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Jun
18
The Butcherbird is back!

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Regina, SK – June 17, 2019 – Have you seen a black and white bird about the size of a
robin, with a black mask and a hooked bill? If so, then you have spotted a Loggerhead Shrike (a.k.a. the Butcherbird)! They are perching on fence posts, utility wires and prominent branches in shelterbelts and shrub patches, hunting for prey to feed their newly hatched babies. Loggerhead Shrikes are migratory songbirds that return to the prairies in the spring from their wintering grounds in southern Texas and Mexico to raise a family.

In order to feed their hungry chicks, shrikes hunt for insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars as well as small rodents, such as mice and voles. Their practice of hunting prey often considered agricultural pests by landowners makes the shrike a great form of natural pest control. “The Loggerhead Shrike earned its reputation as a Butcherbird from its habit of impaling its prey on the barbs of fences and thorny shrubs, like butchers hanging a side of beef”, explains Shirley Bartz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator for Nature Saskatchewan. “Impaling their prey compensates for the shrike’s lack of talons (claws), which would allow them to hold their prey while tearing off edible bits, as do other birds of prey, such as falcons and hawks”.

The Loggerhead Shrike is most readily recognized by its black eye “mask” and distinctive high- pitched shriek given as an alarm call. It is slightly smaller than a robin and sports a black hooked beak, gray back, white belly, and black wings. White patches on the wings and tail make the Loggerhead Shrike easy to identify when flying. Loggerhead Shrikes can be found nesting in thorny shrubs such as hawthorn or buffaloberry, shelterbelts, occupied or abandoned farmsteads, golf courses and cemeteries.

Loggerhead Shrikes are listed as “Threatened” in the federal Species At Risk Act, and are
recognized as very rare in Saskatchewan. Nature Saskatchewan is asking anyone who sees a Loggerhead Shrike, or insects, rodents, frogs or snakes that are impaled on thorny shrubs or barbed wire fence, to please call our toll-free number at 1-800-667-4668. By reporting a sighting to Nature Saskatchewan’s Shrubs for Shrikes program, you are helping to monitor the shrike population, and providing valuable information for the conservation of this unique songbird. Any information provided is not shared without permission.

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For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:
Shirley Bartz (306) 780-9832, email outreach@naturesask.ca
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator

Melissa Ranalli (306) 780-9270, email mranalli@naturesask.ca
Species at Risk Manager

 

Photo credit: Randy McCulloch

Photo credit: Emily Putz


 

 

Jun
5
Strolling the Beaches with Piping Plovers!

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Regina, SK – June 10 2019 – Our chilly spring weather is finally gone, and summer temperatures mean it’s time to head to the beach… “But watch where you walk! Families of endangered Piping Plovers are out for a stroll too! It’s a great time to see them along the shores of our favourite beaches, but it’s also a time to be watchful. By mid-June, late nesters may still be incubating or have chicks out and about, making them vulnerable to trampling”, explains Shirley Bartz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “Piping Plovers’ best defence is camouflage. Nests are just a shallow depression lined with small stones, eggs look like speckled rocks, and chicks resemble sandy cotton balls on tiny stick legs. Although chicks can walk and run within hours of hatching, they are not able to fly for the first couple of weeks out of the nest,” adds Shirley. “So, to give Piping Plovers the best chance possible, we are asking beachgoers and anglers to keep watch around their feet and along shores such as Lake Diefenbaker.”

Piping Plovers are a small shorebird identified by their distinct markings – a black band on their forehead and a single black band around their neck. They also have a bright white belly, grey-brown backs, orange legs, and an orange beak with a black tip. Their look-a-like cousin is the Killdeer, which is larger, browner in colour, and has two black bands around their neck instead of one. “Like the Killdeer, Piping Plovers have a broken wing display: they pretend to be injured to attract potential predators (e.g., you!), and draw them away from their nest. But, it is all an act and the bird will fly back to its chicks once it has lured you far enough away”, says Shirley.

Piping Plovers will be increasing their fat stores until early August, in order to complete the 3,500 km flight back to the winter beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. “Since Saskatchewan has the highest numbers of breeding Piping Plovers in Canada, we feel a great responsibility to give these endangered shorebirds the best chance possible for breeding success before their long journey south,” says Shirley.

 

 

Nature Saskatchewan works with landowners and the public to monitor and conserve suitable shorelines. If you see a Piping Plover please call our toll-free Hoot Line at: 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email outreach@naturesask.ca.

 

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For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

           

Shirley Bartz (306) 780-9832, email outreach@naturesask.ca
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator           

 

Melissa Ranalli (306) 780-9270, email mranalli@naturesask.ca
Species at Risk Manager

         

Photo credit: David Krughoff

May
27
The Burrowing Owls are back and ready to unpack!

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Regina, SK - May 27, 2019 – After their long journey from the American Southwest and Mexico, Burrowing Owls have finally arrived at their summer home on the Prairies. With breeding season well underway, the endangered owls are now pairing up and selecting their nesting spots where they will soon be laying and incubating their eggs.

 

Finding prime real estate for their nest is critical and not always a simple task. According to Nature Saskatchewan’s Operation Burrowing Owl Coordinator, Kaytlyn Burrows, “Burrowing Owls love open areas of short grasslands with burrows for nesting.” Since they cannot dig their own burrows, Burrowing Owls must rely on those abandoned by badgers, Richardson’s ground squirrels (gophers), and other burrowing mammals. The owls also benefit from livestock grazing, which keeps the grass short enough for the owls to spot their predators.

 

These unique birds can be identified by their yellow eyes and the mottled pattern of their brown and white plumage. Their legs are also long and bare – giving them an appearance of walking on stilts. The juveniles can be recognized by their solid buff-coloured chests. Burrowing Owls are only slightly larger than a robin and have a height of about 9 inches. The owls are known as generalist predators, and as such they eat a wide variety of small animals. This may include mice, voles, snakes, and insects. “Over the course of a summer, one owl family can consume up to 1,800 rodents and 7,000 insects!” says Burrows. For this reason, Burrowing Owls act as excellent pest control.

 

Unfortunately, the population of Burrowing Owls continues to decline. There were an estimated 795 mature individuals in Canada in 2004, but the 2015 estimate suggests there are now only 270 Burrowing Owls remaining in Canada.

 

There are a number of ways to contribute to the conservation of these owls. Landowners can voluntarily participate in Operation Burrowing Owl and conserve owl habitat as well as monitor the species on their land.

 

“Without the voluntary efforts of landowners, land managers, and the general public, recovery of this unique prairie owl would not be possible,” says Burrows. She encourages the public to “get out there this summer and explore, you never know what you will find.” If you spot a Burrowing Owl, please call Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free HOOT Line, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email obo@naturesask.ca. “When you report a sighting you are playing a very important role in Burrowing Owl recovery. Every sighting is critical!” says Burrows. Information given is never shared without permission.

 

For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

 

Kaytlyn Burrows (306) 780-9833, email obo@naturesask.ca
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator

 

Melissa Ranalli (306) 780-9270, email mranalli@naturesask.ca
Species at Risk Manager

 

Photo credit: Marla Anderson

 

May
22
Last Mountain Bird Observatory is open for the season and migration is in full swing!

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We set up our mist nets in Last Mountain Regional Park on Sunday May 5, to kick of the 28th consecutive spring. On our opening day we caught a variety of birds. The most common were Myrtle Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow. As our week wore on, we caught an increasing diversity of birds! Some of our highlights include Palm Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Photo credit: Jordan Rustad

 

During our second week, we caught mostly thrushes and sparrows. We caught Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Hermit Thrush. The majority of sparrows we caught were White-throated Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow, but we also had Harris Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Clay-coloured Sparrow, and Chipping Sparrow!

 

Gray-cheeked Thrush. Photo credit: Jordan Rustad

 

We’ve also been catching a number of American Robins and Tree Swallows that are breeding in the park! We even caught a surprise Brown Creeper! We don’t see very many of these guys, and they don’t get caught in the net very often. We also saw our first Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the season. It was a gorgeous male, and a school group that were visiting us got to hear it sing.

There are also more than just songbirds moving through. We have seen many ducks and grebes show up. I personally added a lifer to my list. I’ve been trying to see White-winged Scoters for the past three years, but they only pass through infrequently and I was never at the station when they were. This year I finally conquered my nemesis bird and saw three scoters out on the lake.

To add to the excitement of opening week, the station was also host to a World Migratory Bird Day event, and we had tons of great groups visit our station and tour the mist nets (90 participants). Not only did the groups get to watch birds being banded and learn about the process, but they even got banded themselves.

 

 

Shelly Fisher, volunteer bander, releasing a banded bird on World Migratory Bird Day. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus

 

Local Girl Guide group showing off their bands. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus

 

Our first week has had some great highlights, and we’re looking forward to the next birds to come. May the flocks be with you!

Jordan Rustad

May
9
World Migratory Bird Day At Last Mountain Bird Observatory

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Regina, SK – May 6, 2019 – The Last Mountain Bird Observatory (LMBO), located in
Last Mountain Regional Park, 15km West of Govan opens on May 6th for the spring
season. The observatory is open in the spring and fall of each year to monitor the
number and species of migrating songbirds and to offer educational opportunities to the
public. Visitors of all ages are welcome in May, August and September from 9 am to 1
pm each day to see bird species up close and observe catching, handling and banding
techniques.


Nature Saskatchewan would like to invite you to join our celebration of the return of our
migratory birds on Saturday May 11, 2019 at the LMBO. Come out and join us for a fun
filled day of bird activities! This year the theme of World Migratory Bird Day is “Protect
Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!” and will put the spotlight on the impact of
plastic pollution on migratory birds and their habitats. The day begins at 8am in Regina
with a free bus leaving for LMBO. Participants will spend the morning rotating through
different stations including: Bird banding, where participants will get an up close
experience with the birds. Mist Netting, watching as we extract birds from the net, age
them, sex them, and band them. A Migration Obstacle Course, where participants will
experience the challenges associated with migration by having to migrate from Mexico to
Canada. Nature crafts including bird feeders and bird masks. Saskatchewan Breeding
Bird Atlas will lead bird watching walks throughout the park. Take the waste and
recycling sorting challenge with the City of Regina and see if you're a super sorter!
Explore the National Wildlife Area interpretive trailer. A free BBQ lunch will be provided
at 12:30 pm. To honor this year’s theme, we will participant in a shoreline cleanup in the
afternoon before departing on the bus at 2:30pm for Regina arriving at 4pm
Everyone is welcome to join us for our Bird Day celebration. Please RSVP for the event
by May 8th. Media is welcome to come out to the Observatory to observe the catching
and banding of birds, as well as have a tour of the facility. Please call Nature
Saskatchewan for more information.


For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:
Rebecca Magnus (306) 780-9481, email rmagnus@naturesask.ca
NS Conservation and Education Manager
Nature Saskatchewan
 

May
6
50 years of the Saskatoon Bluebird Trail

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Written by and posted with permission by: Greg Fenty, Saskatoon Nature Society

 

In 1942 Isabel Priestly founded the Blue Jay. This journal of natural history and conservation for Saskatchewan and adjacent areas continues to be published four times a year. Priestly was a strong promoter of the Junior Audubon Societies and she included a Junior Naturalists section in the Blue Jay. This gave youth the opportunity to share their interests and observations and contribute to our understanding of the natural world. One of the first conservation projects undertaken by these Junior Naturalists was the establishment of Bluebird Trails. Mountain Bluebirds were in decline due to changes in its habitat and introduced species such as the House Sparrow and Starling. One method of helping the bluebirds was to build nest boxes and place them out along a country road. The nest boxes are monitored and the population numbers are used by scientists to chart the population trends in the species.

In 1961 Jack Lane and his Brandon Junior Naturalists began the Prairie Bluebird Trail. Jack Lane’s trail extended roughly from Winnipeg to Broadview. In 1963 Lone Scott, then a grade 10 student at Indian Head, connected his trail to Lane’s. This extended the trail west to approximately Raymore. Then in 1968, 12 year-old Ray Bisha moved to Saskatoon from Brandon along with Mike and Rod Bantjes from Yorkton. The boys convinced Mary Houston and Stuart Houston (who, in 1942 was a grade 9 student and an active executive member of the fledgling Yorkton Natural History Society) to start a Junior Naturalists Society in Saskatoon. With Stuart and Mary Houston as the “adult advisors” the Saskatoon Junior Natural History Society began. Their conservation project was the Bluebird Trail. In 1969, inspired by success of Lorne Scott’s trail, the Saskatoon Junior Naturalists built 270 birdhouses and created a trail over 200 km long to connect with Scott’s trail at Raymore. Over the next few years the number of houses grew to 450 and connected with Jack Kargut’s trail west of Saskatoon. The Prairie Bluebird Trail now extended from Winnipeg almost all the way to North Battleford. Mary Houston supervised and banded the birds along the Saskatoon portion of the trail. From 1969 to 1998 Mary banded over 6500 bluebirds. By the time she “retired” from the Bluebird Trail in 2009 the number grew to 8028 bluebirds banded. (Mary also banded Tree Swallows along the trail. The Birds of the Saskatoon Area indicates that she banded well over 15,000 Tree Swallows along the trail). Replicating Mary’s energy and enthusiasm for the Bluebird Trail was not easy. It must be noted that it took four people to replace Mary (Melanie Elliott, Jan Shadick, Tim Haughian, and Greg Fenty) as the trail banders. 

The Bluebird Trail remains a major activity of the Junior Naturalists. Today, the name has changed to the Young Naturalists and they continue to participate in a variety of nature activities. Greg Fenty and Kyron Giroux have taken on the task of banding bluebirds and Tree Swallows as part of the Young Naturalists program. 

Many of the adults who have volunteered to co-ordinate the Junior Naturalists were once youth members of a nature society. They know future conservation requires the nurturing of children’s curiosity with the natural world. Special thanks to the Houston's, Bruce Donovan, Nigel Caulkett, Ron Jensen, Robin Cohen, Ross Barclay, Bob Green, Guy Wapple, and Nancy Young for their dedication to the Junior Naturalists program over the past 50 years.

 

Apr
5
Can Pacific Albany Project Potash Mine – Open Comment Period

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Nature Saskatchewan has some concern over a proposed Potash Mine southeast of Regina and north of Sedley. We are asking our members and supporters to email short letters to environmental.assessment@gov.sk.ca by April 15, 2019 (deadline comment period).

A proposed mine site and drilling activity is planned for a large area which encompasses thousands of acres of native and tame grasslands, wetlands and riparian areas along Wascana Creek. There are large tracts of cultivated land in the area that should be used for development.  Nature Saskatchewan is not opposed to the Can Pacific Albany Project potash mine but want to protect the highly fragmented natural areas from further impact.

 

Some points to mention in your letters are:

  1. No construction and development on or near grasslands, wetlands and riparian areas along Wascana Creek.
  2. Development activities should not occur on natural landscapes but be moved to cultivated fields where the impact on the natural environment will be greatly reduced.
  3. Some 150 species of wildlife were documented during the environmental assessment.
  4. Species at Risk within the area include; Sprague's Pipit, Loggerhead Shrike, Ferruginous Hawk, Long-billed Curlew and Leopard Frog.
  5. We have already lost over 86% of our natural grassland ecosystem in southern Saskatchewan. Every effort should be made to avoid the further loss of these vanishing habitats.
  6. Be clear that you would like to ensure that no development will occur on any natural landscapes.

We encourage you to use your own words in your email to the province. You do not need to mention all of these points. It would be useful to include a sentence or two on why the grassland landscape is important to you, that would be very useful. Your letter does not need to be long and detailed. What counts is the number of responses received by the province.

 

If you have any questions, please contact;

 

Jordan Ignatiuk, Nature Saskatchewan Executive Director
306-780-9293  or jignatiuk@naturesask.ca
           

Or

 

Lorne Scott, Nature Saskatchewan Conservation Director
306-695-2047 or 306-695-7458

 

 

 

Mar
25
Something for Everyone: Nature Event at Saltcoats

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By Kathy Morrell

Join the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA) on April 13, 2019 at the Saltcoats Community Hall for the 2019 Nature Event.

Details and information:

12:30 Doors open

1:00   Presentations

                Dr. L. Robbin Lindsay: Ticks, Talk and Related Diseases

                Kristen Gabora: The Great Trail

                Joan Feather: Birds of Saskatchewan, publication of Nature Saskatchewan

                Ryan Fisher: To be announced

 

 Banquet to follow

 

Additional: sharing of nature photos, raffle draw, nature/bird book exchange

 

For registration, please go to the YFBTA website www.yfbta.com

 


Everything about ticks

“Ticks are my life.” said Dr. L. Robbin Lindsay, presenter at the upcoming YFBTA event at the Saltcoats Hall.

Lindsay is a research scientist at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Brandon. He studies different kinds of ticks and how their populations have changed over time.

“The deer (black-legged) tick is present now in places never seen before,” he continued. This tick, the one that causes Lyme Disease, has increased its range over the past decades.

Despite that, the risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan is low. According to a recent article published in the Leader-Post, the province has collected 25,000 ticks since 2009. Only 65 were deer ticks and of that number only eight tested positive for the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease.

The other types of tick found in the province include the dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the winter tick. They are more a nuisance than a public health issue.

“Still,” Lindsay added, “it is wise to know how to dress for tick season and how to remove a tick if it becomes embedded. It’s all about prevention and control.”

 

Everything about The Great Trail    

The Great Trail is a network connecting more than 15,000 communities across Canada. According to its website, it “is the longest recreational trail in the world…It offers a variety of landscapes – urban, rural and wilderness, along greenways, waterways and roadways.”

Volunteers came up with the idea of a trail that would stretch across the country nearly twenty-five years ago. It was completed coast-to-coast in 2017.

“My hope is that people get out and experience what The Great Trail has to offer,” said Kristen Gabora, Trail Development Manager for Central Canada for the Trans Canada Trail (TCT).

In recent years, there has been a change in names. TransCanada Trail is the national organization that works with local groups, provincial parks, First Nations and municipalities, the actual owners and operators of their particular sections of the trail. TCT does not own the land on which the trail is located. Rather, its role is to promote the use of The Great Trail and offer grants for maintenance, signage and trail enhancement.

“One of our most recent projects was the completion of the boardwalk at the Ravine Ecological Preserve in Yorkton,” Gabora explained. “It is a unique structure that can withstand the weather and flooding.”

The venture was a partnership with the City of Yorkton. TCT granted $35,000 to the project while the City agreed to contribute an additional amount to a maximum of $65,000.

“The Great Trail gives residents and tourists the opportunity to be physically active in the outdoors,” said Randy Goulden, Executive-Director of Tourism Yorkton. In addition to the trail, visitors can tour the site of the homestead of the Dulmage family, early settlers in the Yorkton area.”

At the Spring Event, Kristen Gabora will tell the story of The Great Trail, not everything as the title might suggest. After all, the trail is 24,000 kilometers long. Her presentation will provide information about the trail in general and nearby sections in particular.

 

Everything about Saskatchewan Birds

Birds of Saskatchewan tells you nearly everything you ever wanted to know about the birds of the province. This book describes the 437 bird species ever found here, advocates for stewardship of the environment and provides a benchmark against which these species can be assessed in the future. It is a collection of the best in Saskatchewan’s birding photography.

But more than that, this ten-year project illustrates the commitment of those in the birding community. A bequest to Nature Saskatchewan from Manley Callin paid for the costs of layout, professional editing and printing Everything else was the work of volunteers.

One hundred and seven volunteer writers compiled the available research and wrote the text. Birders submitted 6000 photographs. Frank Roy of Saskatoon headed up the committee who reduced that number to the more than one thousand used in the book.

Alan R. Smith, Frank Roy and Stuart Houston were volunteer editors for the project. Houston is well-known in the area as a bird bander and writer. He began his study of birds as a boy in Yorkton. He and his wife Mary have banded more than 150,000 individual birds of 211 species.

Yorkton area birders made contributions to the text. They include Bill Anaka, Rob Wilson, and Frank Switzer.

Bill Anaka, with his long-time friend Stuart Houston, compiled their birding observations and research into the well-respected Birds of Yorkton-Duck Mountain (2003). The information they collected was used as one fact source in this new publication. Though Anaka died in 2017, his work lives on in Birds of Saskatchewan.

“This volume represents decades of observation and research,” said Joan Feather who will facilitate a Q and A about the book at the YFBTA event.

After retiring from a career at the University of Saskatchewan in Community Health Research, Feather became active in the Saskatoon Nature Society and Nature Saskatchewan. She has served as president of the Saskatoon group and on the board of Nature Saskatchewan.

 

 

Mar
14
Birds In Real Danger, Saskatoon (B.I.R.D.S.)

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Reprinted from the Saskatoon Nature Society Newsletter March 2019:

BIRDS grew out of a communal desire to protect our feathered friends, and became
a partnership between the Saskatoon Nature Society, Wild Birds Unlimited,
Saskatchewan Light Pollution Abatement Committee, and Living Sky Wildlife
Rehabilitation.


We are all passionate about birds and recognize the threats to birds from flying into
glass structures. Over 699 million birds are killed by glass in North America each
year according to the FLAP Canada.


BIRDS has been actively advocating for bird safety since its inception last year. We
have a 6 foot banner that attracts attention at community events and encourages
conversation and awareness of the problem and possible solutions. It is on display
at Beaver Creek when not otherwise in use.


Jan Shadick gave a well-attended presentation about bird collisions at Gardenscape
last year. She will give another presentation this year. All partners have attended
City meetings and advocated for implementation of bird-friendly building
guidelines.


Progress has been positive! The City of Saskatoon, the University, and MVA have
taken steps to implement some of the ideas and suggestions from the Director of
FLAP (Michael Mesure).


1. The University has added “Dots” to windows on new overhead walkways to
reduce bird collisions.
2. MVA has placed “dots” on their windows at Beaver Creek, and has plans to place
them on their downtown office building. They have also included a more rigorous
assessment of buildings for bird-friendly design during their review process.
3. The City of Saskatoon has begun to develop Bird-Friendly Building Guidelines in
accordance with recommendations from FLAP. After consulting with LSWR, FLAP
and other partners, they are publishing a Healthy Yards pamphlet with tips for
homeowners to help protect birds from collisions with glass. It will be ready for
visitors to Gardenscape and will later be distributed as an electric bill insert
throughout the city.


Never in our wildest dreams did we believe that we could make such a significant
difference in community attitudes within such a short time span.

Mar
6
Lend your voice

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Below you will find a letter to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change calling for an environmental assessment of agricultural drainage in Saskatchewan and the province's Agricultural Water Management Strategy.
This letter contains an appendix highlighting the scientific facts of why this drainage is so bad for us, future generations, Indigenous peoples, our neighbors and the environment.
 
We encourage you to take the time to read the document and also ask that you  show your support by signing the Federal E-Petition at 
 
If you have any questions or concerns on this important environmental issue or would like additional information please contact:
 
Jeff Olson
Executive Director
Citizens Environmental Alliance
cea.sask.2018@gmail.com