Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Disinformation ruins the conversation on fertilizer policy, MPs say

The National Observer

Pervasive disinformation around Canada’s voluntary fertilizer reduction plan makes it hard to have a rational discussion on this critical topic, Green and NDP MPs say.



Investigation reveals Poilievre, populist and pro-natural gas groups spread fertilizer disinformation to whip up outrage against Trudeau

The National Observer

Last month, a video was posted to Pierre Poilievre's Facebook page accusing the federal government of causing high food prices and driving farmers to ruin. The post on the Tory leader’s page laid the blame on "proposed fertilizer cuts" that would force Canadians into an "irresponsible" reliance on expensive imported food.

The video was misleading. Story here.


Saturday, September 17, 2022

Conservative premiers betray feds with fertilizer disinformation


The National Observer

Days after signing a landmark $2.5-billion deal with the provinces and territories to subsidize Canada's farmers, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she was betrayed by a cadre of conservative premiers. The leaders of the three Prairie provinces, who had supported the pact, echoed a far-right disinformation campaign linked to Canada's Freedom Convoy movement telling farmers the feds were going to force them to drastically curb fertilizer use. 

Details here.

Saskatchewan farmland, new serfdom

By Dennis Gruending

A PinP photo.

A man being described as a “farm czar,” owns 225,000 acres of Saskatchewan farmland. That is equal to the size of about 125 farms based on the average farm size in the province. 

Is that what we want for rural Canada? Story here.


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Nitrogen Fertilizer: New Report Takes Big-Picture Look

A farm fertilizer plant in Brandon, MB. Photo by Larry Powell.

SASKATOON, Sask: The National Farmers Union (NFU) recently released a report entitled Nitrogen Fertilizer: Critical Nutrient, Key Farm Input, and Major Environmental Problem.  The report takes a big-picture look at nitrogen fertilizer, details its many benefits and also its negative impacts, and makes the case for optimizing rather than maximizing tonnage.  

The report examines the path governments and farmers must navigate as we make our way toward Canada’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-reduction commitments.  The report is the NFU’s submission to the federal government’s consultations on its target to reduce fertilizer-related emissions by 30%.

GHG emissions from Canadian agriculture and farm input manufacturing are up by one-third since 1990.  The primary cause is rising emissions from nitrogen fertilizer production and use.  Darrin Qualman, NFU Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action, commented: “These upward trends in emissions from agriculture and fertilizer are incompatible with Canada’s commitment to reduce economy-wide emissions by 40% by 2030.”

Nitrogen fertilizer is a crucial and valuable farm input that most farmers will continue to use.  But rapid increases in nitrogen tonnage in Canada and around the world are creating problems.  Canadian tonnage has almost doubled since 2006; Saskatchewan tonnage has quadrupled since 1992.  Qualman noted: “GHG emissions won’t go down if fertilizer tonnage continues to go up.”

He underscored the voluntary nature of the government’s 30% reduction target for fertilizer-related emissions, saying: “Contrary to rhetoric from some, governments are not proposing bans or forced reductions; governments are using incentives and cost-sharing programs to get farmers onside with voluntary efficiency measures and rate reductions.  Federal and provincial governments have allocated hundreds-of-millions of dollars to fund these voluntary cost-share programs.  And as governments help farmers use fertilizer more efficiently, farmers’ costs can go down and their margins can go up.”

The NFU report also details lack of competition in the fertilizer sector and potential profiteering. “Record-high fertilizer prices and company profits cut deep into farmers’ incomes.  We can reduce farmers’ dependence and vulnerability and reduce emissions at the same time,” said Qualman.

He concludes: “Defending fertilizer is not the same as defending farmers.  Fertilizer companies prosper when they sell as much as possible.  Farmers prosper when they use only as much as necessary.”

—30—

For more information:

Darrin Qualman, Director of Climate Crisis Policy & Action

(306) 230-9115

qualman@nfu.ca

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Spring forward: Changing climate’s early winter wakeup call is a buzz kill for bumblebees

Biology Dep't. - University of Ottawa

Bee on scarlet-runner bean. A PinP photo.


Climate change is waking bumblebees earlier from winter hibernation, putting the species at risk with impact on human agricultural crops

New research from the University of Ottawa has found the earlier arrival of spring in parts of North America negatively impacts bumblebee survival, which could potentially threaten bee-pollinated agricultural crops and other plant sources.

Published in Biological Conservation, this paper is among the first to study climate change’s influence on seasonal weather changes in relation to bumblebees. Researchers from the Faculty of Science found the bees are not correspondingly shifting their activity timing earlier in the year, threatening their ability to find food sources or causing bees to miss out on them altogether.

“This study represents crucial groundwork for understanding that climate can impact the seasonal timing of biological events,” says lead author Olga Koppel, a PhD student in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Biology.

“Bumblebee survival is strongly in our best interest, as we rely heavily on bee-pollinated agricultural crops, including vegetables, fruits, and even clothing fibres such as cotton. The over 40 bumblebee species that are native to North America provide this invaluable economic service.”

Climate change is being linked to global biodiversity decline and its impact on species is a quickly growing field of research. Climate change increases the likelihood of earlier spring onset and flowering in many areas including spring plants, wild plants and trees. These are a necessary food source for winter hibernating bumblebee queens, who search for pollen and nectar after waking up hungry in need of energy.

Being able to match the timing of floral resources gives bumblebee species an edge. Survival, however, for those emerging from hibernation before the arrival of spring flowers – their main food source –is unlikely and leads to smaller colonies with lower odds of persisting in that area the following year. Bumblebees who sync with the changing timing of spring take full advantage of the season’s floral resources and are more likely to persist over time.

Lead authors Koppel and Jeremy Kerr, a Full Professor and Chair in the Department of Biology, examined the relationship between climate and bumblebee spring emergence in a database of specimens from museum collections across North America, comprising 21 species and 17,000 individuals. The authors found climate strongly explained variation in spring emergence timing in 15 of the 21 bumblebee species.

“This research has demonstrated that bumblebee emergence timing can be biased heavily in the direction of climate changes, which has implications for similar research on other species, as well as for the urgent conservation of these valuable pollinator species,” says Koppel. “This study provides a roadmap for evaluating large-scale temporal responses to climate change for many insects and other animals.”


Friday, September 2, 2022

Fishing equipment feeding North Pacific Garbage Patch  - Canada shamefully contributes its share

Scientific Report 

A small number of industrialised fishing nations are contributing the majority of floating plastic waste in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, reports a new paper published in Scientific Report. The findings highlight the important role fishing industries play in both contributing to and solving the problem of oceanic plastic pollution.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch (NPGP) is a large mass of plastics floating in the North Pacific subtropical gyre (a system of ocean currents). Previous expeditions have suggested that fishing nets, ropes and larger plastic fragments may form up to three quarters of the objects in the region.

Plastic Research at The Ocean Cleanup, analysing the items caught by System 001/B in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, looking for clues on origin based on language and country codes. Credit: The Ocean Cleanup.

Laurent Lebreton and colleagues analysed 573 kilograms of debris (consisting of 6,093 items larger than 5 centimetres) collected from the North Pacific subtropical gyre during an expedition between June and November 2019. The debris was collected from latitudes between 33.0 and 35.1 degrees North and longitudes between 143.0 and 145.6 degrees West. The plastic debris pieces were inspected for evidence of their country of origin, such as language, company name or logo. The authors also modelled how plastic debris may enter the ocean using ocean current data.


Samples of plastic caught in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by System 002, the most recent iteration of our ocean cleaning system: a crate (with visible Japanese text), eel traps and nets are all visible, all of which originate from fishing activities. Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Although 33% of the debris were unidentifiable fragments, the second largest category of objects (26%) was fishing equipment such as fish boxes, oyster spacers, and eel traps. Plastic floats and buoys made up 3% of the objects, but accounted for 21% of the total mass. The authors report that, for the 232 plastic objects where the origin could be identified, 33.6% (78) were from Japan, 32.3% (75) were from China, and 9.9% (23) were from South Korea. A further 6.5% (15) of such objects originated from the USA, 5.6% (13) from Taiwan, and 7.3% (11) from Canada. The authors report that, according to their models, plastic debris in the NPGP was more than ten times more likely to originate from fishing activities rather than land-based activities. They note that most of the identified countries contributing to the plastic debris have industrialised fishing.

These findings highlight the need for transparency from the fishing industry and strengthened cooperation between countries to regulate waste management on board fishing vessels and monitor abandoned fishing gear in the oceans, according to the authors.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Climate science: Greenland ice sheet to contribute over 270mm to sea-level rise

Nature Climate Change

The overall loss of ice from the Greenland ice sheet — alongside increasing precipitation, ice flow discharge and meltwater runoff — will lead to at least 274 mm in sea-level rise, regardless of future climate warming projections, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.

The glaciologist team setting up an automatic weather station on the snowy surface above the snow line during the melt season. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Greenland’s ice budget deficit emerged after the 1980s when it began losing more ice, due to surface melt runoff and ice flow discharge, than it gained in the accumulation of precipitation. However, despite its importance to future sea-level rise, the ability to accurately predict Greenland’s response to climate change is hindered by the imprecise measurements of land, atmosphere and ocean boundaries in current models.

Professor Jason Box taking ice samples standing on exposed ice below the snow line of the Greenland Ice Sheet in West Greenland during the melt season. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Using climate data from 2000 to 2019, Jason Box and colleagues calculated the committed changes in ice-sheet volume and area incurred by Greenland’s ice imbalance. The authors reveal that surface ablation through meltwater runoff was the primary driver of the variability of the Greenland ice sheet mass budget from year to year. 

In the recent (2000–2019) climate, the Greenland ice has built up a disequilibrium which will inevitably correct itself by reducing total mass by at least 3.3 percent in order to regain equilibrium at a new average snow line in a higher alteration. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Losses from the ice sheet will already lead to a rise of at least 274 mm in sea level from 5,900 km2 of ice retreat — equivalent to a volume loss of 3.3% — regardless of future climate scenarios.
.
The minimum global sea level rise and likely global sea level rise resulting from the committed mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

If the high melt year of 2012 is considered to be indicative of normal in the future, then ice loss and consequent sea-level rises could be committed to 782 mm, which the authors conclude should act as a warning for Greenland’s future, as temperatures rise in the twenty-first century.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

North American boreal trees show a decline in the survival of saplings in response to warming or reduced rainfall.

Nature 

Four separate papers exploring how forests and tree species respond to global changes — such as rising temperatures — are published in Nature this week. The studies highlight some of the challenges forests in North America and the Amazon may face in response to climate change.

Temperate deciduous tree with a dendrometer band, of the type used in the study, in the ForestGEO plot at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA.
Credit: Kristina J. Anderson-Teixeira

A study of nine North American boreal tree species, including maples, firs, spruces and pines, shows a decline for all species in the survival of saplings in response to warming or reduced rainfall. In a five-year open-air field experiment, Peter Reich and colleagues found that fir, spruce and pine species abundant in southern boreal forests had the largest reductions in growth and survival due to changes in climate. 

Temperate deciduous tree with a dendrometer band, of the type used in the study, in the ForestGEO plot at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA.Credit: Kristina J. Anderson-Teixeira

However, the species that experienced lower rates of mortality and were more likely to experience growth in response to warming, such as maples, are rarer in southern boreal forests and are unlikely to expand their distribution in this region fast enough to compensate for regeneration failure of the current dominant species.

 An otherwise barren, unnamed valley in the west-central Brooks Range of Alaska, USA, supports a population of boreal white spruce that likely provides the seeds carried many kilometers away by winter wind to germinate in Arctic tundra. Credit: Roman Dial

In another paper, Roman Dial and colleagues describe the northward migration of a North American population of white spruce (Picea glauca) into the Arctic tundra, unoccupied by this species for millennia, at a rate of more than 4 km per decade. The authors found that increasing temperatures together with winter winds, deeper snowpack and increased soil nutrient availability have supported this treeline advance. They argue that increasing Arctic tree cover could lead to a decrease in the habitat available for migratory species and a redistribution of carbon stores.

Two white spruce trees, each probably under 30 years old, overlook a remote tundra valley in northwest Alaska, USA. Recent climate warming, winter winds, and an increasing deep snowpack are facilitating the colonization of Arctic tundra by this boreal species. The trekking pole is one meter long. Credit: Roman Dial

Kristina Anderson-Teixeira and colleagues paired dendrometer band measurements with 207 tree-ring chronologies from 108 forests across temperate deciduous forests of eastern North America. They found that warmer spring temperatures advance the timing of stem growth but have little effect on total annual stem growth. The authors suggest that barring rapid acclimation of these forests to warming conditions, they are unlikely to sequester increasing amounts of carbon as temperatures rise.

In this picture at the Ely site (one of two of the experiment) we see one of the ambient plot in the foreground and some heated plots in the background.  All plants are in the process of fall senescence with slowly developing differentiation in plant senescence between ambient (and the research plots surrounding vegetation) and warmed plots due to the effect warming has on plant phenology.

Finally, Hellen Fernanda Viana Cunha and colleagues show that limitations in the availability of phosphorous directly impact the productivity of the Amazon forest by restricting its responses to CO2 fertilization. This may potentially affect forest resilience to climate change.



Saturday, July 30, 2022

More hogs, more problems for Manitobans

Letter to the Brandon Sun

I am a first-generation Canadian, born and raised on a Manitoba farm in the 1930s.

I did not take up farming as my livelihood. However, I did learn to recognize that farm life can be extremely rewarding in so many different ways. I also learned to appreciate and realize that water and nature (environment) were to be treated with the utmost respect and courtesy and with a sense of dignity.

Now retired, I, along with so many, have become very concerned and worried how those once-valued principles have deteriorated and crumbled.

Corporations and their investors have taken over, interested only in benefiting from the current unsustainable economic activity. Huge hog producing factories threaten our health, our water and our environment.

Part of the problem is that our economy, our governments and our society does not account for the social and environmental consequences that are being experienced and inflicted upon the communities and our precious water sources.

The rivers of yesterday (in Manitoba) provided a means of transportation, a source of food and clean water. Today, the rivers are regarded, for the most part, as handy and open-air sewers — someplace to dump the leftovers.

All but our most northern and isolated water sources are being affected. Lake Winnipeg, the 10th-largest fresh water lake in the world, has become a huge sewage lagoon and is dying.

Now, the rural people of Manitoba have a common purpose that brings them together to face a shared enemy and the malignant forces of the expansionism of corporations and industries. For the people now have come to realize that the future of our generations is at stake, and the risks cannot be tolerated any longer.

I agree with a competitive and profitable agriculture industry, but never at the expense of our health, our waters and the environment.

Feeding the world with pork and exploiting and destroying our finite resources in the process is just not acceptable. In fact, it is very irresponsible, ignorant and immoral.

It seems to me that Mother Nature is literally screaming about the impact that we are putting on her, yet we think wistfully of what has been lost and dismiss it as “the price of progress.”

It’s about time we started to put moral ethics back into our present-day society. Also, it’s about time we started redefining “progress.”

JOHN FEFCHAK

Virden MB

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Hog Watch Manitoba Supports Goals of Convicted Animal Rights Advocates

Big Industry Hiding the Truth

 

Let the Public See How Pigs Are Housed

 

(Winnipeg July 14,2022) – Hog Watch Manitoba supports the goals of Amy Sorrano and Nick Schafer, convicted animal rights activists. They have asked that cameras be installed in intensive confinement hog barns in order to monitor how pigs are being treated in these huge facilities.

 

Currently, there is no way for the public or concerned citizens to ensure that pigs are being treated humanely or to even understand how the pigs are being raised.

 

Entry into the barns is tightly controlled for biosecurity and public relation reasons.

 

“The hog industry has good reason to keep their barn doors tightly closed” says Vicki Burns, Hog Watch Manitoba Steering committee member, “They know that many of the public would be disgusted by how these animals are forced to live, crammed in with hundreds of animals, above pits of their urine and feces, breathing in toxic gases rising from the manure pits.”

 

Hog Watch Manitoba advocates for the industry to shift to more humane conditions for the animals which includes fewer animals housed together and straw-based barns. The manner in which the animals are housed now amounts to institutionalized cruelty because of the lifelong chronic suffering the animals experience, never getting outside, no straw or pasture to root in, tails docked because of being tightly packed in with other pigs, adult female pigs confined in gestation stalls their entire adult lives.

 

Hog Watch Manitoba does not support criminal activities but efforts to show the public how pigs are kept is essential to shifting consumers and the industry away from factory raised pork.

 


“ If the public knew the facts, as consumers they may make different purchasing choices and that’s bad news for the hog industry. Cruelty to support profits is not acceptable. Positive  changes can be made in the housing of pigs and still have a viable industry”.

 

-30-

 

For more information contact:

 

Vicki Burns , Hog Watch Manitoba Steering Committee

204-489-3852      vickiburns@mts.net

 

Bill Massey  , Hog Watch Manitoba Steering Committee

204-461-3468   wmassey@highspeedcrow.ca

 

Alternatives to factory model of hog production:

 

·       Animals housed in barns with straw bedding and having access to outside pastures, no liquid manure slurry system

·       Fewer animals per barn

·       No antibiotics in animal feed. Only antibiotics administered if the animal is sick and has been prescribed by a veterinarian

·       Examples of alternative systems  - Xaletto Straw housing System Germany - Xaletto: the economic management system for closed houses with straw bedding - Big Dutchman

Joel Salatin, Polyface Farms Joel Salatin's SECRETS to raising PIGS for LAND REGENERATION & PROFIT - Bing video



Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A Quebec hog operation found keeping pigs in faeces and filth

National Observer


In the early hours of Dec. 7, 2019, members of the social justice group Rose’s Law entered a barn through an unlocked door at the Porgreg pig breeding facility in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que. Inside, they videotaped vile conditions. Seven hours later, they were arrested. Story here.




Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Thousands of Acres Awash in Hog Manure

 Hogs at the tail end of misguided provincial planning allowing intensive hog operations on flood plains. 

 “Where is the wisdom allowing these type of operations to be built on flood plains” says Janine Gibson long time member of HOG WATCH who resides among the heaviest concentration of these operations in Southeastern Manitoba. 

As a known flood plain, the Red River Valley experienced severe floods in 1997, 2009, 2011 and now again, this year.

“What on earth was the province thinking when the moratorium was lifted to allow these massive hog operations to further expand. Now we face increasing amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen into the watershed,” she adds.

In 2017 the provincial Conservative government removed key sections in the Environment Act that restricted new hog barn development on known floodplains.

Recent aerial photos from HOG WATCH  clearly show hog operations and fields within a vast sea of water covering thousands of acres routinely used for hog manure spread fields. HOG WATCH members touring some of the flooded areas were assaulted by the stench of hog manure as it washed over the flooded land. 

Bill Massey, who raises sustainable pigs for private use and has been contesting a large hog operation in Rock Lake Colony near Grosse Isle Manitoba for over 18 years, says the math is simple;

“Much of the manure spread last Fall will be carried away this spring as soils become saturated. Phosphorus and nitrogen have not had time to be taken up by any crops and tons will be carried into our rivers and lakes as well as other bacteria, feeding toxic blue-green algae blooms this summer.”

Typically hog manure is either injected into the soil or spread onto fields as nutrients for crops. Excessive manure can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli or and viruses causing groundwater contamination and fish kills.

Janie Gibson sums up this way, “The time has passed where pursuing profit at any cost to Manitoba’s environment makes sense. It doesn’t! Manitoba is the largest hog producing province per population in Canada and the government takes pride in its plans for more intensive hog industry growth. This has to end!” 

Hog Watch Manitoba is a non-profit coalition of environmentalists, farmers, animal welfare and social justice advocates, trade unions and scientists that promotes a hog industry in Manitoba that is ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable.

For more information and to arrange an interview:

CONTACT(s):

Vicki Burns      204-489-3852   Save Lake Winnipeg Project and Hog Watch MB
Bill Massey  204-467-9122   Concerned Citizens of Grosse Isle and Hog Watch MB
Janine Gibson 204-434-6018  Organic Food Council and Hog Watch MB 


Friday, May 6, 2022

Hog Watch Manitoba Fights Noxious Gases from Industrial Hog Barns With Purchase of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas Monitor

(Winnipeg April 27, 2022) – Hog Watch Manitoba is asking for help for rural residents whose lives are negatively impacted by noxious odours from neighbouring hog barns. Those bad smells are not just a nuisance but can contain toxic gases that have human health impacts.

“Hog Watch Manitoba recently purchased a hydrogen sulfide gas monitoring device ACRULOG H2S to measure gases causing foul smells for rural residents” says Vicki Burns, Hog Watch Manitoba spokesperson. “We don’t have any government support like the inspectors who take measurements in the city. The Manitoba government seems to expect rural residents to put up with it as a routine cost of living in the country”.

Recent readings from one location near a hog barn have documented high levels of hydrogen sulfide. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) exposure to hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. It can also cause apnea, coma, convulsions; dizziness, headache, weakness, irritability, insomnia; stomach upset.

 Over the years Hog Watch Manitoba has heard many stench related complaints from rural residents. “We felt that we needed to collect actual data to prove that this is a legitimate health concern and not simply a nuisance. We are asking the province of Manitoba to require odour mitigation measures around all factory hog barns in Manitoba” explains Janine Gibson, Secretary of Hog Watch Manitoba. “This is an interim measure until we can shift the industry to smaller, straw-based barns that are environmentally sustainable, treat the animals and the human workers in a more ethical manner and are economically stable”.

-30-

Hog Watch Manitoba is a coalition of farmers, environmentalists, animal welfare advocates, scientists and rural residents who are advocating for a move away from industrial factory style barns to smaller straw-based farms that are environmentally, ethically, and economically sustainable. Hog Watch Manitoba - What's the Big Stink?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Spraying herbicides from helicopters? Concerns mount over plans for southern B.C. forests

The Narwhal

The huckleberry. A Wikimedia photo.

To the forestry industry these plants are pests, but for berry pickers they are important foods and medicine. Story here.


RELATED:


Contaminants found in traditional berries of First Nations people in Manitoba, but still declared to be safe to eat. (Video).


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Mining company in Manitoba fined $200,000 for violating federal environmental legislation

YAHOO finance

CaNickel Mining Limited was ordered to pay $200,000 after pleading guilty in the Provincial Court of Manitoba to two offences, which are violations of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations made pursuant to the Fisheries Act. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada's Environmental Damages Fund. Story here.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Scientists Find Oil Rig Noise Pollution Affects Birds

The Manitoban

The bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
A PinP photo

We need to rethink the way we regulate noise pollution from oil rigs as the noise from oil drilling can be harmful to prairie songbirds, including species that are at risk. These findings come from a new study authored by Nicola Koper and Patricia Rosa. Koper is a professor at the natural resources institute at the University of Manitoba and Rosa is an assistant professor at St. George’s University. They both study how human activity can interfere with songbird behaviour. Story here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Vanishing goats? Not on the watch of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation!

 Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation (KXN) 

the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, 

and the University of Victoria.

Mountain Goat - Oreamnos americanus

Wildlife populations can too often decline before wildlife managers notice. Although counting animals is one of the most fundamental activities biologists do, it is also the most difficult. Newly published research by the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation (KXN), the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and the University of Victoria shows the importance of listening to those that have lived near wildlife for millennia. Their findings, published in the open-access peer-reviewed journal, Conservation Science and Practice, show that mountain goats in KXN territory and beyond in British Columbia are of conservation concern. First to detect the changes, the KXN will be the first to address them with conservation management.
Photos by Connor Stefanison

The first signs happened decades ago. KXN community members began to report a decline in sightings of goats once frequently seen from river valleys and the ocean. These patterns were alarming, given the immense cultural value of goats to the Kitasoo Xai’xais people.

“Historically, access to goats influenced the location of village sites and camps. Alarmingly, we don't see goats in these locations anymore, a dramatic decline from several decades ago” Douglas Neasloss, Chief Councillor of the KXN.

Motivated by these early alarm bells from the community, the KXN compiled multiple independent, but complementary, data sources. First, they conducted comprehensive interviews with knowledge holders who collectively had centuries of knowledge and experience in goat country in Kitasoo Xai’xais territory. Participants were asked how frequently they saw mountain goats from 1980 to the present day. The result was a striking decline in the number of goats observed over this time. In 2019, when the interviews were conducted, no one had even seen a goat that year.

Secondly, the KXN led helicopter surveys across more than 500 km2 of KXN territory in the summers of 2019 and 2020 to better understand contemporary mountain goat density. Building upon their own wildlife research program, the KXN collaborated with a team of wildlife scientists, led by Tyler Jessen, PhD student at UVic and scholar with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, to analyze the data. Results show that KX goats occur in low density, especially when compared to interior populations, such as those that inhabit the Rocky Mountains.

Finally, wanting broader context and yet another independent source of information, the research team also examined hunting records that stretched across BC and back to 1980. They found that the success of BC hunters (unaccompanied by professional guides) has declined over the past four decades. All else being equal, if a hunter has to spend more days looking for a goat to kill than they did in the past, then there may be less goats than there were before. This pattern occurs well beyond KXN territory.

Collectively, these information sources all pointed to the same reality: that mountain goats are of conservation concern in KXN territory; either the abundance or distribution of goats has changed – possibly both. There are either less of these creatures, or they spend more time at high altitudes where they cannot be seen or hunted easily. If they are at higher elevations, this means that something is driving them upwards, such as warming alpine temperatures, which can cause heat stress. Additionally, mountain goat food quality and quality are often reduced at higher elevations. Combined, both of these factors can ultimately lead to population decline.

Either way the Kitasoo Xai’xais, having first detected these patterns, are not going to let these goats slip away. Their thick white coats are adapted to the chilly mountaintops, but as alpine temperatures rise, goats might have less habitat left to escape the heat. Against this climate change background and towards a precautionary approach to reflect the uncertainty around population abundance, the KXN will look to adopting management measures to safeguard these precious and culturally important animals from other harms. Specifically, the KXN are exploring tightening up restrictions within their territory including high-elevation logging, air traffic access, and hunting. Indeed, KXN members voluntarily stopped goat hunting decades ago in response to reduced sightings.

Shedding light on an elusive mountain animal would not have been possible without early insight from KXN. As Jessen explains, “A broader takeaway from this study is that Indigenous peoples commonly detect changes that go undetected by western scientists and managers.”

This study highlights a growing resurgence of Indigenous research and management and shows how pairing Local Ecological Knowledge with scientific information can enhance our collective understanding of ecosystems.


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Government guidelines insufficient to protect North American freshwater ecosystem from salt pollution

PNAS

Canoeing the jacques Cartier_Photo by Jake Dyson
Current water quality guidelines aren't protecting freshwater ecosystems from increasing salt pollution due to road de-icing salts, agriculture fertilizers, and mining operations, according to an international study that included researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the research shows that freshwater salinization triggers a massive loss of zooplankton and an increase in algae -- even when levels are within the lowest thresholds established in Canada, the U.S., and throughout Europe. Story here.

Monday, February 21, 2022

U.S. corn-based ethanol worse for the climate than gasoline, study finds

(Reuters) - Corn-based ethanol, which for years has been mixed in huge quantities into gasoline sold at U.S. pumps, is likely a much bigger contributor to global warming than straight gasoline, according to a study published Monday. Story here.
An ethanol plant at Minnedosa, MB. A PinP photo  

RELATED:                   

                                         BURSTING THE ETHANOL BUBBLE                                                                                     The case against food-based fuel                                              


Friday, February 4, 2022

CAJ SOUNDS ALARM OVER CONTINUED RISE IN ATTACKS AGAINST CANADIAN JOURNALISTS

The Canadian Association of journalists (CAJ) is deeply concerned about the alarming rise in harassment and threats against journalists covering the Ottawa occupation protests and similar demonstrations across the country. Story here.


Thursday, January 27, 2022

"AT THE TROUGH." A VIDEO THAT NEEDS TO BE SEEN AGAIN.

Many well-informed, dedicated and concerned individuals produced this video in 2008. Sadly, their warnings about the dirty and dangerous consequences of unregulated factory "farming" in Manitoba have not been heeded. The industry has been given free-rein and continues to expand with few, if any checks and balances. The video is less than an hour long. I implore you to take the time to watch! If you did see it before, perhaps it will remind you again of just how grave these issues really are. If you have not, I know it will concern you, too - perhaps even inspire you to take action of your own. Thank you! 

PinP

Disinformation ruins the conversation on fertilizer policy, MPs say

The National Observer Pervasive disinformation around Canada’s voluntary fertilizer reduction plan makes it hard to have a rational discussi...