Student Action Challenge – One School’s Growing Success

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobert Thirsk High School has brought its foods program to life thanks to a student with a passion for stewardship, a hands-on natural sciences program and an application to Alberta Environment and Parks Climate and Environment Student Action Challenge. Continue reading

May long weekend: what to know before you go

It’s that time of year again; time to get out and enjoy what Alberta has to offer. So, before you head out this long weekend – or any time this summer – get the information you need from the Alberta government on fire bans, liquor bans, safe camping, and more.

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Volunteer stewardship recognized at 2015 Order of the Bighorn Awards

Since its inception in 1982, the Order of the Bighorn has recognized the voluntary contributions of Albertans to the conservation of our province’s fish, wildlife and natural spaces.

This year was no exception. During the 18th Order of the Bighorn Awards on March 6, Hon. Kyle Fawcett, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, was joined by stakeholders who are committed to maintaining and building a healthy environmental future, to honour six individuals whose efforts emulate what the awards are all about.

Inductees included Bazil Leonard of Grande Cache, Gottlob Schmidt of Hanna, John Campbell Jr. of Calgary, Maurice Nadeau of Bonnyville, Tim Dietzler of Calgary and Tom Partello of Canmore.

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Photos by Admire Studios

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A Park-tacular Gift

Gottlob Schmidt, a nonagenarian with a passion for conservation and preservation, is sharing his 380 hectare homestead near Hanna with all Albertans. It may not be wrapped with a bow, but this real-life Santa’s present is one that will bring joy for generations to come – the future site of Alberta’s 76th provincial park.

The newly named Antelope Hill Provincial Park will remain an undisturbed spread of native grassland on vast, rolling hills rich with plant and animal life. The area will be ideal for hiking and wildlife watching and motorized vehicles won’t be permitted.

Thank you Mr. Schmidt for your generosity!

Additional information


Click on any of the photos below to view larger versions of each. At the bottom of each photo page is a link to download a high resolution, printable version.

Celebrating Excellence in Parks Volunteerism

The 24th annual Alberta Parks Volunteer Conference Awards Banquet on September 20 brought together the dedicated people who happily greet guests, help maintain campgrounds, coordinate activities and so much more in our vast provincial parks system to salute their efforts.

This was not just a one-night “thank you”. Volunteers were treated to a three-day smorgasbord of activities, including a Friday evening show on animal athletics Friday evening. Did you know that cougars are capable of leaps over 12-metres high and bursts of speed of 70 km/hour? You do now!

The evening’s festivities included a banquet at the Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort where Genia Leskiw, MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake was joined by Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland and Alberta Parks Assistant Deputy Minister Graham Statt. Continue reading

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.

12 mini-Ministers make their mark during Environment Week

This week is Environment Week – and we’re taking it pretty seriously. So seriously, in fact, that on Monday, we went from having just one ESRD minister to having thirteen.


These new ‘mini-ministers’ were promoted from the classroom to the legislature as part of Alberta’s Minister for the Day program. This program challenges fifth grade students to share ideas for how Albertans can become better environmental stewards. Those with the best ideas win the chance to visit the legislature and see how ideas like theirs are translated into action.

Selected from over 560 entries, this year’s 12 finalists were great representatives for their schools and communities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Cochrane, Drayton Valley and Teepee Creek.

These ‘mini-ministers’ toured the legislature, participated in a mock legislative session, and discussed environmental protection and sustainable development with Minister Campbell during a media panel – where they shared some of their great ideas:


Check out more photos from the day: 

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What is Arbour Day, anyway? In Alberta, it’s a walk through the wild and a 70,000 seedling march

If you were out and about this week, you might have noticed some new additions to our urban jungles. To celebrate Alberta Forest Week, almost 70,000 seedlings were delivered to Grade One students throughout the province. These seedlings have now been planted in backyards, on school-grounds, and in many other places by students who now have a hands-on understanding of the power of conservation.

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Receiving a seedling gives students a first-hand experience with the power of conservation.

Many people see conservation as a twenty-first century value – but the traditions of Alberta Forest Week and Arbour Day date all the way back to 1884, before Alberta was even officially recognized as a province. The goal of the week is to celebrate the important role our forests play in our daily lives – and to inspire stewardship in young Albertans, so that they can protect that legacy for the future.

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Bertie the Beaver showed up to help with the festivities at Avondale Elementary school yesterday. Photo credit: Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune.

Grande Prairie takes a walk through the wild 

ESRD staff in Grande Prairie have a history of taking this opportunity and running – err, walking – with it. Their annual Walk Through the Forest event gives older kids – from grades four through six – the chance to experience forest ecosystems firsthand. Conservation education has an important place in Alberta’s classrooms – but nothing can compare with seeing a forest ecosystem or the impact of a wildfire up close. Students have planted over 9000 trees through the program over the past 3 years.

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Ultimately, these events – like Alberta Forest Week itself – are about promoting good stewardship. Stewardship requires knowledge, but it also benefits from first-hand experience. When people have seen the beauty of the forest – and the importance of their own actions – an obligation to take care of the environment can quickly become a passion. And over time, that passion has just as much potential for growth as the thousands of seedlings that were planted this week by thousands of small hands.

Stewardship Stories: taking out the trash (all seven tonnes of it)

Friday the 13th is typically known for bringing bad luck – but last Friday brought some very good fortune to an often-overlooked area just outside Grande Prairie. Often missed by the annual ‘Dunes Cleanup’ event due to its out of the way location, this area is used by gun enthusiasts as an unofficial shooting range, and accumulates lots of other garbage – even abandoned, burned-out vehicles.

But the area’s piles of trash were no match for volunteers from the TAQA North energy company’s office in Grande Prairie. The crew spent a total of seven hours cleaning up the area last Friday, armed with quads, trailers, and bins – and when it was all over, they had removed almost 7 tonnes of trash.

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The day wouldn’t have been possible without the energy and enthusiasm of the group – and the generosity of others in the community. County Disposal delivered large garbage bins and picked them up free of charge, while Aquatera donated disposal of the trash. The spirit was contagious – a gentleman who arrived around midday for some target practice ended up staying and helping clean up instead. This kind of dedication is inspiring – and we continue to see it all across Alberta. These kinds of events confirm what we already know: that those who live in an area and use it for recreation often care about it the most.

Group photo of clean-up volunteers.

The TAQA North clean-up crew – thanks, guys!

Unfortunately, the hard work of a few people isn’t always enough to make up for the irresponsible choices of others. Dumping is such a recurring problem in this area that we’re considering restricting public access to it – and we’re relying on Albertans to make sure that isn’t necessary. Our public lands are a shared resource and a shared responsibility – use areas like this one responsibly and encourage others to do the same.


Illegal dumping hotline number


Alberta’s land trusts: making a 43,000 acre difference

Let’s set the stage: 

Photo of a moose

The conserved area around the Ministik Sanctuary is home to a wide variety of wildlife

The Bow & Beyond Initiative has taken a unique approach to advancing riparian health and watershed conservation on the banks of the Bow river. Because of these efforts, new watershed partnerships are being forged in the Calgary region – and more and more people are becoming passionate about stewardship.

Several hours away is the Ministik International Game Bird Sanctuary, a large swath of aspen parkland and wetland in Camrose County. The sanctuary is one of the only conserved pieces of land in an area that is mostly farmland – and it’s recently become 160 acres bigger, surrounded by a special conservation zone that extends the protection of the sanctuary while also enhancing it.

Now, the question: do you know what these projects have in common?

The answer: both of them are land trust projects operated by non-profit organizations and funded in part by grants from the government of Alberta.

What are land trusts?

Land trusts are unique projects that partner conservation organizations with private landowners to conserve native landscape and important animal habitat. Land trusts can work in a variety of ways – they might involve the establishment of protected areas, remediation of key habitat, public education, and/or the creation of stewardship groups.

The common denominator is community: these projects leverage local expertise and bring people together.

Applications for the 2013 Alberta Land Trust Grant Program are now open!

Since 2011, the government of Alberta’s Land Trust Grant Program has awarded a total of about $20 million to projects that have successfully conserved more than 43,000 acres of land. Applications for the 2013 funding period are now open – land trusts can find information on qualifying and how to apply here.

To celebrate the start of another year of great projects, we want to share some of the program’s success stories with you. Next week, we’ll feature profiles of unique four land trusts that have used grant money to make big differences across Alberta – starting with a first-hand account of how the Bow & Beyond initiative has been impacted by recent flooding. Stay tuned!

Photo of a lookout station on the bank of the Bow river

The Legacy Island Lookout – developed as part of the Bow & Beyond Initiative – in Fall 2012.