Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
February 16, 17 & 18, 2016


Plenary #1: Setting the Stage for PCESC 2016

P.1-1. Hearts and Minds - Developing a Prairie Story

Abstract: Stories are important- they help us navigate the world, make sense of it, see our place in it and understand the changes in terms of benefits and consequences. We lack a single, cohesive, cogent prairie story. What we have are myths, fanciful, flawed descriptions of frontiers, endless space and boundless opportunity. Myths are things that never were, but always are. They lead us, inexorably, to decisions that further erode the size, integrity and biodiversity of the prairies. We can do better; we need to do better, at telling the story of prairie. Based on a career of interacting with prairie, managing it, and thinking about the issues, this presentation contains thoughts about the story we should be telling, to change the hearts and minds of people about this fragile, superbly interconnected, impressive and holy landscape.

Presenter: Lorne Fitch, P.Biol

Biography: Lorne grew up on a mixed farm in the aspen parkland of Alberta. He left the farm but the experience of growing up in semi-wild circumstances never left him. He has been a biologist for over 40 years, working mostly in Alberta but also in other parts of Canada and with some international experience.For his work on conservation he has received an Alberta Emerald Award and has been part of two additional Emerald awards. His work on effectively communicating science has been recognized by The Wildlife Society, the Society for Range Management and the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists. Lorne is a retired Alberta fish and wildlife biologist, the Provincial Riparian Specialist for Alberta Cows and Fish and is an Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary. Lethbridge is his adopted home because the grasslands are a favored landscape.

Presenter: Dr. Branimir Gjetvaj

Biography: Branimir is a biologist and internationally published environmental photographer specializing in Western Canadian landscapes. He leads photography workshops and is frequently invited to give public presentations on photography, natural history and conservation biology topics. After moving to Canada from his native Croatia where he worked as the Assistant Curator for Ornithology at the Croatian Museum of Natural History, Branimir received a MSc degree from Dalhousie University and PhD from Queen’s. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Sustainable Environmental Management program the University of Saskatchewan. A key focus of his MSEM research is the potential impact of biofuel crop production on grassland habitats in Saskatchewan. Branimir’s formal education and interest in photography has led him to use his skills as a vehicle to promote the appreciation and protection of natural environments and cultural legacies. He has participated in numerous nature conservation initiatives and frequently contributes his photographic skills to local environmental organizations. One of Branimir’s photography projects culminated in the award-winning book ‘The Great Sand Hills: A Prairie Oasis’. He is currently working on a book about ranching and federal community pastures. Branimir has served volunteer positions on the board of several environmental NGOs and natural history societies in Saskatchewan and Alberta. He is currently Vice-President of Nature Saskatchewan. In 2013, Branimir received Michelle’s Prize, jointly award by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the University of Saskatchewan. The award committee took note of his extensive involvement with environmental NGOs and the use of photography to advance environmental conservation.


P.1-2 Panel Interview Celebrating 30 Years of PCESC: Lessons Learned after 30 years of Prairie Conservation Actions, and Directions for the Future

Abstract: This panel discussion brings together experts, each with 30 years of experience working in the Canadian Prairies.  We will have an entrepreneur, and retirees from a non-governmental agency and provincial government agency.  These people worked at different scales (global to local), with different clients (ranchers, urban recreationists and gardeners, resource industries) and represent three different Provinces.  As a wave of baby-boomers retire from our field and employment shifts away from public and towards private sector, we want to promote greater knowledge transfer.  This panel discussion is intended to stimulate those discussions amongst all participants for the duration of the conference and into the future.  To help kick-off those discussions all panel members will be asked the same questions:

  1. What did you see that worked for prairie conservation and endangered species in the past 30 years?
  2. What did you see that did not work in the past 30 years, and we should avoid in future?
  3. What are your hopes for the future of prairie conservation and endangered species recovery?
  4. What advice do you have for the next generation of practitioners?

Moderator: Darcy C. Henderson, PhD, Environment Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service

Presenter: Barry Adams, MSc., P.Ag.

Biography: Barry Adams recently retired to private practice after a 38 year career with Alberta Environment and Parks – Rangelands.  For 32 years Barry served as the Provincial Rangeland Specialist – Grasslands. A key focus of his work has been to assist ranchers to apply the principles and practices of range management to promote healthy range and a sustainable livestock operation.  He has been active in developing new rangeland health tools including range plant community guides for the Grassland Natural Region, the Grassland Vegetation Inventory (GVI), restoration practices for prairie and parkland rangelands, and grazing management strategies for species at risk. Barry is active in the Society for Range Management and lives in Lethbridge with his wife Allison.

Presenter: John Morgan, President, Prairie Habitats Inc.

Biography: John has an Honours degree in Zoology/Ecology and Masters degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba.  Born in Ontario, he has lived in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the NWT.  He worked as a research biologist in Canada's high Arctic in the ‘70s and a wildlife habitat biologist on the prairies in the ‘80’s.  John initiated the Tall Grass Prairie Inventory in 1986, which led to Manitoba’s Tall Grass Prairie Preserve near Vita.  With his wife Carol, he began Canada’s first prairie restoration company in 1987, Prairie Habitats Inc., in the Interlake near Argyle.  They have tried to put ecological theory into practical ideas. They have made a living for 29 years by doing what they love and believe in - restoring prairie.  They have developed seed harvesting equipment used for local native seed collection in 41 countries worldwide. John co-wrote the book “Restoring Canada’s Native Prairies” with colleagues Doug Collicutt and Jackie Thompson.  John has received the Friends of Equinox Magazine's Citation for Environmental Achievement, the Government of Canada's 125th Anniversary Medal, the Manitoba Naturalists Society Prairie Crocus Award and the 2013 Prairie Conservation Award for his work in restoring native prairies. 

Presenter: Luc Delanoy

Biography: Luc has been married to Susan for 35 years and they have two children and two grandchildren. They met at Kelsey campus of Saskatchewan Polytechnic, both enrolled in the Renewable Resources program from which they graduated in 1978. Luc spent his formative years in a rural setting in southern Saskatchewan where farming, fishing, hunting and trapping with his older brother fostered his lifelong interest in nature. Long Creek, Laurier Community Pasture, the hills of the Missouri Coteau and a spacious award-winning and magical yard in the town of Radville all helped nurture the nature relationship. Luc had the great fortune in furthering this interest in his work life. He started with a summer job with the Department of Northern Saskatchewan in Buffalo Narrows in 1977 which turned out to be one of the most active fire seasons ever recorded in northern Saskatchewan. This short stint was followed up with a second summer of work as a fisheries technician with the Saskatchewan Research Council. This job introduced Luc to some of the finest environmental scientists in the province as part of a team developing environmental baseline for the uranium mines at Cluff and Key Lakes. Luc then landed his first permanent job in the environmental field as Environmental technician at a uranium mine at Key Lake Saskatchewan. Three years later he began work with Meewasin where again he was exposed to many fine environmental scientists over a span of 32 years until his retirement in April 2015. An abbreviated summary of his work is he spent the first ten years planting trees throughout the valley and the next 22 years knocking them out mainly with fire to promote the fast-disappearing prairie wool. 


Plenary #2: Status, Trends and Issues in Conservation and Protection

P.2-1 Uncommon Common Ground - World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Ranching Initiative

Presenter: Nancy Labbe, World Wildlife Fund

Abstract: World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Ranching Initiative is working to establish a productive dialogue with stakeholders in the beef supply chain. By partnering with ranchers, retailers, regional and national producer groups, consumers, and other conservation organizations, WWF is working to develop a thriving global marketplace for sustainable beef that values intact grasslands, abundant natural resources, and producer livelihoods. The local to global approach is key for WWF. In the Northern Great Plains region, WWF supports the ranching community with capacity-building grants, bird surveys, and outreach support. We're driven by the goal of maintaining intact grasslands the Northern Great Plains by supporting the ranching community and communicating with consumers about the benefits of ranching on this landscape. More broadly, WWF serves as a key representative on the Global, US, and Canadian Roundtables for Sustainable Beef, influencing the future of the sustainable beef market with a reasonable, informed approach.

Biography: Nancy Labbe is a fifth generation cattle rancher from the Sandhills of Nebraska. Her upbringing gave her valuable on-the-ground experience and a deep understanding of the issues facing ranchers in the Northern Great Plains. Additionally, she has worked in a variety of capacities in the beef production sectors. At WWF, Nancy leads direct engagement with the ranching community in North America with a special focus on the Northern Great Plains region, where sustainable beef production goes hand-in-hand with conserving the iconic grassland ecosystem on which it relies. Through the Sustainable Ranching Initiative, Nancy is working to maintain grasslands for generations by identifying and accelerating the use of more ecologically and economically sustainable land management practices. She also works to influence national and global marketplace efforts on sustainable beef production. Through Nancy’s engagement, WWF played a key role in the development of the Canadian and US Roundtables for Sustainable Beef, bringing key stakeholders together to identify opportunities for the future of sustainable beef production.


P.2-2 Status and Trends of Prairie and Endangered Species 1986 to 2016

Presenter: Darcy C. Henderson, PhD, Canadian Wildlife Service

Abstract: It is no secret that native prairie and the habitat needed by native species has declined rapidly over the past century.  Factors driving habitat loss have varied over time to include cultivation, drainage, invasive species, or fire suppression.  Similarly, species at risk of extinction were initially threatened by hunting and trapping, but times change and now each species is threatened by a unique suite of factors.  In spite of the overall state we have many successes that buck the trend; with bison, whooping crane, and black-footed ferret recovery, and the work of many individuals succeeding in improving the quality and quantity of native prairie.  I will present some facts as we know them about changes in the past, ranking threats faced by the more than 90 prairie Species At Risk in the coming 10 years, and describing some of the categories of actions underway to protect, conserve, recover and restore.  I’ll finish by posing questions about the importance of facts (evidence gathered in search or support of truth), myths (widespread retelling of old stories to reinforce a worldview that does not rely on facts), and credibility (being trusted, believed, and convincing) when working to conserve natural places and natural things.

Biography: Darcy’s professional career in the Canadian Prairies spans the past 25 years. He received a PhD and MSc from the University of Alberta where he researched invasive species and soil carbon responses to grazing, burning, and cultivation.  He also earned a BSc in biology from the University of Saskatchewan, and Diploma in Renewable Resources from Sask Polytechnic.  His work history has included a breadth of field work, teaching and planning in fish and wildlife, forestry, parks, rangelands, and First Nations lands, for private industry, NGOs, universities, and provincial and federal agencies. His career at Environment Canada began in 2006 as a grassland ecologist working on plant species at risk recovery planning and grazing and restoration research, and for the past three years he has been Head of Protected Areas and Stewardship for the Prairie and Northern Region.  Among the things his team delivers is $7.5 Million in annual funding to organizations, communities and individuals to protect prairie habitat and recover species at risk, to restore wetlands, to build capacity in First Nations, and to engage Canadians more broadly.  Other team members are actively managing and restoring federal protected areas, and evaluating the effective protection of critical habitat elsewhere in the Canadian prairies.


Plenary #3: Conservation and Recovery of Prairie and Species

P.3-1 Federal Programs for Species at Risk Recovery in Prairie Canada

Presenter: Robin Bloom, Environment Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service

Abstract: This presentation will provide an overview of federal funding programs available to the conservation community to implement conservation measures for species at risk. Examples include new and innovative agreement-based approaches to achieving protection of “critical habitat” for species at risk. The importance of voluntary stewardship activities in the implementation of the federal Species at Risk Act will be discussed and highlighted as an introduction to the session. 

Biography: Robin has worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service for 14 years. Prior to joining CWS his academic studies in eastern Canada focused on disturbance dynamics of plant communities. This background and his subsequent field experience with grassland songbird and plant surveys have given him an appreciation of prairie habitat dynamics. The field work also provided significant opportunities to meet landowners and land managers. This background and experience are part of his on-going interest in listening and learning about practical challenges of conservation on rangelands and other working landscapes. Robin now works as a funding coordinator in CWS’ prairie Stewardship Unit. Robin’s specific role is to develop funding relationships with the agricultural sector under Environment Canada’s Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Land initiative (SARPAL).


P.3-2 Creating Optimal Habitat for Greater-Sage Grouse – Multi-agency/stakeholder Collaborations

Presenter: Kelly Williamson, Rangeland Consultant

Abstract: A conservation focus has been initiated in the South of the Divide Region of southwest Saskatchewan. The organization leading this focus is a multi stakeholder group called SODCAP. Part of this focus involves working with producers dealing with lands with Greater Sage Grouse habitat.  How are these producers going to be engaged and what tools will be effective?  Results based conservation agreements have been identified as being effective tools in the strategy to produce GRSG habitat. This is a brief history and review on the lead up, development and delivery of the results based conservation agreement model.  Description of the results based model and the strengths of its use. What role can this tool play in a broader land use management strategy?                                                                                                             

Biography: Kelly Williamson is a forage, seed and cattle producer from southwest Saskatchewan. With 20 of years experience as a primary producer, combined with a degree in Agriculture, Kelly uses his experience to practice agrology in the province. His consulting focus is on various agri-environmental projects, always looking towards advancing methods of environmentally sound agriculture, today and into the future.  He has kept current with involvement with agricultural linked boards including the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, Society of Range Management. Pambrun Conservation and Development, Old Wives Watershed Association, South of the Divide Conservation Action Plan, Rural Municipality of Whiska Creek.

P.3-3 Case Study: On the Ground Recovering Greater Sage Grouse  

Presenter: Miles Anderson, Rancher

Abstract: Greater Sage Grouse, Silver Sage, and cattle - they live together. What can a land manager do to promote a dwindling population? What do we know about sage grouse and their silver sage habitat? Can land managers, through cattle management, give the sage grouse its’ food and shelter through its’ four distinct life cycles? These are the types of questions that ranchers are working to answer in sage grouse habitat. 

Biography: Miles ranches near Fir Mountain, Saskatchewan, presently raising cattle on approximately 25,000 acres that consists of 80% native, 10% tame hay and 10% cultivation. Having Grasslands National Park as a neighbour, there is a considerable amount of research performed in this area and it is in my best interest to do a good job with grazing as there are not many areas that have a non-grazed area of the size of Grasslands National Park surrounding them to be compared to, and that is what brings me here. Being past Chair of the Prairie Conservation Action Plan and Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association has given me experience in advocacy which helps in current life experiences. We have been blessed with Sage grouse habitat and with the support of Environment Canada, Grasslands National Park and Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment we hope to learn what sage-grouse need to thrive, while keeping in mind that there are other species that live here as well. 


Plenary #4: Connecting and Motivating People to Wonder, Care and Act

P.4-1 Social Marketing Principles and Practices - Reaching Beyond Awareness and Attitude to Create Action

Presenter: Ken Donnelly ‐ Beyond Attitude Consulting

Abstract: There are 3 main pillars of a successful social marketing campaign that results in fostering changes in behavior. First, the target audience must be made aware of the issue at hand and what ought to be done about it. Second, they must be convinced that this is an important issue to them, and have the attitude that they should take action. Third, and most overlooked, is that they must take the action. Social Marketers often make the assumption that, with the first 2 pillars in place, the third one will automatically follow. That assumption is a pitfall, a pitfall which can be avoided by incorporating a little behavioral science in social marketing.

Biography: Ken Donnelly is the President of Beyond Attitude Consulting, a Canadian-owned firm with clients across Canada and around the world. Ken has been working with government and non-governmental organizations to foster positive individual behaviours for more than 2 decades, primarily in the areas of environment, health, and occupational health and safety. He has more than 20 years experience in community engagement and strategic planning.


P.4-2 Case Study – A Roadmap to the Conservation Caravan

Presenter: Mara Erikson, Conservation Caravan

Abstract: Raising awareness and encouraging dialogue about an issue is never easy, even when a relationship with the target audience is well-established. Doing the same with a brand-new, unfamiliar demographic poses its own set of challenges. In creating the Conservation Caravan to increase understanding about the positive connections between grassland species-at-risk and ranching, we at Operation Grassland Community found ourselves in the second camp; we had a story of environmental stewardship about which we were passionate, and wanted to share it with an audience who likely had no idea who we were. Our main challenge was that of exposure; i.e. how do we get our target audience—those NOT typically associated with the environmental sector—to even see this film? By reaching beyond our familiar networks, as well as using a variety of promotional outlets (television, print media, social media, film festivals, open houses), we were successful in fostering genuine interest from a diverse cross-section of viewers. We also sought assistance from those we deemed “primary connectors,” well-known individuals in the community who fit our target demographic and could share the film with their own wide networks. Based on valuable feedback from viewers and partners, we determined that future projects would benefit from more aggressive social media marketing. Viewers also expressed interest in having concrete follow-up activities connected to the film’s message, in order to keep them interested and involved.  Overall, Operation Grassland Community considered the Conservation Caravan a success, and can use the lessons learned to better promote future initiatives.

Biography: Mara Erickson received her M.Sc. in Ecology from the University of Alberta, focusing on avian ecology and conservation. She serves as both the Communications Coordinator for Operation Grassland Community and the Extension & Stewardship Coordinator at the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, combining public outreach and habitat/species-at-risk conservation within an environmental stewardship framework.


P.4-3 Case Study – Kenton Lysak, Meewasin Valley Authority

Abstract: Created in 1979, the Meewasin Valley Authority is a conservation agency dedicated to conserving the cultural and natural resources of the South Saskatchewan River Valley. Meewasin’s conservation zone includes a variety of unique prairie habitats, including Beaver Creek Conservation Area, the Saskatoon Natural Grasslands and the Meewasin Northeast Swale. In order to promote conservation within the Meewasin river valley, the Public Programs Unit was established to educate the public on the importance of biodiversity and conserving prairie habitats for future generations. Since then, Meewasin has engaged the residents of Saskatoon in taking an active role in local conservations efforts through educational programming, stewardship activities and citizen science projects. Programs include bird banding, measuring light pollution, studying the benefits of grazing, building bat boxes and interpreting the natural history of the valley. These educational opportunities are designed to reconnect visitors with nature by providing a hands-on learning experience within a natural setting. By promoting stewardship activities and encouraging the public to visit these natural areas we hope to increase support for local conservation efforts in the future.

Biography: Kenton Lysak is a senior interpreter at Beaver Creek Conservation Area where he is actively involved in developing environmental education and stewardship programs for the Meewasin Valley Authority. He received both his MSc and BSc from the University of Saskatchewan where he specialized in the movement of marine-derived nutrients into terrestrial ecosystems. After working at both the University of Saskatchewan and the National Hydrology Research Centre, Kenton has spent over a decade within the field of environmental education. He has led thousands of students to prairie habitats around Saskatoon, educating them on sustainable practises, ecosystem services, and the importance of conservation. Recently, his work has focused on engaging the public through citizen science projects, including monitoring light pollution through the Saskatoon Dark Sky Initiative and determining local biodiversity at the Meewasin Northeast Swale.