Monday, March 4, 2013

Birds and Bees: Pesticides proven to be a key factor in grassland bird decline

Sharp-tailed Grouse, a grassland bird that relies on the good stewardship of both private and public pastures
Got back on Friday night from a terrific forum on the future of the PFRA pastures hosted by the Saskatoon chapter of Public Pastures--Public Interest. Lots one could say about that event and the discussions we had with various stakeholders during the day, but because we are all still getting to know each other it is best to be discrete. Suffice it to say, we are all searching for ways to propose a management system and business model for the transitioning pastures (all 1.6 or 1.8 million acres in Sask.) that will allow the grazing patrons to manage the pastures in ways that will provide them a fair return for their investment and lease costs while leaving the land in as good a shape as it was when they start leasing it. More work on that front will be happening in the coming weeks.

Loggerhead Shrike, one of thirty or more grassland bird species in decline in
Meanwile, some news on the grassland bird front. Greg Wagner, a terrific grassland advocate in Alberta, was kind enough to send me a link to an article on the latest work by Dr. Pierre Mineau (retired Canadian Wildlife Service toxicologist and the only guy doing serious work on pesticides and grassland bird decline in Canada). The article discusses a study Mineau recently completed along with Mélanie Whiteside of Health Canada. News like this is encouraging because it indicates we are finally getting to the bottom of the problems these birds face (and the insects they eat--see the new work proving that Bayer's Canola seed treatments, Gaucho, and other Neonicotinoids, are in fact THE cause of colony collapse disorder. And if this one species of insects we happen to be interested in for its commercial value is being harmed by these powerful poisons, you can bet the native bees and other insects are as well. And here is a study showing that native bees are far more effective and important as pollinators.)

The next step is to get Canada's Pesticide Management Review Agency to quickly de-register these eco-cidal substances before it is too late. Right now, I am just grateful that we have scientists like Mineau doing this important work.

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