Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

Category Archives: Habitat Preservation

Eco Tuesday: Pacific Wild

We are proud to bring you a new blog feature for Eco Tuesday. Each week, we’ll be highlighting one of the non-profit conservation groups working for the wildlife of the world. We’ll be including a link to their website, so you can learn more, and give them a helping hand.

Pacific Wild is an environmental non profit group studying wildlife ecology and behaviour in the Great Bear Rainforest. Located in the channel islands of coastal British Columbia, their mission is to publicize and protect this old growth temperate rainforest, home of the white spirit bear, found nowhere else in the world.

More than 20 years of concerted environmental effort has resulted in approximately 30% of the Great Bear Rainforest area being protected in various conservancy designations.

Grizzly bear family by Ian McAllister

While this is a step forward in protecting B.C.’s endangered rainforest, significant gaps remain. Trophy hunting of grizzly bears, wolves and other large carnivores remain sanctioned by the provincial government, even in many of the recently announced conservancy areas. Clearcut logging of intact salmon supporting watersheds is still commonplace, and a lack of marine protected areas leave the coast exposed to open net cage salmon farms, and other abuses of the marine environment. Year after year, the reality of collapsing salmon stocks – the foundation species for life on the coast – becomes more apparent.

Pacific Wild utilizes conservation biology through field research, web-based educational tools and other broad-based outreach projects. They raise awareness and educate people about this ecologically important region. By working with a diverse group of coalitions, non-government organizations, individuals, communities, First Nations and scientists, they develop effective strategies and relationships to achieve common solutions to environmental threats.

Their visually stunning website contains many magnificent photographs by Ian McAllister, who has  donated his work to Pacific Wild to further its mission of environmental protection for this ecological treasure.

Visit Pacific Wild.org or view the many excellent videos on their YouTube channel.

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Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y)

We are proud to bring you a new blog feature for Eco Tuesday. Each week, we’ll be highlighting one of the non-profit conservation groups working for the wildlife of the world. We’ll be including a link to their website, so you can learn more, and give them a helping hand!

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) is a joint Canada/USA not-for-profit organization that seeks to preserve and maintain the wildlife, native plants, wilderness and natural processes of the mountainous region from Yellowstone National Park in Montana to the Yukon Territory in Canada.

Y2Y takes a scientific approach to conservation and is recognized as one of the planet’s leading mountain conservation initiatives. Y2Y was officially established in 1997 and has two offices located in Canmore, Alberta and Bozeman, Montana.

One of Y2Y’s primary goals is to ensure that the Yellowstone to Yukon region retains enough connected, well-managed and good-quality wildlife habitat so that animals can safely travel between protected areas (such as national parks) as they roam in search of food and mates.

In the early 1990’s it became apparent to scientists and conservationists that existing protected areas within the Yellowstone to Yukon region were either too small for wide-ranging species, or in the wrong location. More importantly, protected areas were becoming islands surrounded by seas of disturbed and degraded lands.

‘Islandization’ can have a disastrous affect on wildlife. Islands become severed from other prime habitats, and without ‘bridges’ (wildlife corridors) to connect these habitats, the isolated plants and wildlife within an island may become extinct. Wildlife need to draw from a broad gene pool to avoid the genetic anomalies that can accompany breeding with relatives.

Island populations also are vulnerable to disease, overhunting or catastrophic events like floods or fires. This is particularly true as climate change alters the location and configuration of habitats on the landscape. Wildlife will need to migrate northward and to higher elevations in order to keep pace with the habitats that support them. Y2Y works to ensure that the wildlife and wild places of the Yellowstone to Yukon region remain healthy and connected for generations to come.

For more information on this wide-ranging conservation initiative, see the Yellowstone to Yukon website.

Good News for Prairie Wildlife

Wildlife news on the net seems to be more depressing than usual today. To counteract the negativity, we’re happy give you some good news from the prairies.

Swift Foxes Relocated

Officials in Montana plan to transplant about 30 swift foxes to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in an effort to boost fox numbers by linking populations of the small predator in Canada, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The ultimate goal of the project is to establish a wildlife corridor for the tiny foxes that will run from Canada to Texas. An ambitious goal that would save untold thousands of wildlife species – mammals, birds and plants.

Swift foxes are native to the prairies of North America but were killed off by poison intended for coyotes and wolves. Increased farming eliminated habitat for prairie dogs, ground squirrels and rabbits that the foxes prey on. They are now found in less than 40% of their historic range.

Read more here

Re-fencing for the Pronghorn

Adult male Pronghorn

Adult male Pronghorn

North America’s fastest animal can reach speeds up to 100 km/hr. They evolved on the vast open areas of the Great Plains, where there was ample room to run. But they don’t jump fences.

As the land was increasingly parceled off for settlement, pronghorns faced increased injury and death by colliding with barbed wire fences.Mass deaths at fence lines have also been reported as pronghorn failed to find a way around or underneath the barriers.

Now a group of conservationists, hunters, landowners, government and the military are spending about $300,00 to provide pronghorn-friendly fencing in southern Alberta.

This summer, the bottom line of barbed wire was yanked off fence posts by volunteers, and replaced with a double stranded smooth wire than hangs 46 cm above the ground. More than enough room for the small pronghorn to duck under and continue on their way.

Motion cameras have already captured photos of pronghorn and deer safely ducking under the smooth wire.

This astonishingly simple solution will prevent the death of thousands of prairie animals, yet still fence in the livestock. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Hopefully the idea will spread throughout the range of the pronghorn, giving a much-needed helping hand to these iconic symbols of the prairies.

Read more about the project

Northern Wild

Are you a whitewater rafter? Or are you someone who would like to be surrounded by wilderness – no people for as far as the eye can see. Sound good? Then you need to head north – waaaay north!

Nahanni1Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada is located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories. Created in 1972 and officially designated a park reserve in 1976, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Until now, Nahanni has covered an area of 4,766 km2, and encompassed only the lower reaches of the South Nahanni and Flat Rivers.

With an announcement today from the Government of Canada, the Park Reserve will now be six times larger. It will permanently protect over 30,000 sq. km of Boreal wilderness, an area roughly the size of Vancouver Island. The expansion will cover much of the South Nahanni River watershed and 91 per cent of the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, thus protecting an entire watershed area.

The Nahanni is a spectacular example of intact Boreal wilderness that is also of spiritual importance to local First Nations. The watershed contains Virginia Falls, deep canyons, and unique limestone caves and formations. It is home to woodland caribou, wolves grizzly bears, Canada lynx, mountain goats, wolverine and Dall’s sheep. The South Nahanni River, with a waterfall twice the height of Niagara Falls, is a whitewater paddler’s dream destination.

If you’re an intrepid traveller with a taste for wilderness, have a look at these websites for more information on rafting, canoeing or hiking in the great northern wild. Keep an eye out for the grizzly bears – they own the place and you’re just visiting!

Sea to Sky Expeditions

Canada River Expeditions

Parks Canada Nahanni

Oilsands to Wetlands

The media loves to bash the environmental record of the Alberta oilsands. Devastating scenes of scraped earth, over 1600 migrating ducks killed in contaminated tailings ponds, etc consistently find their way into news reports around the world. And may I say, rightly so. These environmentally degrading activities should be brought to the attention of everyone who uses oil.

Um. Wait a minute. Isn’t that just about everyone? Has anyone decided to give up using oil because of the environmental mess in the oilsands? I wonder how many of the harsh critics of the oilsands have given up their cars?

But I digress.

From this...

From this...

Everyone knows that in the media, “if it bleeds it leads”, meaning bad news always get the front page. I’m sure the downside of oil produced from the Alberta oilsands will be on the front page of many newspapers for years to come. Unless of course, we all decide to stop using oil.

In our local paper today, on the sixth page of the fifth inside section, there was a small article about new reclaimed wetlands in the oilsands. Whoa! I live in the oilsands province and I didn’t know anything about this!

As far as I’m concerned, it is impossible to have too many wetlands. Particularly in the heart of the boreal forest, where perhaps millions of migratory birds nest and raise their young.

It seems companies in the oilsands are establishing productive wetlands, planting trees, grass and shrubs and restoring wildlife habitats. The tailings – a mixture of sand, clay and unrecovered bitumen – solidify over the years. Once they in effect become rock, reclamation can begin.

To this.

To this.

The East Mines tailings pit is probably the most widely viewed scene of destruction, as it is beside a major highway, and photos of this ugly blight on the landscape have gone around the world. This 2,718 acre (1,100 hectare) area is about to become wildlife habitat. Sand to a depth of 16 feet (5 meters) will be moved in this summer. In the fall, soil will be brought in and next spring, trees and bushes will be planted.

A herd of approximately 300 wood bison already lives on 1,730 acres (700 hectares) of previously reclaimed land.

The West Mine pit is being filled with hardened tailings, and capped with fresh water to form a lake.

The first oilsands tailing pond is to become a series of wetlands, beginning next year. A marsh of about 250 acres (100 hectares) is to be established at the south end of the former tailings pit,and planted with salt-resistant varieties of plants that will assist with the breakdown of toxic compounds. From there, the water will flow to another marsh, which will have a large layer of fresh water added. Tests have shown that fish, insects and plants can live in this environment. From there, the newly clean water will eventually flow back into the nearby river.

In conjunction with scientists from four universities, a wetland fen is also in the works. A fen is a large wetland fed by groundwater, not surface water as in marshes and bogs. Fens are found throughout the boreal forest, much to the delight of huge numbers of frogs. Large mats cut from fen peatlands currently being cleared for mining will be placed in the new fen areas. These peat mats will maintain their structure and water holding capacity, and provide a quick start for the new fens.

I am in no way condoning the environmental disaster that is the functioning oilsands. I hate it. Keep it on the front pages and newscasts the world over. The more bad press they get, the more they’ll work at reversing it. Which means more wetlands and more boreal forest habitat. There is no downside to that.