All To­gether Now…

Canadian Wildlife - - FROM CWF - Rick J. Bates CEO, Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion

Wel­come to the March/april is­sue of Cana­dian Wildlife. What do eels in the Ot­tawa River and grass­lands on the Prairies have in com­mon? The an­swer, sur­pris­ingly, is a lot! First, they both play im­por­tant roles in their re­spec­tive ecosys­tems. Sec­ond, they have both played im­por­tant parts in the his­tory and cul­ture of this land. Third, to­day both are in dan­ger of dis­ap­pear­ing. Fi­nally, they are both is­sues on which the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion has been fo­cus­ing a great deal of at­ten­tion and en­ergy. That’s why they are also both sub­jects of in-depth ar­ti­cles in this is­sue.

As you will see in reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor Brian Banks’ fea­ture on page 28, CWF is ac­tively in­volved in ef­forts to aid in the re­cov­ery of the Amer­i­can eel through­out the Ot­tawa River water­shed. CWF is work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with gov­ern­ment, First Na­tions, non-gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions, com­mu­nity and in­dus­try to bet­ter un­der­stand the state of the Amer­i­can eel pop­u­la­tion, their up­stream mi­gra­tion move­ments and their habi­tat pref­er­ence in the Ot­tawa River so we can cre­ate ef­fec­tive re­cov­ery ef­forts in the fu­ture.

The Amer­i­can eel, a unique na­tive fish, is one of the most re­mark­able and vul­ner­a­ble fish species in Eastern Canada. An ex­tremely im­por­tant part of this area’s First Na­tions cul­ture, the eel is a tra­di­tional source of food and medicine that was also used for many tools, uten­sils and cloth­ing. One of the few species ca­pa­ble of liv­ing in both salt and fresh wa­ter, it starts out in the Sar­gasso Sea in the At­lantic Ocean be­fore mi­grat­ing along oceanic cur­rents to the many fresh­wa­ter streams and rivers along North Amer­ica’s east coast. Eels make their homes there for many years be­fore head­ing all the way back to their places of ori­gin in the At­lantic. It is an in­cred­i­ble story. Sadly, over the past 30 years, the pop­u­la­tion of Amer­i­can eel in the Ot­tawa River has de­creased by 90 per cent, and they are now des­ig­nated as a species at risk in On­tario. We look into why this hap­pened and what can be done, and what is be­ing done now. Pos­i­tive change is in the off­ing!

Prairie grass­lands, fea­tured here in an ar­ti­cle by Niki Wil­son on page 18, are also com­plex and en­dan­gered. Unas­sum­ing and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated, this pre­cious ecosys­tem has played a cen­tral role in the his­tory and growth of this coun­try for cen­turies, even mil­len­nia. Home to a di­verse col­lec­tion of rare plant, in­sect and an­i­mal species in­clud­ing at-risk species like the bur­row­ing owl and swift fox, more than 60 per cent of a con­tigu­ous stretch of the Prairies eco­zone en­com­pass­ing 465,000 square kilo­me­tres (nearly 5 per cent of the coun­try’s land­mass) has been lost for­ever. This loss has af­fected plants and an­i­mals that were tra­di­tion­ally used for food, medicines and tools like the bi­son, a key species for First Na­tions. As Carolyn Cal­laghan, a con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist here at the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion who spe­cial­izes in this re­gion, says, “Ev­ery scrap of na­tive prairie grass­land left is pre­cious. We need to keep what we have.” I in­vite you to learn more here, and visit Cana­di­an­wildlifefed­er­a­ for even more.

At CWF, we are all com­mit­ted to in­spir­ing, ed­u­cat­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing even more Cana­di­ans to get in­volved. We are grate­ful for your in­ter­est in and sup­port of this cru­cial work. To­gether, we are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

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