The following images are all from the Weaselhead Natural Environment Park.

With thanks to Bob Ross and Diane Stinson for taking these fantastic photos.


The following images are all from the Weaselhead Natural Environment Park.

With thanks to Bob Ross and Diane Stinson for taking these fantastic photos.

Species at Risk

Click on an image to view the photo gallery

Last year, E-bird Calgary noted 225 bird species in the Weaselhead area. AMEC’s Environmental Assessment dated December 2014 identified 77 “species at risk” in this valley, of which 60 are birds.

The acclaimed Canadian documentary, “The Messenger” documents the greater than 50% decline in the songbird population since 1966. The tagline for the movie is “Imagine a world without birdsong”. This decline in the bird population is also emphasized in the Partners in Flight Landbird Conservation Plan (2016). In this 2016 report the authors highlight the widespread declines in populations of many of the 448 species of landbirds in the U.S. and Canada. They also convey the following message, “Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble”. The co-author of the report, Andrew Couturier, senior analyst at Bird Studies Canada, was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying, “I don’t want my grandchild to go out in the forest and not hear the songbirds in the spring, and that seems to be where we’re headed right now”. We feel the same way.

Section of AMEC’s Environmental Assessment (Dec 2014) states that “A total of 77 species at risk have the potential to occur and breed in the biophysical study area, including 60 bird, 10 mammal, 3 amphibian and 4 reptile species”.

Of the 77 species at risk, 13 are listed federally by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and are scheduled species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). They are all migrant species and include:

  • peregine falcon (Special Concern, Schedule 1)
  • ferruginous hawk (Threatened, Schedule 1)
  • short-eared owl (Special Concern, Schedule 1)
  • yellow rail (Special Concern, Schedule 1)
  • olive-sided flycatcher (Threatened, Schedule 1)
  • loggerhead shrike (Threatened, Schedule 1)
  • Sprague’s pipit (Threatened, Schedule 1)
  • long-billed curlew (Special Concern, Schedule1)
  • Canada warbler (Threatened, Schedule 1)
  • chestnut-collared longspur (Threatened, Schedule 1)
  • rusty blackbird (Special Concern, Schedule 1)
  • northern leopard frog (Special Concern, Schedule 1)
Why is this important?  Simply put Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”). As per the CBD website:  
  • A recent survey indicated 89% of Canadian adults participated in nature-based activities and, overall, Canadian adults made an estimated $41.3 billion (Cdn) in expenditures related to these activities in 2012.
  • The well-being of Canadians is also linked to the biodiversity and related ecosystem goods and services of the rest of the world
  • The CBD is compatible with the Canadian approach to conservation and sustainable use (e.g., promotes integration of economic, environmental, social and cultural objectives as well as inclusiveness and recognition of Indigenous interests)

Consequently, when most Canadians participate in nature-based activities, our well being is linked to biodiversity, and the CBD approach is compatible with our approach to conservation and sustainable use, we fail to see why Alberta Transportation and Alberta Environment & Parks consistently fail to integrate the economic, environmental, social and cultural aspects of a project into their decision making process.  Its time for change or as the saying goes, “once they are gone, they are gone forever”. Our modified version of this saying, is “People, health, biodiversity and the environment over profit”. 

Alberta Species Status

Song Birds

What is Biodiversity?

The Ethekwini Municipality Environmental Management Department provides guidance on this answer, they state:

“The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth, and includes all the species and ecosystems that are found in any region. Biodiversity also includes the genetic differences within and between species.

The earth contains a whole variety of different species and ecosystems which have evolved into different roles. Birds and insects, for example, play a role in pollinating plants. Forests help to produce oxygen for all life forms to breathe. Frogs control disease causing insects. Grasslands prevent soil erosion.

The removal of a single species can compromise the ability of an ecosystem to function properly. If enough species are destroyed, entire ecosystems will collapse and the survival of life on earth will be seriously threatened.

Durban Commitment

In late 2016 The City of Calgary signed the Durban Commitment that protects biodiversity. By signing this commitment, The City acknowledges “accountability and responsibility for the health and wellbeing of our communities through protecting, sustainably utilizing and managing biodiversity and recognizing its role as the foundation of our existence”.

In March 2015, Council approved Our BiodiverCity Calgary’s 10-year biodiversity strategic plan and accompanying Biodiversity Policy. The plan is based on principles for the protection, development, and management of Calgary parks and ecosystems in support of biodiversity. “BiodiverCity” aims to provide a framework for The City to foster more resilient, biologically diverse open space and neighbourhoods that support positive outcomes for Calgarians, visitors, wildlife and plant communities.

Predatory Birds

General Photos

The United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was the largest study ever done of ecosystems around the world, involving 1300 scientists from 71 countries. In March 2005 it released its report stating that 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth are being degraded. The report warned, “Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded.”

Once fish spawning grounds are gone, they are gone. This fact is noted on page 330 of AMEC’s Environment Assessment report (Dec 2014), where they state, “Channel realignments at the Elbow River and Fish Creek crossings will result in a permanent decrease in existing fish habitat”. is the website of the federal, provincial and territorial working group on biodiversity. It profiles biodiversity information, news and events. This website reflects the shared responsibility for biodiversity in Canada and the commitment of federal, provincial and territorial governments to achieve the goals and objectives of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”) through a collaborative approach.

In order to comply with CBD, Canada has set Biodiversity Goals and Targets for 2020. The PDF version of this document can be found by clicking here.  According to the webiste, Canada’s biodiversity goals and targets for 2020 complement the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and the Biodiversity Outcomes Framework, and focus on Canada’s biodiversity priorities in the coming years. They will guide further action on the conservation and sustainable use of living resources in Canada and provide the basis for measuring and reporting on progress. Canada’s national goals and targets support the global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 adopted by Canada and other Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010. These goals and targets are aspirational objectives that Canada will strive to achieve by 2020 and are intended to encourage and promote collective action. They are goals and targets for Canada as a whole and progress will be reported at the national level. 

In order to achieve their long-term biodiversity outcomes, federal, provincial and territorial governments developed a set of medium-term goals and targets, which are referred to as Goals for 2020. We will not list all four goals, as they can be found on the website.  However, Goal A is relevant to what we are experiencing in Calgary with the Southwest Calgary Ring Road where existing legislation appears to have been ignored, so we will include it here (see below).  

As can be seen, targets 2, 3 and 4 have been thrown under the bus.  Why? Work continues unabated 24/7 without any regard for the restricted activity periods for fish and birds. The filling in of Calgary’s most biodiverse valley did not consider threatened, special concern, sensitive, let alone secure species. So if the Government of Canada and Alberta will not protect species protected under SARA, then how can they strive to ensure that species deemed to be secure remain secure?  Further, the filling in of the wetlands in the Elbow River Valley and the 24 wetlands in the Southwest Calgary Ring Road right-of-way does not comply with Target 3.  This is even more disturbing given that the adverse impact to these wetlands was either avoidable or could have been minimized.  However, the evidence before the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board, clearly proved that the Government and the Contractor had by-passed the required options analysis for “avoid and/or minimize” and went straight to compensate. If Goal “D” and Target “18”  has a requirement to integrate biodiversity into the elementary and secondary school curricula by 2020, what lesson does this teach our students? With Respect to Target 4, in our opinion, Municipalities cannot and should not sit back and watch their own wetland and biodiversity policies be ignored simply because of a Provincial infrastructure project.  Its 2018, not 1918 and under generally accepted practices and principle, including Canada’s commitment to CBD, its transportation infrastructure projects and their design teams that have to learn to adapt and change to the new way of life, not the environment and the biodiversity because once they are gone, they are gone forever. 


Click below to view the reports

Thank you to Bob Ross and Diane Stinson for the wonderful photos. 

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