Wild and Scenic Film Festival Stops in Nelson, BC

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival Tour is stopping in Nelson on Friday June 12 for a cinematic evening of stories set in wild landscapes around the world. Join Wildsight for a journey to spectacular places and tales of adventures living life outside- all with a conservation mindset.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival, North America’s largest environmental film festival, will bring two hours of the beautiful, the exciting and the inspiring to Nelson’s Capitol Theatre on June 12 at 7:00pm, just in time to inspire your Kootenay summer adventures.

From big ski lines, to a secret surfing beach in Norway, the wilds of BC’s Flathead, and meditations on life in the outdoors, Wild & Scenic is the perfect mix of action, exploration and beauty. The festival also features humorous films, a visit to Alaska, the peaks and valleys of California and the beautiful rivers of Fiji.

Tickets are $10 for Wildsight members, $15 for non-members and $25 for a New Member Package that includes a Wildsight membership and a film fest ticket. All proceeds support Wildsight’s conservation and sustainability work here in Nelson and throughout the Kootenays.

A Reason to Celebrate

As Canadians celebrated Canada Water Week last week, and the world celebrated World Water Day, here at home, one of our local Kootenay residents was also celebrated. Nelson’s Heather Leschied—program manager for Wildsight’s Living Lakes Canada water team, one of the founders of the Lake Windermere Ambassadors and Friends of Kootenay Lake, fly-fisher, sailor-in-training and water advocate—was honoured as one of WWF Canada’s Water Heroes, and named a finalist for Water Canada’s Water’s Next Award.

The Water Heroes are Canadians who are working tirelessly to monitor water quality in local waterways, restore habitat for frogs, turtles and fish, repair degraded riverbanks and engage their communities in stewarding local waters. Heather was profiled specifically for her work on the Flathead River. The Flathead River is a trans-boundary tributary of the Columbia River, located near Fernie. The Flathead River Valley is the only unsettled, low elevation valley in southern Canada. With support from WWF and the Loblaw Water Fund, the Flathead River Biomonitoring Program uses watershed health as a framework for advocating for landscape conservation. The results of the program will provide tools and fill a knowledge gap with respect to forestry impacts on freshwater and fisheries, so that our communities can advocate for the protection of this world-class ecosystem.

Water Canada’s Water’s Next national awards program honours the achievements and ideas of individuals and companies that successfully work to change water in our country. Heather was nominated for her role in furthering our understanding of water through her leadership in the East Kootenay Integrated Lake Management Partnership, Columbia Basin Watershed Network, and BC Lake Stewardship Society, and for supporting water stewards across the Columbia Basin as a Streamkeepers Instructor and Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network Field Instructor.

World Water Day is marked on March 22nd every year as a day to celebrate water, to commit to making a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues and to prepare for how we manage water in the future. In 2015, the theme for World Water Day was ‘Water and Sustainable Development.’

Celebrating Canada’s Water Heroes

Our own Heather Leschied—scientist, campaigner, fly-fisher and advocate for a world in which humans and nature can both thrive–honoured as one of WWF Canada’s Water Heroes! ‪#‎CanadaWaterWeek‬

The Flathead River is a trans-boundary tributary of the Columbia River, located in southeastern British Columbia near the town of Fernie. The Flathead River Valley is the only unsettled, low elevation valley in southern Canada. With support from WWF and the Loblaw Water Fund, our Flathead River Biomonitoring Program uses watershed health as a framework for advocating for landscape conservation. The results of the program will support the Flathead Wild campaign goals of expanding the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and establishing a Southern Rocky Mountain Wildlife Management Area in the Flathead Valley and will provide tools and fill a knowledge gap with respect to forestry impacts on freshwater and fisheries, so that our communities can advocate for the protection of this world-class ecosystem.

Visit the World Wildlife Federation Canada’s special Water Week website to meet Canada’s water heroes.

#ILoveMyLake

Happy Valentine’s Day!

“In everything there is a desire for love, for the relationship of unison with the rest of things.” D.H. Lawrence

This Valentine’s Day, let’s show our love for our freshwater, our lakes, our rivers and streams. Go for a skate, a polar bear dip or a x-country lake ski. Remember to tag your adventures #ilovemylake!

xo The Living Lakes Team

Think Like a Watershed

“Moving forward towards holistic watershed governance will require a new Canadian narrative based on our aboriginal heritage that is truly collaborative and inclusive” – John Ralston Saul

Watershed governance is where democracy meets community. A systems approach, it strengthens collaboration between citizens, communities and decision-makers at the watershed level. It completely changes the way we think about our water, recognizing it as a public trust essential for our survival and calling for true collaboration.

In the spirit  of wanting to build strong cross cultural bridges, we facilitated a dialogue to discuss what water inclusive watershed governance would look like in the Columbia Basin.  It was a formidable gathering of  First Nations,  local and provincial governments,  non-governmental organizations, industry, academics, scientist and local policy experts. Water stewardship groups, academia, policy experts, scientists, local and provincial government, industry and First Nations were brought together to talk about the need for better watershed governance in the region.

Celebrated Canadian intellectual and author, John Ralston Saul, highlighted the need for a new cross-cultural narrative to change the way we think about water, and on which to base a foundation for mutual respect and meaningful First Nations participation.
The three short videos in this series came from a desire to continue the conversation, to extend the meaningful and necessary cross cultural exchanges that took place at the symposium. If we’re going to change the narrative, we better start telling the story.

Thank you to the Columbia Basin Trust and the BC Real Estate Foundation for supporting this project.

Backgrounder: 14th Annual Living Lakes Conference in China

Members of Living Lakes Canada from Wildsight and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation represented Canada at the 14th Living Lakes Conference in Nanchang, China.  Kat Hartwig of Invermere, BC and Alex and Catherine Salki of Winnipeg, Manitoba were invited to present their work on water stewardship in lake communities with a special focus on the Columbia River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin.

Living Lakes International was formed in 1998 by Global Nature Fund in Germany and now has over 100 partner environmental organizations focused on water stewardship for lakes and wetlands around the world.

The conference hosted 350 delegates from 33 countries spanning 5 continents. It was held in Nanchang city in southern China but delegates also had to the opportunity to visit Lake Puyong Hu, a member of Living Lakes International, and China’s’ largest freshwater lake which is now facing significant ecological challenges. Puyong Lake is one of the few lakes that remain naturally connected to the Yangtze River.

Some conference delegates, including those from Living Lakes Canada, were invited to meet and have tea with the Premier of Jiangxi Province as well as with the Environment Minister, who emphasized that climate change and loss of biodiversity are global challenges that need to be addressed and solved with joint forces.

The conference was co- hosted by the Jiangxi Provincial Government, Jiangxi Academy of Science, Global Nature Fund, Ramsar, Jiangxi Academy of Sciences and Mountain River Lake Sustainable Development (MRLSD).  Although the conference theme was “Lakes in densely populated regions: Balance between people and nature,” there was significant information exchanged on the protection of lakes and wetlands worldwide, on sharing new approaches for their successful management, and reaching a common understanding of the need and urgency to foster the protection of lakes and wetlands worldwide.

Chinese scientists presented on the impacts that extreme drought and the Three Gorges Dam had on the Poyang Lake. Puyang Lake is one of the few lakes that remain naturally connected to the Yangtze River.  Chinese hydrologists noted that  “lakes played a valuable function for flood mitigation due to human caused climate variation. Puyong Lake’s surface covers 4000 km2 at high water levels and can shrink to 1000 km2  at low water, and thus also provides 3000sq km of important wetland habitat.  However, in the last decade, many more extreme low water events occurred and there were serious water supply issues to 12.4 million inhabitants and irrigation problems for 3.9 million hectares of arable lands. Hydrological and hydrodynamic models show that the lake is expected to become ever drier under future climate conditions.”

14th Annual Living Lakes Conference in Nanchang China: Challenges and Reflections

This past November, I represented Living Lakes Canada and Wildsight at the 14th annual Living Lakes Conference in Nanchang, China. I was invited, along with Alex and Catherine Salki of Living Lakes Canada member organization, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, to present our work on water stewardship in lake communities with a special focus on the Columbia River Basin and the Lake Winnipeg Basin.

Attended by 350 delegates from 33 countries spanning 5 continents, the conference was co-hosted by the Jiangxi Provincial Government, Jiangxi Academy of Science, Global Nature Fund, Ramsar, Jiangxi Academy of Sciences and Mountain River Lake Sustainable Development (MRLSD). Although the conference theme was “Lakes in densely populated regions: Balance between people and nature,” there was significant information exchanged on the protection of lakes and wetlands worldwide and sharing new approaches for successful management with a common understanding for the need and urgency to foster the protection of lakes and wetlands worldwide.

In preparation for the conference, I met with Bob Sandford, the Canadian Chair for the UN Decade for Water, to better understand where China is situated globally with regard to their freshwater. Bob provided me with excerpts from Elizabeth Economy’s book, “The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge To China’s Future,” as well as Michael Buckley’s book, “Meltdown in Tibet: China’s Reckless Destruction Of Ecosystems From The Highlands of Tibet to The Deltas of Asia.”

Regardless of the reading preparedness, it was still quite shocking to see Nanchang City, population seven million, through my bus window and witness the kilometers upon kilometers of empty highrises awaiting relocated arrivals from rural areas.  Building cranes stretched the horizon as far as the eye could see. In 2004 it was estimated that over 400,000,000 people will be relocated before 2030, while “China will build half of all the buildings that will be constructed in the entire world, but they will be two and a half times less energy efficient.”

We were bussed across Nanchang from our Living Lakes conference, to attend the opening speeches of another conference being held at the same time. “The Third World, Low-Carbon, Ecology and Green Food Forum.” Apparently, we were the “green” component of this economic development forum. We sat with 4000 delegates and listened to various dignitaries from China and abroad, including Marion Hammerl, president of Global Nature Fund, speak to the importance of ecological stewardship as the premise of a green economy.  We were told by Chinese officials about China’s economic development plan, as China entered its newly declared “Ecological Civilization,” to quadruple the economy by 2030, at which time China’s prosperity would allow it to address it’s ecological woes. We were shown a film entitled “Chinese Propaganda film,” in which the landscape of China was airbrushed as lush green fields, clear blue skies, clean water and cities and happy citizens. It was a shocking juxtaposition to look out of the conference centre window and not be able to see across the street because of the smog.

I met a young Chinese water scientist who had lived in Germany for five years in order to complete his Phd. I asked him what he and his peers thought about the ongoing propaganda of a green, clean and ecologically healthy future for China, being disseminated not only at this conference, but also on the TV in our hotel rooms and throughout all of the publications we received. It’s important to note here that the levels of pollution are currently so extreme that 50% of China’s freshwater is completely contaminated. China currently has only 6% of the world’s fresh water but will have one quarter of the world’s population by 2025. He smiled and answered that everybody markets with propaganda, not only in China but in Canada, the USA and around the world. “It is normal,” he said.

On a field trip to Puyang Hu Lake, we walked through a very tidy “model” village. We were shown the town freshwater well and the rice paddies acting as sewage filters for the river and lake. The village had many posters showing the merits of moving from the country to the city.  At Puyong Lake Nature Reserve, we were able to see Chinese campers from the growing middle class, who were testing their new off-road vehicles and dirtbikes along the foreshore of the lake.

Officials are concerned about what is happening with the lake. Because of intensive dredging of sand in the lake’s tributary to make construction cement for Nanchang city, the lake level has started to drop and it’s unlikely it will be able to provide for the city’s water needs. Puyong lake is of international significance for migrating waterfowl from Europe and resident freshwater dolphins. Numbers have declined and during our visit we did not see any sign of them.

According to Elizabeth Economy, “Two thirds of China’s 660 cities have less water than they need and 110 already suffer severe shortages and water use is increasing. More than 75% of the riverwater flowing through China’s cities is unfit for drinking or fishing. Aquifers below 90% of Chinese cities are polluted.  Approximately 700,000,000 people drink water contaminated by animal or human waste. Polluted rivers make for polluted oceans. About 80% of the East China Sea is rated as unsuitable for fishing.” In an attempt to replenish surface water supplies for drinking and agricultural uses, the Chinese government has recently announced an ambitious environmental engineering project—cloud seeding with silver-iodide crystals to increase precipitation.

There were numerous presentations from young water scientists of the Jiangxi Science Academy outlining some of the water problems and what needed to be done.  They were even able to speak about the ecological devastation caused by the Three Gorges Dam, the lessons learned and actions that should be taken for mitigation. This type of openness was not case eight years ago at the last Living Lakes gathering in China. Conference delegates from Mongolia, Japan, Germany, England, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Turkey, Jordan, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia, Hungary and Canada, to name a few, were all able to share the lake and wetland challenges that they were facing in their own communities. There was a sense of solidarity, creating moral support as these passionate and committed water stewards shared stories of their diminishing lakes and wetlands.

Information presented by conference delegates felt quite onerous and heavy in terms of the escalating challenges that we have and will continue to face as global citizens. It is estimated that China will emit twice the volume of CO2 than all OEDC countries combined by 2030. As a result of these emissions, climate change modeling has indicated that there will be 30% decline in precipitation in China’s three major river basins, resulting in a 40% decline in China’s wheat, rice and corn yields. With the rising sea levels, Shanghai could be submerged by 2050. Yet somehow, we harbour this notion that China’s problems are not Canada’s. China is attempting to address its current and future environmental, resource, energy and food security problems by purchasing huge Canadian wheat farms, oil and coal companies. Coal continues to fuel 70% of China’s energy needs, in turn producing 90% of its SO2 and 50% of its particulate matter, as well as much of its mercury emissions, which travel all over the world. Elisabeth Economy references an academic article published by Dr. David W. Schindler et al., which describes how some of the carcinogenic toxaphene now contained in the snows of the Wapta Icefield at the headwaters of the Bow River in the Canadian Rockies also come from China.

Needless to say, we returned home overwhelmed and not quite able to process what we had seen, much less determine what meaningful action we could take within our own organizations. Perhaps the most poignant conclusion after all of the scientific papers were presented is that the human caused degradation of lakes, rivers and wetlands is a universal challenge and equally universal are the  solutions which call for holistically managed aquatic ecosystems. This includes strong water legislation, enforcement, governance and integrated watershed management of land, water and air ecosystem components. Joint regional, national and transboundary efforts to resolve water issues will also require transparency, shared science, data, monitoring techniques and multi sector co-operation.

One thing is for certain—if ENGO’s hope to make a difference, it will not be enough to accept and apply a business-as-usual approach. The protective, no-feather-ruffling style of functioning is a disservice, a form of self-greenwashing and/or worse, a delusion. It is hard to find the answers regarding how to ensure that our work is making a difference and helping us deal with the immense challenges posed by climate change. We will once again need to be introspective, ask ourselves the right questions and cross exam the usefulness of our own small sphere of NGO influence.

-Kat Hartwig, Executive Director, Living Lakes Canada

Mount Polley Mine Disaster Raises Questions for Citizens of BC

It’s been over three months since the Mount Polley mine disaster. Distant summer memories of snapshots show mountains of toxic tailings debris coating the once pristine Hazeltine and Cariboo Creek beds. Images of a grey plume of necrosis, entering the emerald Quesnel and Polley Lakes. This once iconic scenery of beautiful British Columbia suddenly reflecting the moonscape of oil sands tailing ponds.

Days after the August 4, 2014 spill of nearly 15 million cubic meters of toxic mine waste, there was assurance that the Province of British Columbia was conducting water quality monitoring and reviewing Imperial Metals Corp’s response to the spill. There were claims that drinking water guidelines were still being met in Quesnel and Polley Lake following the spill, alongside the claim that the incident may be the largest mining disaster in Canadian history, and certainly the largest in the history of British Columbia. Adding to the turbid waters of ambiguous information released by the Province and Imperial Metals was the stifling media coverage of the event. Not only was the event dubbed as a rare accident due to the incompetence of one company, but the event also failed to skim the surface of international news and received fleeting coverage by national news.

Now, months later, two investigations are currently underway. In August, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association issued a complaint that the government did not inform the public about risks identified in a 2010 safety report. And most recently, the Environmental Law Center (ELC) issued a complaint that the B.C. government has breached the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, by withholding Mount Polley’s routine mine inspection reports from 2010 and 2013.

As citizens of British Columbia we “are the only people without the documents –the people being kept in the dark,” the ELC complaint states. We want to know what is happening with our neighbors in Likely, BC. We want to know if there is water quality monitoring being carried out by the province, by Imperial Metals Corp, by community groups and individuals. We want to know the results of this monitoring, what it means and how the results compare to each other and to the baseline. We want to know how this event will affect local communities and healthy ecosystem functioning, now and in the future.

By Raegan Mallinson

Water Stewardship Coordinator

Job Posting: Lac La Biche Stewardship Coordinator

Purpose and General Description

The Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed are an emerging community-based water stewardship group working in the Athabasca region of Alberta. Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed have a vision of an ecologically healthy watershed with balanced management approaches that support recreation and traditional uses, high fish and wildlife values, and economic prosperity in the region. The organization is currently directed by an Interim Steering Committee composed of committed community volunteers and government agency representatives.

Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed will work closely with Lac La Biche County and the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee to develop a stewardship and outreach program for the area. They will encourage the implementation of policies & guidelines identified  in the Lac La Biche Watershed Management Plan (2009). Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed will also work closely with the Alberta Lake Management Society and Living Lakes Canada to share best practices and lessons learned. Thus, the Coordinator position will provide an exciting opportunity to help create a new model for sustaining water stewardship work through grassroots initiatives aimed at watershed planning, monitoring and community engagement.

The Program Coordinator is responsible for implementing and overseeing all aspects of the program, including water quality and quantity monitoring, outreach and education, restoration and maintance, and program administration.  The Coordinator supervises summer staff, but otherwise is the sole employee of this organization. 

Duties and Responsibilities

SCIENCE

  • Support lake and beach water quality monitoring
  • Support water quantity monitoring
  • Implement or recommend additional scientific research on a project basis
  • Maintain accurate water science database
  • Analyze data
  • Complete annual reports
  • Disseminate scientific information to decision-makers and the public

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT

  • Facilitate community conversations about the watershed, its functions and sensitivities
  • Organize watershed planning workshops for diverse stakeholder groups
  • Work with stakeholders to seek watershed governance solutions for the Lac La Biche watershed
  • Work with local governments to implement the non-regulatory recommendations in the Watershed Management Plan

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

  • Conduct education programs with school-aged youth
  • Write a monthly column and education articles in the local newspaper
  • Recruit and train volunteers for citizen science projects
  • Communicate with the public through e-newsletters, website, and social media
  • Educate homeowners and visitors about good shoreline practices, green boating practices, and how to prevent the spread of invasive species.
  • Recruit membership from among Lac La Biche’s stakeholders

MANAGEMENT

  • Administer the program’s grants, including grant writing and reporting
  • Manage the program’s budget
  • Organize monthly meetings of the Steering Committee
  • Engage with the Steering Committee to implement the work plan and develop its strategic direction
  • Represent the organization to the media, local government, community groups, regional stewardship groups and planning committees
  • Attend trainings and conferences in order to increase capacity of the organization
  • Move the Friends of Lac La Biche toward becoming an independent society
  • Supervise summer interns

Minium Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Environmental Education, Watershed Management, Natural Resource Management or related field
  • Field experience in the natural resource sciences
  • Willingness and ability to conduct field work on land and water
  • At least two years work experience in a leadership position
  • Exceptional interpersonal skills
  • Strong writing skills 
  • Ability to communicate positively and effectively with people of diverse backgrounds and interests
  • Highly self-motivated and able to work without supervision
  • Highly organized and competent at managing a budget

Additional Desired Qualifications

  • Experience working for an NGO
  • Experience in non-profit management and administration
  • Training in group facilitation
  • Familiarity with watershed governance models throughout Canada
  • Experience and or training in water quality monitoring
  • Budget management experience

LOCATION: Lac La Biche, AB

HOURS: Maximum 40 hours / week, depending on funding. Some evenings and weekends.

SALARY: This is a contract position which recievs a maximum of $3,500/month, no benefits. The contract will be managed by Living Lakes Canada until the Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed become an independent Society.

ELIGIBILITY: Must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.


TO APPLY:

Address your cover letter to “Interim Steering Committee: Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed”

To apply please send a cover letter and your resume electronically (.doc or pdf only) to kirsten@livinglakes.ca,
Or drop off in person at Lac La Biche County offices.

Living Lakes Canada Team Attends Living Waters Rally in Ottawa

OTTAWA, ON (October 6, 2014)—

A delegation from Wildsight’s Living Lakes Canada team attended the Living Waters Rally held in Ottawa this week. The rally brought together 110 delegates representing recreational, indigenous, faith, philanthropic, environmental, business, academic and arts and culture groups from across Canada to discuss the future of Canada’s freshwaters.

Living Lakes Canada director Kat Hartwig noted that the conference really helped to validate the importance of the water stewardship and citizen science work being done here in the Columbia Basin. “We are definitely leading the emerging trend of communities engaging more actively towards the health of their watersheds,” said Hartwig.

Healthy, living waters are essential to the prosperity of our communities and the survival of all species. “We are blessed in the Columbia Basin to have some of the world’s most pristine waters and thus a global obligation to protect them and restore them,” Hartwig added.

Conference attendees agreed that in order for Canada to have healthy, functioning watersheds, we need regular, independent public assessment of and reporting on the state of our waters. It is in this regard we are able to address priorities for a sustainable freshwater future.

Living Lakes Canada invites individuals and organizations to get involved in the protection and restoration of our freshwater, ensuring that all our waters are in good health—swimmable, drinkable and fishable.

With the support of

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