Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10 Years On: Recovery Elusive for Species at Risk in Canada

OTTAWA, November 29, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Two birds considered extremely rare to Canada were both re-assessed as Endangered despite recovery initiatives. The White-headed Woodpecker and Sage Thrasher are just two of the 52 Canadian wildlife species that were assessed for risk of extinction or extirpation by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) when it met in Ottawa, November 22-26, 2010. Of the thirty-two species that were re-assessed after 10 years, as required by the Species at Risk Act, only four were found to be less at risk.

Fewer than 100 of the spectacular White-headed Woodpecker nest in southeastern British Columbia. This bird depends on mature Ponderosa Pine forests which continue to decline due to severe fires and Mountain Pine Beetle infestations. Even rarer is the Sage Thrasher. Although never common in BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan, the total population of this small brown songbird in Canada ranges from only seven to 36 individuals. Loss of sagebrush habitat, used for nesting, is undoubtedly responsible for declines of this bird in Canada.

Although increased efforts to survey rare plants in Ontario resulted in larger population estimates for the Dwarf Lake Iris; habitat degradation still plagues species with extremely limited ranges in the Great Lakes region of Ontario and Québec. Two small orchids, the Nodding Pogonia which was assessed as Endangered and the Purple Twayblade, a Threatened species, are highly vulnerable to ongoing habitat alterations associated with invasive plants, introduced earthworms, and land development. The Endangered White Prairie Gentian, a large showy perennial known for its traditional medicinal uses, now exists as only a single small population in southern Ontario where its savannah habitat is protected from degradation by the Walpole Island First Nation.

Two Iconic Canadian Fishes at Risk

The Atlantic Salmon, one of the world's most commonly farmed marine fishes, has suffered declines in the wild, particularly in southern parts of its Canadian range. Regardless of ongoing activities to rebuild stocks, one population in southern Newfoundland was designated as Threatened, and five populations in the Bay of Fundy, outer coast of Nova Scotia and Anticosti Island were assessed as Endangered. The unique Lake Ontario population was considered Extinct. To the north, the situation is not as dire. Populations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were assessed as Special Concern and three of the most northern populations in Canada were considered Not at Risk; relatively pristine rivers and improved fisheries management likely explain the stable to increasing abundance of these northern populations.

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge contributed significantly to understanding the biology and threats for Dolly Varden, a trout-like fish of great significance to the people of the western Arctic. Despite the relative health of these populations, climate change poses a significant risk. This factor, in addition to the sensitivity of this fish to habitat impacts and fishing pressure, resulted in a designation of Special Concern.

Zebra Mussel Now Threatens Species West of the 100th Meridian

The Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel is a large conspicuous freshwater mussel residing in the Okanagan Lake basin. Its restricted range coupled with the threat of the invasive Zebra Mussel and burgeoning lakeshore development elevated the risks to this species which led to an assessment of Endangered from a previous assessment of Special Concern.

Some Cause for Optimism.

The case of the Barndoor Skate does give cause for some optimism. This large, distinctive marine fish experienced severe population declines and was virtually undetectable in Canadian waters for two decades. Reduced fishing pressure has contributed to significant increases in the Barndoor Skate since the 1990s. While this skate has not fully recovered to historical levels, the fish was assessed as Not at Risk.


COSEWIC assesses the status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other important units of biological diversity, considered to be at risk in Canada. To do so, COSEWIC uses scientific, Aboriginal traditional and community knowledge provided by experts from governments, academia and other organizations. Summaries of assessments are currently available to the public on the COSEWIC website ( www.cosewic.gc.ca) and will be submitted to the Federal Minister of the Environment in late summer 2011 for listing consideration under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). At that time, the full status reports and status appraisal summaries will be publicly available on the Species at Risk Public Registry ( www.sararegistry.gc.ca).

There are now 617 wildlife species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 270 Endangered, 153 Threatened, 172 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition to these wildlife species that are in COSEWIC risk categories, there are 14 wildlife species that are Extinct.

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three Non-government Science Members, and the Co-chairs of the Species Specialist and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittees.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

$3k Website Connects Farms to Restaurants, Creating Virtual Coop

from TreeHugger.com
by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

From beekeepers using the internet to fight colony collapse disorder, through crop mob and other new agrarians organizing online, to wireless soil sensors optimizing farm resources, a return to sustainable farming does not mean a rejection of what technology has to offer. Inspired by the death of his granddaughter, one retired telecommunications analyst has set about using the power of the internet to promote social justice, reverse the decline in small farming, and create a vibrant food economy for his community.

The Optimistic Futurist writes that 2010 Purpose Prize Winner Timothy Will was driven by high levels of rural unemployment and poverty in his community to bring about a revival of agrarian traditions, and he used the internet to do it. His first step was to ensure inclusion in the information economy, securing over $1.5 million to provide broadband internet to the rural Appalachian county in which he lives... read more at TreeHugger.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beef and Pork Farmers Partner to Support Insurance Program

Local Ontario farmers push to establish risk management program to protect themselves, taxpayers, consumers and local economies

GUELPH, Ontario, November 23, 2010 /Canda NewsWire/ - Today marks the official launch of Ontario Cattlemen's Association and Ontario Pork's joint campaign in support of a risk management program (RMP) for the beef and pork industries. Beef and pork farmers are striving to educate politicians and enlist the Provincial and Federal governments to partner with them in establishing insurance programs similar to the successful pilot program recently implemented by the Ontario Government for the Grains and Oilseeds industry.

Ontario's beef and pork industries are experiencing a severe downturn. Ontario's beef cow herd has declined 18.4% since the beginning of 2003 while sow herd has declined over 20% since 2007. This downturn is the result of several factors including BSE, H1N1, and a high Canadian dollar, bringing increased competition from imports. With multiple economic threats occurring over an extended period of time, the current AgriStability program alone is not enough to sustain these industries.

"We understand that a solution is needed now and for the future. Therefore farm groups from across the province are working together to discuss the best way to move forward," says Curtis Royal, President, Ontario Cattlemen's Association. "We have undertaken unprecedented consultations with our members and the broader farming community to shape our specific insurance programs, and it is clear that creating this plan is our members' number one priority."

Part of the province's broader farming community, Ontario's beef and pork farmers are ready to partner with the provincial and federal governments now to establish these insurance programs that would protect against market fluctuations and allow all partners to share and limit risk.

The proposed insurance program would see local Ontario farmers in the beef and pork industries pay premiums to the government representing 30% of the long-term cost of the insurance program on a voluntary basis. We are asking governments to participate according to the traditional 60/40 federal/provincial split and for the province to act immediately to kick start and fund their share of the program.

"Not only would the program offset the difference between the current market price and the average long-term cost of production, it would also eliminate the need for ad hoc government support for both the beef and pork industries in the future," says Wilma Jeffray, Chair, Ontario Pork. "We are encouraging many of our members to meet with their local MPs and MPPs and become ambassadors for these programs in their communities. In addition, members and the general public can visit the campaign website to learn more about the proposed insurance programs and to continue to show their support for Ontario's local beef and pork farmers and a strong local food supply."

The immediate focus of the joint campaign is to achieve a commitment from both the federal and provincial governments.

In September 2010, Ontario Pork and Ontario Cattlemen's Association presented their proposed insurance programs to Ontario's Minister of Agriculture for consideration. By partnering with Ontario's local farmers, the provincial and federal governments will help sustain local food production and strengthen the rural economy.

Ontario Pork and Ontario Cattlemen's Association have been working with the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Coalition (OASC) for the past year and continue to do so. In addition, the two associations have been working together for the past three months on finalizing their plans and are now prepared to move forward.

For more information, visit: www.beefporkrmp.ca.

Government's 'completely inadequate' plan on farm safety will leave workers at risk

Conservatives have clearly caved in to pressure from industry, says AFL

EDMONTON, November 23, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Alberta government announcement that it is forming an advisory council on farm safety is a stab in the back for all farm workers, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Once again, the government has chosen to waste a real opportunity to improve working conditions on farms and ranches," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 workers. "Once again, the government has chosen to listen to the agribusiness lobby and ignore the voices of working people, of safety advocates and even a provincial judge."

The move to create a council to advise the government on how to "enhance farm safety education and training" is an empty gesture. The government says the council will be co-chaired by industry and government, but no leadership role is given to workers or their advocates - the people whose lives are on the line.

"This council will be an industry-dominated joke. Following on Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk's refusal to act on recommendations to increase minimum wage, it shows just how little the minister is willing to do for our most vulnerable workers. Much like Energy Minister Ron Liepert's advisory committee on energy policy, it shows who really calls the shots in this province - big-business pressure groups," says McGowan.

Alberta remains the only province that maintains 19th century rules where farm workers are excluded from occupational health and safety laws, as well as legislation governing hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays, vacation pay, the right to refuse unsafe work, being informed of work-related dangers and compensation if they are injured on the job. In the nine years the Alberta government has said it is consulting on how to improve safety for agricultural workers, 160 people have died on farm worksites.

In 2008, after being asked by the Premier to investigate the workplace death of Kevan Chandler, Justice Peter Barley recommended that farm workers must be included in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to prevent future workplace injuries and deaths.

"Rather than take that obvious and simple step, we have an industry-dominated advisory body looking at education measures! It is completely inadequate and an absolute failure by the province to protect agricultural workers," says McGowan. "This is what you get when governments talk only to the business community and not to workers."

The government claims that work-related protections, such as employment standards and occupational health and safety rules, will punish family farms. That argument is not based on fact. Large agribusiness dominates the industry. Farms with income over $250,000 accounted for three-quarters of farm cash receipts in 2007.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Government of Canada Investing in Community Action to Preserve Local Habitat and Species at Risk on Ontario

LONDON, Ontario, November 5, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Joe Preston, Member of Parliament for Elgin—Middlesex—London, on behalf of the Government of Canada, today announced funding from the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. In total, $292,000 in federal funding will support environmental action focusing on conservation and protection of species at risk and their habitats, helping to preserve Canada's biodiversity.

"As part of the International Year of Biodiversity, we are pleased to support the work that our partners are doing to help conserve and protect our environment," said MP Preston. "The Habitat Stewardship Program funding announced today is a great example of how the Government of Canada is supporting community projects that will help improve the habitat of species at risk."

The Habitat Stewardship Program funding will enable the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority to enhance water quality and aquatic habitat. In collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and through the Thames River Aquatic Ecosystem Stewardship Initiative, softshell turtle and queensnake habitat will be created and maintained, and their nesting/birthing sites will be protected from human disturbance and destruction.

"Through Habitat Stewardship Program funding, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority has been able to focus efforts on a number of species at risk fish and reptiles, as well as source water protection and general habitat recovery," said Scott Gillingwater, species at risk biologist with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. "Despite the various threats affecting species at risk along the Thames River, great successes have been achieved through the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority's consistent and effective stewardship programs. Without Habitat Stewardship Program funding, such large-scale opportunities for species conservation would not have been possible."

The goal of the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk is to contribute to the recovery and protection of species listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern under the Species at Risk Act.

Projects that will receive funding this year include stewardship actions to conserve habitat for plant species at risk, negotiations with landowners to develop voluntary Land Care Agreements, targeted educational outreach efforts to reduce the entanglement of species at risk in fishing gear, and the enhancement of water quality and aquatic habitat on private lands to benefit aquatic species at risk. They will be undertaken with many partners such as agricultural producers, private landowners, and commercial fishers. These projects will benefit many species at risk, including the north Atlantic right whale, steller sea lion, swift fox, and small white leek.

The Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk is administered by Environment Canada and managed cooperatively with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency. More information on the Species at Risk Act and the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk can be found on the Internet at www.sararegistry.gc.ca or . http://www.ec.gc.ca/hsp-pih/default.asp?lang=En&n=59BF488F-1

For more information and to view a backgrounder on this announcement, please visit Environment Canada's website at www.ec.gc.ca.