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About Traversing Terrain and Experience: Atlas of the Battle River and Sounding Creek Watersheds

By Battle River Watershed Alliance

The land that drains into the Battle River and Sounding Creek- these watersheds- provide a backdrop for the unfolding lives lived full of courage and tragedy, heroism and heartbreak. Over time, this landscape has witnessed the retreat of glaciers, Indigenous peoples and great herds of bison, the arrival of the Fur Trade and European settlers, the ploughing of fields, and the creation of modern cities. This book tells these stories, and many more.

In 2014 with the help of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and others, the Battle River Watershed Alliance set out to tell these stories in an Atlas unlike any before. In 2017 the dream became reality and the Traversing Terrain and Experience Atlas was published. This is no ordinary atlas; this is a compilation of stories, art, photography, geography, and interesting facts that make our home unique. It blends the science with the social, it reflects on how the land has shaped us, and how we have shaped the land. It expands our understanding of place, as it takes you through the story of a landscape rich in history, culture, resources, and inspiration.

 

The 120 pages of this hardcover book contain 100% local information on everything from climate and weather, to population density, to art and culture. The watersheds region is expansive and diverse. The Atlas has equal representation from urban and rural perspectives, from the western headwaters at Battle Lake to the eastern confluence with the North Saskatchewan River, from the northern parkland to the southern grassland, from past, to present, to future.

The Atlas will be distributed at no cost to the 60+ schools and 40+ libraries in the watershed, ensuring all students and community members can have access to it. Books are also available for purchase through the BRWA website at www.battleriverwatershed.ca/atlas.

By reading through this atlas you will come to understand the deep and profound relationship between the land, water, people and all living beings. You will see the interconnection between our environment and our economy. You will learn more about the communities which make up this region, and the extraordinary people who call this place home.

Climate and Weather Pages

Population Density Pages

 

 

25th Anniversary celebrations at Friends of Fish Creek Park

By Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society

Figure 1: 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Signature Artwork  – Autumn Colour by Jim Pescottt

So far, 2017 is proving to be a pivotal year. As well as being the 25th anniversary of the Friends, it is also becoming the year where all our learning and relationships of the previous 5 years are coming together.

We launched two special fundraising initiatives to mark our 25th anniversary, the dedication brick program and the signature image program. Our brick program gives donors the opportunity to purchase a brick with their special message or dedication on it. The new pathway to the door of our office in the park will feature these bricks.

Our signature image program features a painting created specially for us by Canadian artist Jim Pescott. This image features the very essence of the park and we have had 25 limited edition art prints made, each one signed and numbered by Jim, which are available for purchase.

AREF funding has supported our work towards building the value we can add to the lives of our community. One area that has seen lots of growth is our wellness program suite. A lot has changed in our city in the past few years and the results of a slow down in the economy are only just starting to become clear. The previous season taught us a lot about the value the community saw in our wellness programs and the ways in which the park can serve as a tool to support both good physical and mental health. During this time, practitioners in wellness have reached out to us to collaborate in further leveraging the natural spaces in the park to support wellbeing.

Our hands on stewardship programs grow in both scope and complexity and we are now delivering riparian restoration activities in the park. In addition to the restoration activities, our invasive species management program continues to grow thanks to our amazing volunteers that have gathered a great deal of knowledge of this subject over the years.

Figure 2: Volunteers lend a hand in the care of Fish Creek Provincial Park.

Visit Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s website to keep up to date on our programs and upcoming events.

Environmental leaders recognized

On June 6th, environmental leaders from across the province gathered at Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum for the 26th Annual Emerald Awards. Presented by the Alberta Emerald Foundation, the Emerald Awards recognize and celebrate outstanding environmental achievements across Alberta.

The awards place a spotlight on all sectors including – not-for-profits, government, business, educational institutions, individuals, and youth, with a total of 12 categories. The finalists are selected by a panel of knowledgeable third-party judges.

And the Emerald Awards go to:

To read about all of the nominees, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s website.

…..

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s community investment program has enabled Albertans to understand and respond to changing land use patterns, growth pressures, and air and water management issues, and enhance the quality of their communities. We believe all have a role to play in taking responsibility for how we use our land and as such we are pleased to be involved in the Emerald Awards as an industry leader celebrating the good stories of land use excellence in Alberta.

Protecting the Bighorn as a Wildland Park

By Hilary Young, Y2Y

Long before I started working with Y2Y, I’d heard about the allure of the Bighorn Wildland – especially the cold, clear tributaries and waterfalls that form the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River. I was excited to experience this landscape firsthand with my colleagues over the summer, as one of Y2Y’s major goals is to protect the Bighorn as a Wildland Park.

We started out on the trail to the Siffleur Falls, crossing a long suspension bridge and a wooden boardwalk before gaining elevation on the limestone hills. Four kilometers passed quickly, and we were caught by surprise when the trail narrowed and the limestone suddenly cut away into the sloping Siffleur Canyon.

When we came upon the cascading falls a few hundred meters further, we sat for a while in awe, gaining perspective on the steady natural forces that pre-date humans by just staring thoughtfully into the river canyon. For how many hundreds of thousands of years has clean, quick-flowing water been wearing away rock? And for what tiny fraction of this have we been meddling with natural processes and having a disproportionate impact?

After taking photos (which of course failed to capture the emotional experience the canyon evoked in person), we started our hike back out. I knew that the Siffleur River flowed into the North Saskatchewan and then into the Edmonton Capital Region’s water supply. I knew that these tributaries lay within an intact landscape that provided quality habitat for threatened species like grizzlies. But getting out into the Bighorn gave me an emotional connection to a place I could recite facts about — I now understood on a more visceral level that industrial resource extraction and motorized recreational vehicles had no place here. The ancient canyon was the perfect symbol for wild lands that have a timeline, purpose and rhythm well beyond our own.

The Bighorn Wildland that lies between Jasper and Banff National Parks needs to be protected as a Wildland Park. This vast landscape of low elevation foothills, broad valley bottoms, ridgelines and mountains is part of the interconnected Yellowstone to Yukon region, one of the last intact mountain ecosystems left on Earth. Over a million Albertans downstream of the Bighorn, in places like Edmonton and Clearwater County, rely on the water that its tributaries and rivers provide.

Please help protect these lands by calling or writing your local MLA to let them know you want the Bighorn to be designated a Wildand Park! Visit us at loveyourheadwaters.ca for more information.

 

How much do Albertans love the wilderness?

By: CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter

Alberta is home to an amazing landscape and Albertans know it. You can hop in your car and be in the middle of wilderness in little more than an hour.  The accessibility to nature and getting outside is an incredible draw and asset to this province.  Although we know Albertans are drawn to the outdoors, CPAWS wanted to dig deeper and ask Albertans about our parks and wilderness, specifically are they spending time outdoors, what activities are they doing and what are their values and attitudes towards nature?

To do this, CPAWS commissioned a province wide poll, funded in part by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, on Albertans’ recreation and wilderness values. The survey, created with input from academics, partners, stakeholders and most importantly an outside consultant (the Praxis Group), was designed to be credible and statistically representative of all Albertans.   Although recreation surveys have been done in the past, none of them have encompassed both outdoor activities and wilderness values on a province-wide scale.

Then Need

At CPAWS we felt we needed to get a better and more comprehensive understanding of how Albertans are using the land to help inform better planning decisions for the future of Alberta. As Alberta’s population grows, more people are getting outside and into our parks and wilderness areas. We wanted to learn about what is actually happening on the landscape.  With more demand, low impact sustainable recreation is going to play a bigger role and we will need to properly plan in order to safeguard environmentally sensitive areas.

Recent concerns about infrastructure-based commercial development in places like Banff National Park despite huge public opposition and lack of demand, and high impact activities, like motorized recreation, that have a significant impact in places like the Castle and Ghost, indicate a need to look at what people want from their outdoor experience and how they value our wilderness areas. We need to make sure that land-use decisions are in the interests of the majority of Albertans and that we protect and grow our amazing parks and wilderness areas in the province, reflecting Albertans’ values.

Results

The results of the survey showed that 76% or three quarters of all Albertans get outside and enjoy the wilderness of Alberta on a regular basis! The majority value quiet recreation and 88% want more wilderness protection.  It is important to note that most Albertans are engaging in low impact recreation like hiking and camping and that that 86% prefer non-motorized recreation.

Some other key stats from the survey are:

  • 76% participate in some form of outdoor recreation
  • 98% want protection of water to take precedence over industrial development
  • 88% want governments to preserve more wilderness
  • 94% of Albertans believe that wilderness areas are important because they preserve plant and animal species
  • 86% prefer non-motorized recreation in wilderness areas over motorized recreation
  • 83% want wilderness protected and left in its natural condition even if these areas are never visited by, or benefit, humans.

So clearly, Albertans love and strongly value their wilderness areas. The most surprising result for CPAWS was that 83% of Albertans indicated that they wanted wilderness protected even if they never visit those areas. This tells us that people recognize the value of nature and they are willing to make tradeoffs to protect it for future generations.

The survey results have been shared widely with municipalities, recreation groups, the real estate industry, government officials and land managers so that this information representing Albertans can be used in formal land use decisions and recreation planning.  CPAWS feels the project has been rewarding is making an impact.  We have had people and groups quoting the survey results in meetings, pushing for land use practices that are representative of the majority Albertans.

What is next? CPAWS will make sure the results are widely available and continue to make efforts to present, share and promote this important work. CPAWS wants to see decision-makers have the information they need to plan for the protection of the environment such as headwaters, forests and wildlife corridors while considering the needs of the multiple recreation users in Alberta.

We are also working on encouraging people to get outside and sustainably connect with nature through outreach and creation of a series of videos highlighting sustainable recreation opportunities in Alberta. The first video highlights snowshoeing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Now that we know how much people appreciate these areas, we hope they will be empowered to be stewards of our parks and wilderness areas and use their voices to advocate for better land management and more protected areas in our province. We can enjoy economic benefits, great recreational places and prioritize ecologically sensitive areas. We can have an even better Alberta, we just need to plan for it.

To read the full report on Albertans’ Values and Attitudes Towards Recreation and Wilderness visit http://cpaws-southernalberta.org/campaigns/survey-albertans-want-more-wilderness-protected

Congratulation to ALUS in Alberta on their win of the Shared Footprints Award!

Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) in Alberta was awarded the Shared Footprints Award at the 25th Annual Emerald Awards, held on Thursday, June 8th at TELUS Spark.

“It’s such a thrill to accept the Shared Footprints Award, sponsored by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation,” said Christine Campbell, ALUS Canada’s Western Hub Manager, in her acceptance speech. “For ALUS, winning the Emerald Award is proof of something we’ve always known: Albertans appreciate the environmental stewardship work that farmers and ranchers are doing, for all our sakes.”

The Shared Footprints Award recognizes excellence in Integrated Land Management (ILM)—a strategic planned approach to managing and reducing the human-caused footprint on public and/or private land. All of the finalist in this category demonstrate collaboration, dedication and creativity in working to improve and enhance land use practices in Alberta.

ALUS Canada is a community-led, farmer-delivered program that supports stewardship activities on agricultural lands. ALUS programs have been established in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In all ALUS communities, farmers and ranchers obtain support to enable them to produce valuable ecological goods and services on their lands, via such activities as establishing or restoring wetlands, flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, creating wildlife habitat such as native Prairie pollinator strips, and more.

The County of Vermilion River adopted ALUS in 2010 as a means to address the loss of wetlands and other conservation issues associated with land-use changes in the area. Parkland County and Red Deer County quickly followed suit. Ten provincial municipalities have now adopted the ALUS program, with many more having expressed interest in joining this pioneering network. Together, Alberta’s ALUS communities are bridging the gap between environmental and agricultural activities by building a network of farmers and ranchers to lead conservation efforts throughout the province.

This is the third year the Alberta Real Estate Foundation has sponsored this award.

To read ALUS Canada’s press release visit their website here: PRESS RELEASE – ALUS Wins Alberta Emerald Award.

To see previous recipients of the Shared Footprints Award, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation website here.

ALUS and AREF

Staff and Board from ALUS and AREF at the 25th Annual Emerald Awards (click to enlarge)

25 years of celebrating environmental successes with the Emerald Awards

From a couple that’s revived a Cree water blessing at the Battle River to teachers that inspire students, from projects at giant corporations to a young woman who worked in her basement to clean tailings ponds—the Alberta Emerald Awards shines a light on hundreds of environmental stars across the province.

“Since we began in 1992, the Emerald Awards have showcased 280 recipients from across Alberta in sectors from business, government, youth, individuals schools and more, each with its own unique environmental success story,” says Carmen Boyko, Executive Director, Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF). “By showcasing the incredible dedication and hard work of the Emerald Award finalists and recipients we hope to inspire everyone to take a look at their everyday environmental habits and practices, helping to build toward a healthier more vibrant environment.”

As well as the Emerald Awards, the AEF holds Emerald Day events in communities across Alberta to showcase work by the finalists and recipients. Emerald Days include environmental booths, a speakers series featuring awards recipients and finalists well as activities for kids and an environmentally friendly family movie. AEF’s Youth Environmental Engagement Grant Program inspires “the next generation of eco-heroes” by giving up to 100 young people micro-grants of up to $400 for environmental projects across the province.

“I’m proud to be a part of this 25th annual celebration as we celebrate and showcase some pretty extraordinary achievements made by individuals and organizations, all of who are dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and sustaining the environment,” says Boyko. “We know that Albertans are passionate about the environment and we are honoured to share new and innovated environmental research, technology and practices.”

AREF is happy to support the Emerald Awards’ Shared Footprint category to celebrate projects that go beyond normal land management to have a positive impact on the environment. “Recipients of the Shared Footprints Award go above and beyond land and water stewardship, building and shared knowledge, improving air quality and reducing land disturbances,” says Boyko. “AREF’s support with this category has been invaluable.”

The Emerald Awards are unique in Canada and helps bring governments, private industry, non-government organizations and individuals together in support of the environment. This year, 70 people and/or organizations were nominated for an award and there will be 32 finalists announced, across 12 categories. The Emerald Awards will be held June 8 at TELUS Spark in Calgary.

The Alberta Emerald Foundation Announces 25th Annual Emerald Awards Finalists

Today, at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market, hopeful nominees joined the Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF), its sponsors, volunteers and other members from the local community, for the announcement of the 25th Annual Emerald Awards Finalists.

Over the past weeks, a panel of knowledgeable third-party judges with cross-sectoral experience rose to the challenge of narrowing down the brilliant examples of innovation and environmental achievement nominated this year for the uniquely-Albertan award. A maximum of three nominees in each of the ten Emerald Award categories have been selected as a finalist. Only one per category will take home the award.

“The Alberta Emerald Foundation is at the forefront of celebrating great achievements in sustainable development, bringing awareness to the many unique environmental projects occurring throughout Alberta,” says Aaron Dublenko, past Emerald Award recipient and member of the current judging panel. “Whether it’s schools, industry, government, non-governmental agencies, large or small companies, anyone can be acknowledged for their ingenuity in sustainable practices. Such recognition reminds us that despite the many pressures our air, water and soil face, people are working tirelessly to use less, reduce their footprints and educate others on how to do the same.”

“We are the only Foundation in the country to recognize the important work of environmental leaders across all sectors,” says Andy Etmanski, Chair of the Board, AEF. “By honouring and elevating the ingenuity, dedication and hard work of these individuals and organizations, we inspire others to follow their example, benefiting all Albertans with a healthier and cleaner environment.”

The Emerald Awards recognize and celebrate environmental excellence achieved by individuals, not-for-profit associations, large and small corporations, community groups and governments from across Alberta. Since 1992, the Emerald Awards has recognized over 475 finalists and 280 recipients who have demonstrated creative thinking and innovation in environmental management systems, technologies and education programs.

The 25th Annual Emerald Awards will be presented on June 8, 2016 at Telus Spark in Calgary.

Congratulations to ALUS in Alberta and Beaver Hills Initiative for being named finalists in the Shared Footprint category!

To read the full list of finalists, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s website here.

Alberta Green Condo Guide: Saving money and helping the environment

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta outlines how to capitalize on energy saving opportunities in common areas of a condominium, including centralized heating, cooling and ventilation systems and lighting.

Reducing a building’s energy bills is a huge opportunity to save money and reduce a building’s impact on the environment.   In fact, at least 40 per cent of a condominium building’s operating costs go to gas, electricity and water bills, making utilities the largest controllable expense for any condo corporation.

And most older condos can cut these costs by 30 per cent by doing a few upgrades, adding more efficient lighting or boilers.  Even a newer building can realize savings of at least 15 per cent.

This simple to follow and easy to read 14-page guide outlines a number of steps that will not only reduce a condo’s energy use—saving money and reducing emissions—it will result in a more comfortable and well maintained building.

The step-by-step overview of how you can green a condo begins with information on how to baseline and benchmark a building’s energy use, perform an energy audit and set goals.  Next, it goes through a high level explanation of how to identify opportunities for improvement, assess the business case for upgrades and improvements and develop and track a retrofit plan.

A good energy retrofit will help protect the capital that’s invested in a condo by ensuring the building’s systems are in good operational order and operating costs are under control. A green building is comfortable and cost-efficient, which protects an owner’s investment and is more attractive to buyers.

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta, funded in part with a grant from AREF, is based on work originated by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and adapted for Alberta by the Pembina Institute.

What Lies Beneath? Buyer beware

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: You buy a home, move in, then find out there’s an abandoned gas well beneath, leaking and contaminating your property. Think it can’t happen to you? It can. According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board in November 2012 over 150,000 abandoned well sites dotted the Alberta landscape, making it essential that buyers do their homework.

These nightmares happen because of gaps between what Albertans should know, could know and actually do know about their environment,” says Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel and author of a new Environmental Law Centre publication, What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta.

In real estate transactions the onus is generally on the buyer to do their due diligence and the general rule for buying and selling real estate is ‘buyer beware’. Unfortunately there’s no checklist to prove due diligence and no one-stop shop for environmental information.

The best way to demonstrate due diligence is to identify environmental concerns, learn what information is available about those concerns and act on that knowledge. Buyers who make inquiries into the environmental conditions of the specific site and the local area are in the best position to make sound choices and solid deals.

Most land in Alberta has already been used for something. In Calmar, oil and gas extraction took place on farmland that was re-zoned, subdivided, developed into a residential community and sold without exposing what lay beneath or what other activities had taken place on the land previously.

And in Alberta it isn’t just oil and gas activities that are concerning. Whether you’re looking to buy a giant parcel of farmland or a tiny infill lot in the city, there are many activities that can impact the land, air and water that surround your potential new home. Feedlots, pesticide application, old dry-cleaners or landfills – even recreational activities like off highway vehicle use – can affect your quality of life.

What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta provides practical information-finding tips, outlines environmental concerns you may want to think about and describes where to get started to find the information you need to make the best choices when buying property in Alberta. A twelve-page booklet based on this guidebook, Buyer Beware, is also available.

The Environmental Law Centre is Alberta’s leading environmental public policy and law reform charity. The full publication and booklet can both be downloaded on the Environmental Law Centre website.

Alberta Real Estate Foundation teams up with Emerald Awards

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is partnering with the Alberta Emerald Awards to sponsor the Shared Footprints Award which celebrates excellence in land use.

The Shared Footprints Award, which recognizes excellence in Integrated Land Management (ILM)—a  strategic planned approach to managing and reducing the human-caused footprint on public and/or private land—was created in 2009 in partnership with Alberta Sustainable Resource and Development.

“With the reputation and success of the Emerald Awards in Alberta, it made sense for us to work together to make a unique category that celebrates great stories in sustainable land use in Alberta,” says Gary Willson, AREF’s Chair.

“This is a unique partnership for us, as most of our partners come from the corporate and government sectors, so we have never had a formal partnership with another foundation,” says Emmy Stuebing, Executive Director of the Alberta Emerald Foundation, which puts on the annual awards.” We are very proud to call the Alberta Real Estate Foundation an Emerald Leader.”

Nominees must meet the standards of the Emerald Awards, address the Shared Footprints Award criteria plus demonstrate how their efforts support the principles of ILM.

“The nominees in this category demonstrate collaboration, dedication and creativity in working to improve and enhance land use practices in Alberta,” says Stuebing. “The Shared Footprints category of the Emerald Awards showcases excellence in land use.”

Both Foundations look forward to working together to support and recognize champions in ILM in Alberta. AREF’s sister organization, the Real Estate Foundation of BC has been running their own Land Awards for over four years. Instead of considering their own awards program, AREF has chosen to collaborate with the well-established Emerald Awards. The 23rd annual Alberta Emerald Awards will take place on June 5th in Calgary.