrated Pest Management manual, which assists landowners and land managers with a comprehensive and integrated approach to controlling leafy spurge. Multi-species grazing is another method proven to be very effective in controlling leafy spurge. Cattle and horses will tend to avoid leafy spurge, but goats and sheep will eat it. A combination of animal species grazing a pasture can provide effective control of weeds like leafy spurge.

Shell grant assists wetland restoration in Manitoba

D

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) received a Shell Environmental Grant last year to assist with wetland restoration efforts on a DUC habitat project located near the town of Killarney in southwest Manitoba. Thanks to the grant, DUC was able to restore four wetland basins totalling seven acres on the property, which is located in an area of high duck production and high risk of habitat loss to agriculture. The restored wetlands provide pairing, brood rearing and staging areas for a variety of waterfowl and shorebirds. These wetlands, together with upland areas, are also important to many other animal species commonly found on this property including yellowlegs, common snipe, sharp-tailed grouse, sandhill crane, northern harrier, muskrat, moose and white-tailed deer. In addition, the natural uplands and wetlands serve many waterrelated benefits to the area. Created in 1990, the Shell Environmental Fund is a national program intended to make a local difference. A total of over $11 million has been granted to almost 4,000 environmental projects across the country. These projects included habitat restoration, beach and road cleanups, waste reduction and recycling programs, trail building, educational initiatives and other environmental projects. Individuals, schools, community associations, service clubs and environmental groups have used the grants, of up to $5,000 per project, to improve and protect their environment. 

Leafy spurge will certainly be one species that the new Manitoba Invasive Alien Species Council will note as a force to reckon with in its efforts to identify and provide methods of prevention and control of noxious weeds in the province. 


Recovery team aids frog recolonization

A

A team of frog-friendly scientists is getting ready to help the northern leopard frog recolonize two of the drainage areas in Alberta where this species has all but disappeared. “This is one species where wetland science can help us make a difference and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is pleased to be involved,” says Michael Barr, a North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) specialist with DUC in Alberta. Barr chairs NAWMP’s science committee, which helps fund parts of the Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team’s work. The team was struck in 2005, one year after this frog’s steady decline in population earned it a “threatened” designation under the Wildlife Act of Alberta. Building on several years of applied research that included hatching northern leopard frogs at a provincial fish farm, then releasing them into wetlands in central Alberta, this spring’s recolonization involves collecting egg masses found in the Red Deer and Old Man river drainages. To mimic the species’ natural movement, the eggs will be collected in April and May, then translocated to new sites in the same drainage areas. Helping local populations disperse within a drainage area should minimize recolonization issues related to genetics or disease, says Kris Kendell, a recovery team member and a biologist with the Alberta Conservation Association. Ideally, these “new” colonies will disperse naturally, moving the species back into areas these frogs traditionally inhabited. A semi-aquatic frog characterized by dark oval spots and two lighter-coloured stripes running down its greenish-brown body, the northern leopard frog was once the most widespread frog in North America.

“We really don’t know why these frogs disappeared from many parts of Alberta in the late 1970s,” says Dave Prescott, recovery team leader and a species-at-risk specialist with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development. Recent research into the northern leopard frog’s habitat and life cycle, however, makes the recovery team Leopard frog research is aiding efforts to recolonize think artificial trans- two of the drainage areas in Alberta where this species location will succeed has all but disappeared. in these two drainage areas, after which they will look at a similar approach to recolonizing other drainages, including the Bow and North Saskatchewan. “NAWMP shares some of our common goals on the landscape in ensuring healthy wetland and riparian areas. We also value biodiversity and agree that frogs add some value to the experience of wetlands,” notes Kendell. “Projects like this restore wetland biodiversity and, at the same time, provide an opportunity to raise the public profile of wetlands. Healthy wetlands are good for frogs, people – and waterfowl,” adds Barr. 

Committee shows enthusiasm for wetland education

M

Members of the Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) chapter in North Battleford, Sask., wanted to continue their fundraising efforts in support of wetland conservation during the winter months. So, while wetlands were frozen and covered with snow, the committee was keeping warm raising money to allow at least one class in every school in their community to participate in DUC’s Project Webfoot program. “Our committee recognized the value of teaching children about the importance of wetlands to the environment and to their health,” says Mary Shumilak, a volunteer with the local DUC dinner committee. “We’ve always had a great response to Project Webfoot from sponsors at our events and everyone is very keen to see the program succeed. Our goal was to have at least one classroom program in each school in the Battlefords. This required finding sponsors to support the $300 cost of the program. The people and businesses in the Battlefords have a long history of supporting Ducks Unlimited Canada initiatives and their commitment to Project Webfoot is no exception.” The committee set a goal of raising $3,900 to sponsor 13 schools in the area and recognized the local sponsors at the North Battleford dinner held in March. 

Sales of DUC mascots at Saskatchewan events in this school year have raised $28,570, double the amount raised in the same time period last year. This has allowed 94 classes to receive Project Webfoot resource kits and 2,200 students to benefit from this popular wetland education program.


western region (prairie/boreal)

Conservation land Celebrate wetlands this Environment Week purchases gain support

S

Spring is usually a time when plans for summer holidays begin. Maybe you’re just starting to think about scheduling some time to enjoy the outdoors or planning your garden projects. But, have you thought of scheduling some time to celebrate the environment? Environment Week is an annual event held across Canada that corresponds with World Environment Day on June 5. Different activities take place in different provinces. In Alberta, the purpose of Environment Week is to foster awareness of Alberta’s environment and encourage responsible actions by Albertans through distribution of the Alberta Environment Week poster and related educational and community support initiatives. Every year a new topic is chosen to focus Environment Week celebrations in Alberta. This year, the topic is wetlands. Together, Inside Education and Alberta Environment with support from Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Alberta North American Waterfowl Management Plan Partnership are encouraging Albertans to learn more about Alberta’s wetlands and take the time to appreciate them. Unfortunately, up to 70 per cent of wetlands have disappeared in settled areas of Canada, lost to industrial development and municipal and agricultural expansion. With new research showing how wetlands also improve the quality of life for people, DUC encourages Canadians to look for ways to conserve, maintain and restore these valuable ecosystems. During Environment Week and beyond, there are many actions you can take to help this valued resource:

- Get involved in wetland monitoring! Report sightings of the endangered northern leopard frog to leopard.frog@gov.ab.ca.

- Participate in Alberta Water Quality Awareness (AWQA) Day by ordering your free kit and testing a wetland near you: www.awqa.ca.

- Enjoy the sights and sounds of a wetland near you. Visit www.ducks.ca, and click on DUC in Your Province and Wetlands To Visit. - Get involved with a local Watershed Stewardship Group: www ab.stewardshipcanada.ca.

- Does your local wetland have a name? If not, take action! Places with names are seen as more valuable. For information on naming wetlands, contact the Land Stewardship Centre of Canada at 780-483-1885.

- Check out www.environment.gov.ab.ca/edu/eweek to find out more about how you can take action and get involved in local events celebrating Environment Week 2007. 

in Saskatchewan

F

For years, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has been telling people about the benefits that come from protecting the environment and conserving habitat and now landowners in Saskatchewan are beginning to say the same thing. Since November of last year DUC staff have been meeting with landowners, Rural Municipality (RM) councils and people across the province to gather responses to the changes to the Saskatchewan Farm Security Act through the Southern Conservation Lands Policy. Those changes allow conservation organizations to purchase farmland for their protection efforts. Under the policy, conservation groups are allowed to purchase up to 100,000 acres across most of the province over the next 10 years. As well, any lands that are sold by the groups will be removed from the conservation inventory and those acres will be available for new acquisitions. So far the responses have been positive, says Joel Peterson, head of industry and government relations for DUC in Saskatchewan. “The field staff here have been very proactive in approaching the people and RMs to discuss our conservation programs. The discussions focus on the current conservation programming and the benefits that these programs provide to landowners,” Peterson says. “Those same people are telling us we are doing a great job and they don’t have too many issues when it comes to the company purchasing critical lands for conservation. They are beginning to realize this is just one of the many tools we use to reach our goals.” The series of meetings is one of the requirements under the Southern Conservation Lands Policy and DUC is taking an open approach during the process. “We let people know that as a result of the policy, Ducks Unlimited Canada will once again be purchasing lands. We want to inform the RMs of limitations and regulations that have been placed on conservation organizations that use land purchase in their activities,” Peterson adds. To help gather the responses, a survey has been developed. The early results indicate a majority of people believe that lands within their area should be managed as wildlife habitat, that it is appropriate that organizations like DUC to be involved in the management of these lands, and that land purchase is acceptable for conservation purposes. Once the consultations are complete, a formal report will be sent to the provincial government detailing the efforts and the results as the final part of the policy. 


DUC lands part of protected network

T

The Province of Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) have signed an agreement to include DUC-owned lands in Manitoba’s network of protected areas. The agreement was signed at the Riverbank Centre in Brandon this past November by Conservation Minister Stan Struthers, Bob Grant, manager of provincial operations, DUC, and Greg Bruce, head of industry and government relations for DUC in Manitoba. “The Province is fortunate to have a partner as dedicated as Ducks Unlimited in preserving wetlands,” said Struthers. “We are pleased with this partnership agreement which adds threatened habitat to our protected areas network.” “The agreement we are signing today is a result of our shared goals to conserve, protect and promote the stewardship of habitat for the conservation of biodiversity,” said Grant. “The southwest prairie parkland of Manitoba is home to one of the most productive pothole landscapes in North America for breeding waterfowl.” The agreement ensures that DUC lands meet the provincial government definition of a protected area. It follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Province and DUC in December 2005. Approximately 3,440 hectares of DUC land within the prairie parkland region of southwest Manitoba will be added to On Nov. 17, 2006 Bob Grant (right), manager of operations, and Greg Bruce (left), head of industry and government relations for DUC in Manitoba, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Conservation Minister Stan Struthers (centre). Under the MOA, approximately 3,440 hectares of DUC land within the prairie parkland region of southwest Manitoba will be added to Manitoba’s network of protected areas. These lands will help to create a natural mosaic of habitat in an important area for waterfowl.

Manitoba’s network of protected areas. These lands will help to create a natural mosaic of habitat in an important area for waterfowl. The Minnedosa pothole region in particular is recognized internationally as one of the most important breeding areas for canvasback ducks on the continent, as well as the life cycle launch pad for many other duck species. Prairie potholes are low spots or hollows in wetlands, mostly freshwater marshes, left over from the glacial age. The potholes fill with snowmelt and rain in the spring. Some prairie pothole marshes are temporary. Submerged and floating aquatic plants take over the deeper water in the middle of the pothole while bulrushes and cattails grow closer to shore. These have the greatest capacity of all the wetland types to return water back to the soil and back to the atmosphere, significantly reducing the impacts of floods. They also have the highest species diversity known for amphibians and are crucial to the waterfowl life cycle. “Manitoba has made it a priority to increase our protected areas in the southwest region,” said Competitiveness, Training and Trade Minister Scott Smith. “We are pleased that because of this initiative, residents of this region can continue to enjoy the pristine wetlands for years to come.” 

western region ( Prairie/ Boreal )

The Flyway newsletter is published by Ducks Unlimited Canada Oak Hammock Marsh Conservation Centre P.O. Box 1160, Stonewall, Manitoba R0C 2Z0 tel (204)467-3000 fax (204)467-9028 toll-free 1(800)665-DUCK Please direct your inquiries to the following: Eastern Region Atlantic: Kelly MacDonald Quebec: Bernard Filion Ontario: Lynette Mader Western Region Prairie-Western Boreal: Marci Dube British Columbia: Ellen Baragon Flyway production staff Director of Communications and Marketing: Madeleine Arbez Editor: Duncan Morrison Assistant: June Finnson Art Director: Tye Gregg Graphic Designers: Lindsay Pikta-Marie, Aquila Samson, Jeope Wolfe

© Ducks Unlimited Canada, 2007 Printed in Canada on 100% recycled paper including 100% post-consumer fibres

Area Contacts Marketing/Communications Anh Hoang, Western Boreal (780) 489-8110 Sarah Hodges-Kolisnyk, Manitoba (204) 467-3252 Tom Jordens, Saskatchewan (306) 569-0424 Lee Moats, Saskatchewan (306) 569-0424 Sherry Feser, Alberta (780) 489-2002 Manager of Operations, Manitoba Bob Grant, Brandon (204) 729-3500 Manager of Operations, Saskatchewan Brent Kennedy, Regina (306) 569-0424 Manager of Operations, Alberta Dave Kay, Edmonton (780) 489-2002 Education Jerry Brunen, Calgary Barb Hanbidge, Saskatoon Bob Laidler, Oak Hammock

(403) 201-5577 (306) 665-7356 (204) 467-3000

Western Boreal Program Eric Butterworth

(780) 489-8110

publication agreement #40064849

flyway-prairie-2007-28-02  

A Ducks Unlimited Canada newsletter featuring conservation stories from across the Prairie region