This shot of Cherry Lake was taken by a friend, Peta White
It's time to head out to Cherry Lake for an extended stay so I won't be able to post anything to the blog for a couple of weeks. So far this summer, my excursions out to the Strawberry Lake Community Pasture have been disappointing. On three trips I have yet to find a single Sprague's pipit. Upland sandpipers seem to be scarce too, but I have found good numbers of Baird's and grasshopper sparrows. They nest in the same fields and pastures in loose colonies. The sharp-tailed grouse lek had about 12 males dancing this spring. Farther south at the Kendal Wildlife Preserve I found at least one chestnut-collared longspur, and an orchard oriole singing nearby. This week I will make some last surveys of the area and see what I can find, though it is getting late in the summer to be listening for breeding birds.
Already the arctic shorebirds are heading south in small groups. Saskatoons are almost ready for picking and the warm season grasses are in flower.
Recently, I agreed to take a volunteer position with Nature Saskatchewan, an environmental organization that defends Saskatchewan's wild places and creatures. As the new conservation director, I help the organization on issues where we have to speak out against habitat loss or activities that threaten important ecosystems or species at risk. One of the more intreseting issues Nature Sask has been working on over the last year or more involves a cooperative effort with other environmental groups to get the Federal Government to follow their own legislation and take action to protect endangered species. Ever since the Species at Risk Act was passed in 2003, the Federal Government has been neglecting its legislated responsibility for endangered species, using the limitations of science as an excuse for their inaction as more and more critical habitat becomes degraded or destroyed.
Last year, Nature Sask joined an environmental umbrella group, along with the Alberta Wilderness Association, the Federation of Alberta Naturalists, the Grasslands Naturalists, and the Alberta Wilderness Committee to work with Ecojustice, Canada’s leading non-profit organization of lawyers and scientists devoted to protecting the environment. On behalf of Nature Sask. and the other environmental groups, Ecojustice took the Federal government to court for not protecting the Greater Sage-Grouse from habitat loss.
On July 9th, the court made its decision. A federal court judge in Vancouver ruled that the federal Minister of the Environment, Jim Prentice, broke the law by refusing to identify critical habitat in a recovery plan for the endangered greater sage-grouse.
This is a clear and decisive victory for the protection of species at risk in Canada, forcing the government to take steps to stop the destruction of critical habitat for the Sage-grouse. By implication, the decision will also help groups argue for the protection of habitat for many other species in Canada. Good things like this happen when environmentalists work together. We should all be grateful for the work Ecojustice is doing and consider making a donation.