Dressing and transporting your kill

This blog series is targeted towards first time hunters and focuses on safe and sustainable hunting in Alberta. Check out a list of all the topics in the series here. This is the fifth article in the series.

It’s extremely important to follow safe practices and procedures while hunting. While on a hunt, conditions can change rapidly and good safety practices can mean the difference between life and death. Make sure you’re prepared and have educated yourself before heading out.

There are a few things you need to know about how to dress and transport your kill so that you ensure the meat is usable.

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Ride the new Nordegg bike trail to see how FireSmart works up close

We tend to think of wildfires and clear-cutting as destructive, but both have great significance in renewing forests. Alberta has a fire-dependent ecosystem and nature uses wildfire to clear out older trees, which are more vulnerable to disease and insects.

Our data shows that in the last 100 years, the forest in the Nordegg area would have naturally seen two or three wildfires if it weren’t for humans putting them out, making the forest unbalanced and at greater risk for larger, faster-burning wildfires. FireSmart helps us minimize the risk of these fires. And now, a new mountain bike trail in Nordegg provides a unique opportunity to see how these techniques look up close.

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Develop help build new FireSmart Ecology Trail

Alberta firefighters help build new FireSmart Ecology Trail west of Nordegg.

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No black? Put it back! You can help the bull trout recover in Alberta

When we announced the recovery of the trumpeter swan last week, we had some not-so-great news as well: four species have been added to Alberta’s Threatened Species List. One of the species added to the list is the bull trout, Alberta’s provincial fish.

Photo of a biologist holding a bull trout.

Photo credit: Blair Reilly, ESRD.

Threats to the bull trout 

Photo of bull trout habitat in Jacques Lake, Alberta.

Changes to the bull trout’s native habitat have contributed to its decline.

Bull trout were once abundant in at least 60 of Alberta’s watersheds, including downstream of pretty much all of our mountains and foothills. Today, only seven of those watersheds have healthy populations – all of which are found in national or provincial parks. The fish is now absent from 20 watersheds where it was once found, and the total number of bull trout remaining is estimated at only 20,000 province-wide.

Over time, the bull trout’s habitat and spawning grounds have been impacted by dams and weirs and development; competition with other species has also played a role. Bull trout take a long time to mature, produce relatively few eggs, and may spawn only every second year – so recovery is a slow and delicate process. Although fishing restrictions have been in place since the 1990s, illegal harvesting may be interfering with recovery efforts. Continue reading

Get out of town – geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt

The idea of finding wealth where you least expect it has motivated generations of adventurous explorers. But you don’t need to transport yourself back in time or to a far-flung Caribbean island to get involved in a treasure hunt – you can do it right here in Alberta.

The name of the game is geocaching, and it’s global – with over two million active geocaches waiting to be discovered worldwide. All you need to play the game is a GPS-enabled device. That device will guide you to specific coordinates – where you’ll search for hidden geocaches, which can get you prizes and other cool stuff.

When you find a cache, you can comment on it online and read comments from other people who have been there – it’s an interactive online community.

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Don’t move a mussel! Bringing a boat into Alberta? Get inspected.

If you’re taking a boat across Alberta’s borders this summer, we’re asking for your help to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

These species – which include rock snot algae, zebra and quagga mussels, and Eurasian watermilfoil – have no natural predators. Once these organisms get into a water body, they are very hard to eradicate, and can cause serious damage to ecosystems and fish species, boats, and infrastructure – including power plants and irrigation canals.

These species have already infested certain water bodies as far west as Lake Winnipeg and the United States – so it’s important that we keep them from crossing our borders. Last year, we set up a voluntary inspection station and a hotline number – 1-855-336-2628 (BOAT) – and asked boaters to report anything suspicious.

Our efforts have paid off: a call to the hotline in May helped us stop a boat infested with quagga mussels before it crossed the border. Although this is good news, it’s also a reminder of our vulnerability.

This summer, we’ll have four inspection stations on major highways coming into Alberta. These stations are set up at commercial vehicle weigh stations outside of Coutts and Crowsnest Pass in the south and Dunmore and Vermilion along in the east. These inspections will help protect boats as well as our native ecosystems.

This map shows our 2014 boat inspection stations.

Each of our 2014 inspection stations is marked with a blue pin on this map.

Here are the steps we need all boaters to take to help us stop aquatic hitchhikers: 

  1. Taking your boat out of the province? Call the hotline number to schedule a free inspection.
  2. Know how to recognize these species – check out the gallery (above) and read more about them here.
  3. Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat every time it comes out of the water! Here are the steps you need to follow.
  4. Report it. If you find anything suspicious while cleaning your boat, call 1-855-336-2628 (BOAT).
We look forward to seeing you - and your boat - this summer!

We look forward to seeing you – and your boat – this summer!

Round-up: what To ‘Know Before You Go’ out to Alberta’s backcountry this long weekend

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Albertans spent all year looking forward to summer – and we all have the right to enjoy it. But garbage and damage from improper use of our public land can ruin the experience for everyone – not to mention damaging the local ecosystem. Here’s a round-up of resources to help you stay safe and responsible when you’re spending time in Alberta’s backyard.

If you’re hiking or camping in the backcountry:

Many Albertans enjoy backcountry camping – but this privilege comes with responsibilities.

If you’re taking a ride on an off-highway vehicle:

ATVs and other motorized vehicles are a popular way to experience Alberta’s public lands. Minimize your impact to help ensure others can enjoy the landscape you love.

Stay off trails that are marked with this sign.

Stay off trails that are marked with this sign.

 

Want more tips? Take a look at these round-ups from last year’s long weekend:

Stay in touch – here’s the number to call if you spot… 

  • A wildfire: 310-FIRE (3473)
  • Damage to public land: 310-ESRD (3773)
  • An environmental emergency: 1-800-222-651

 

Stewardship stories: this year’s Wapiti Dunes clean-up was 25 tonnes of fun

Every year since 2009, good Samaritans in Grande Prairie have dedicated a Saturday in June to taking out the trash – lots of it. Their goal is to help restore the Wapiti Dunes, an area near Grande Prairie that gets riddled with garbage as a result of illegal dumping

This year’s clean-up marked a great milestone: our highest attendance ever. Over 100 people showed up to help restore this 18 square kilometre area, which many Albertans use for hiking, dirtbiking, quadding and other outdoor activities. Some people volunteered representing local businesses and recreation groups; others were community members who came out to help of their own accord.

This year also saw some new “heavy lifting”, thanks to some of our volunteer partners. In previous years, some of the heavier garbage littering the site had to stay put because volunteers couldn’t lift it – but that wasn’t the case this year. Local energy businesses and recreation groups came together to make sure the clean-up was a “clean sweep”: they brought out dump trucks, front end loaders, and other vehicles to do the heavy lifting.

2014 Wapiti dunes cleanup caterpillar 2

Quadding and 4 x 4 groups got in on the action as well – using their quads to haul burnt-out, abandoned vehicles out of ditches and off of trails. Incredibly, the tonnage of garbage removed since the clean-up started in 2009 doesn’t include these vehicles, which are investigated by the RCMP and then moved out at a later date.

Just like at the 2013 clean-up (when this image was taken), rec groups helped us haul out abandoned vehicles.

Just like at the 2013 clean-up (when this image was taken), rec groups helped us haul out abandoned vehicles.

That being said, the day’s work wouldn’t have been possible without old-fashioned elbow grease. A small army of volunteers filled bags with garbage, filled bins with bags, and dragged more cumbersome items out from the nooks and crannies where they’d been hiding. The unseasonably rainy weather even ended up helping us out – our wildland firefighters were able to assist because it was a low hazard day. They stayed right until the end of the clean-up and then left to tackle a wildfire.

In total, our volunteers pulled more than 25 tonnes of garbage from the dunes, making the site cleaner, safer, and more enjoyable for all Albertans. To all of Saturday’s volunteers: thank you! You truly demonstrate the power of stewardship in action.

The Wapiti Dunes clean-up has removed over 400,000 pounds of trash from the site since 2009. To get updates about the next clean-up and other stewardship activities near you, follow us on Twitter or join our Respect the Land community on Facebook.

Spring trail closures: flood recovery is still in progress

If you plan on hiking, biking, camping or taking an ATV out in southern Alberta this long weekend, you might see some new sights along with the usual spectacular views – trail closure signs. They look like this:

Flood Trails Rehab sign 4x8 (3)-page-001

 

Last year, many of Alberta’s southern trail systems were devastated by the June flood. Trails and roads were washed away, and many areas remained waterlogged for weeks or even months. Many outdoor recreation communities banded together and worked with government and municipalities to repair the damage and make these trails safe and sustainable again.

Photo of a washed out ATV trail

We’ve made a lot of progress since this photo was taken last June – but we still have work to do in some areas.

That recovery is still ongoing – and we know how important it is to everyone waiting to get back on the trails. This year’s budget earmarks $10 million to repair flood damage to trails and other infrastructure on public lands. This funding will allow us to complete an inventory of trail conditions, and assessments of damage to infrastructure like bridges, signs, and staging areas. Once we know where the problems are, we’ll be able to go in and fix them, helping ensure that our trail systems – and the infrastructure that supports them – make a full recovery.

Please help us support these recovery efforts. When you see trail closure signs, please obey them and stay off those trails. This prevents further damage and helps us get our trail system back in great shape as soon as possible.

No one likes having their plans interrupted. To avoid disappointment when you’re out on the land, check out our Recreation and Public Use Features portal before you head out on your latest adventure. This portal has everything you need to prepare, including:

Want to keep riding? Keep your off-highway vehicle legal.

Photo of some off-highway vehicles.Start your engines: for many outdoor enthusiasts, May long weekend is the unofficial start of off-highway adventure season.

Alberta’s legislation designates motorcross bikes, ATVs, and quads as off-highway vehicles. Built to handle rough terrain, they’re powerful – and as we know, with great power comes great responsibility. Here’s what you need to do to keep your vehicle legal.

GET REGISTERED

  • All vehicles – including off-highway vehicles – used on Alberta’s highways or public lands must be registered. Registration helps us keep track of vehicles and their owners, so that we can enforce Alberta’s laws.
  • You can register at any Alberta Registry Agent office. Click here to search for a registry agent near you.

INSURE IT 

  • According to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, all off-highway vehicles must be insured before being operated on Alberta’s highways or public lands. This applies whether the vehicle is being used for work or play.
  • Insuring your vehicle protects you in case it’s stolen or damaged. In addition, if someone is injured while riding your off-highway vehicle, insurance can help you cover the cost of liability.
  • Check with your insurance agency to see if they register off-highway vehicles. If they don’t, they can recommend another agency that does.

KEEP IT LEGAL

Close-up photo of a dirt bike

Grass and other debris that ends up wedged in vehicle ‘hot spots’ can easily become a fire hazard.

  • Any vehicle used on public land requires working headlines, taillights, and mufflers. Make sure your vehicle has these, and that they work.
  • Off-highway vehicles can start wildfires – and if yours does, you could be footing the bill. Make sure to clean and check your vehicle’s ‘hot spots’ regularly
  • Youth under 14 years of age need to be directly supervised by an adult in close proximity when using any off-highway vehicle on public land.
  • Some trails have maximum width and height allowances for vehicles. Know these numbers for your vehicle, and check your route before you go.

Enforcement officers will be out and about this summer checking compliance with these rules. Following them is the best way to make sure that you have a safe, worry-free weekend – and that you can keep riding all summer long.

 

 

Put it out! 3 simple steps to keep your campfire from turning into a wildfire

One of the biggest causes of wildfires in Alberta isn’t lightning; it’s recreation. Campfires, off-highway vehicle use, and other activities on the land cause hundreds of wildfires every year – and all of these are 100 per cent preventable.

Soak it stir it 2014

Don’t let our cold spring fool you. As this past weekend’s wildfire near Whitecourt reminds us, we’re in the thick of wildfire season – and it’s more important than ever to use caution.

We’ve talked before on the blog about how off-highway vehicle riders can minimize wildfire risk. It’s just as easy to ensure that your campfire doesn’t become a wildfire – just follow these A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s:

SELECT THE BEST SITE POSSIBLE:

a)     At a campground, use the stoves, rings and fire pits that are usually available. These are designed to keep fires from spreading and are an easy and safe choice.
b)      Use sites that are clear from dry grass, heavy bushes, leaves, logs, tree trunks, peat areas and overhanging branches. If you can, re-use a site that has already been used for a campfire.
c)       Build your campfires on level ground that is sheltered from the wind. A breeze can carry sparks from your fire to flammable material elsewhere.

PREPARE YOUR CAMPFIRE: 

a)      The tools you need: a shovel or spade, an axe or hatchet, a large water container full of water and a small fire extinguisher are ideal.
b)      Prepping the site: make a circle about 1 metre around. Dig or scrape down to the mineral soil. Clear away any flammable materials within a metre of the pit.
c)      Building the fire: use split kindling, small branches or dry mosses to start your fire. Add larger pieces of wood gradually until you have a steady fire.

PUT YOUR CAMPFIRE OUT:

a)      Let the fire burn down well before you plan on putting it out. Spread the embers around in the fire pit and then add water or loose dirt and stir.
b)      Expose any material still burning and then add more water or loose dirt until you can no longer see smoke or steam. Don’t bury your fire and leave it – embers will continue to smolder and can re-emerge as a wildfire.
c)       If your fire is out, you will not be able to feel any heat from the ashes.

 

Make sure you check for fire bans before heading out. And remember: if a person is found guilty of starting a wildfire in Alberta, he or she can be fined up to $5,000 and held liable for all costs associating with fighting that fire. Extinguish your campfire no matter what season it is. Soak it, stir the ashes and soak it again.