SAPAA Newsletter #44, November 2022

We mourn the passing of Judith Golub – AGM Announcement – Recent Government Workshops – A Vision for SAPAA.

Wood lilies in a meadow in Kootenay Plains (BFord)
Wood lilies in a meadow in Kootenay Plains (BFord)

Remembering Judith

Judith Golub (Edmonton Native Plant Society)

This is a shortened newsletter as we mourn the passing of our newsletter editor Judith Golub on October 28.

Judith was very instrumental in the revival of our newsletter since January 2021. The October newsletter was in its final stages when we heard the sad news of her passing.

Besides her engagement in SAPAA activities, Judith was involved in many natural history and nature conservation endeavors in western Canada and especially in and around Edmonton.

On a personal note, I remember fondly our frequent excursions to the sandy and badlands natural areas northeast of Edmonton: Northwest of Bruderheim, Halfmoon Lake, and Gibbons Prairie.

SAPAA’s thoughts are with those of her family; we will all miss her.

Hubert Taube, SAPAA President

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Annual General Meeting (Nov 26, 10:00am, Virtual)

Mark your calendars for SAPAA’s Annual General Meeting, Saturday, November 26, 10:00 am. The zoom link is SAPAA AGM – Nov 26 10h.

The standard AGM items are on the agenda: President’s report, financial report, discussion of government initiatives and, most important, election of a new Board.

Please consider getting involved in the executive affairs of our Association and/or bring the name(s) of potential candidates to our attention. In particular, we are looking to fill the positions of Treasurer and Newsletter Editor.

This is a virtual meeting, please use the following Zoom link: SAPAA AGM – Nov 26 10h.

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Government Workshops: Revisioning the Steward Program

New Ministry. The Governmental Parks Steward Program has been reviewed for more than a year and has now been moved to the Land Division of what has become Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, with Rob Simieritsch as its Executive Director of the Program. The office of the Chief Scientist will also play a significant role in the restructured program.

Workshops. As part of the revisioning program, two workshops with Stewards were organized in September and October of this year and were facilitated by the Miistakis Institute.

Workshop 1 dealt with the following topics: (re)engagement of stewards in stewardship activities, collection of site information, management of site activities and dissemination of information among all partners.

Workshop 2 centered on steward recruitment, training, recognition, and networking as well as on potential financial implications. Rob indicated that the Miistakis report about the workshops is due before the end of the year, and that it will be distributed to stewards after review by the Division.

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Geographical Division of Steward Program

North and South. For the purposes of the Steward Program, the Province has been divided into two halves; the boundary of the two regions is roughly the North Saskatchewan River watershed (NSR). Note that these are approximate guidelines. There is overlap between the Athabasca and NSR watershed in these divisions. Further, the Lands Division has 30 regional centers, with 14 in the South and 16 in the North.

The principal steward contacts are:

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Patsy’s Perspectives on the Government’s Program Renewal

Patsy Cotterill (October 3, 2022). Before she left for a vacation, Patsy left the following editorial which was written before the second workshop.

Welcome Development. The provincial government’s new initiative of “re-visioning” the Parks Stewards Program after years of relative inactivity is a welcome development that all stewards should embrace.

Worthwhile. After engaging staff of the Calgary-based Miistakis Institute to undertake a thorough survey of stewards and their opinions, Alberta Environment and Parks staff have concluded that the program is worthwhile and should be re-invigorated.

Stewards & Citizen Scientists. They are proposing a core program of data collection by stewards which in some cases could provide the basis for special citizen science projects, and it will be operated out of the AEP’s Lands Division. While any intensive scientific activity – sampling, measuring, monitoring, record-keeping – can begin to look like work, the results of ecological and other research will certainly add value both to the sites themselves and to the experience of the stewards conducting it. There will still be an opportunity for stewards to continue their regular observations and reporting.

October 20 Workshop. The workshop on September 21 provided further opportunity for stewards to hear government proposals but also to have their say and ask questions. The upcoming workshop on October 20 will provide a similar opportunity.

Expanded Stewardship. Some of us want to know what government plans are for protected areas as a whole, including those without stewards. Many details have to be worked out, but at the September workshop the hope was expressed that once the program was on a sound footing, it could be expanded to various types of public lands. SAPAA, of course, endorses any move that promises greater caring for our natural lands.

Summer Reflections. It has been a long, hot and dry summer but without major climatic disturbance, after a spring of abundant rainfall, providing plenty of opportunity for us humans to be outdoors and enjoying nature.

Resilience and Photos. My take is that natural communities have shown considerable resilience in the face of heat and drought, although birders observing the recent ravages of avian flu may disagree somewhat. Please consider sending in your observations and pictures of the season in your natural area to give us warm reminiscences in winter issues of the newsletter!

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SAPAA in 2032

Questions for SAPAA. Now that Government interest in the stewardship program is back, what should be SAPAA’s role in the context of the program? How can SAPAA nurture interest in the Protected Areas scattered throughout the province? If SAPAA is successful, what would the organization look like a decade hence?

2032 SAPAA Newsletter. As a thought experiment, developed by Frank Potter, our website manager, the following is an article from 2032. It provides a retrospective of the past decade and is centered on the “SAPAA Compass”. Hop in your time machine and see if you agree with this future vision.

In 2032, SAPAA Compass is 10-Years Old!

Happy 10th birthday SAPAA compass.  Adopted in 2022, it is our mission and vision statement. This is an introduction to new members on how the compass guides SAPAA.  

A Proposed Vision Star for SAPAA. The Author presented this graphic as part of a 2031 strategic planning session. A website supports many of these areas.
The SAPAA Compass, adopted ten years ago in 2022. (FPotter).
  • CENTER-Protected Areas are central to SAPAA and its purpose. 
  • NORTH-Protection & Usage of the sites, supported by the other compass points. 
  • EAST-Stewards & Partners; the sun rises on the individuals and organizations who care for the sites. These include government appointed, Citizen-Stewards and Stewards for a Day. 
  • WEST-Education & Knowledge for Stewards and the public about protected areas. 
  • SOUTH-Monitoring & Reporting because we trust the other directions but still verify. 

CENTER-Protected Areas 

Website & Site Information. In 2021, SAPAA adopted a new website which included an online database and map of the Protected Areas based on government sources. This gave us both point-in-time and historical tracking of the sites.

Technology & Protection. In 2032, over five-hundred citizen reports flowed through SAPAA and then to the government. Partnerships with peer organizations allowed members to provide species counts from across the province. 

NORTH-Protection & Usage 

Data Driven Success. Based on this data, we guided nearby development, established education programs, and preserved the protected areas. The principle of Flora-Fauna-First has been mostly followed in the Protected Areas. 

EAST-Stewards & Partners 

Citizen-Steward. SAPAA was the catalyst, but the work was done by the Stewards or Partners. Where a Steward was not assigned by the government, SAPAA appointed Citizen-Stewards

Steward for a Day is for those who prefer to visit multiple sites or are temporary visitors. Albertans (and tourists), visiting a Protected Area, reported on its state through our website and a mobile application. Because of this real-time information, damage done to protected areas has often been remediated quickly. 

Partners. Partner organizations are passionate about their sites. Birding, youth, fish and hunting associations, and other groups have been stalwart Stewards.  

WEST-Education & Knowledge 

Education had three priorities: 1.) ‘Stewards First’, 2.) ‘Visitors to an Area’ and 3.) the general public. 

Online & Nearby Education. Based on these audiences, we created an extensive YouTube library, an online certification program for Stewards including sharing best practices. Information sessions with communities near sites helped to reduce the damage. 

Meet the Minister is an annual briefing for the Minister of the Environment (or their current equivalent). During these sessions, we provided an orientation to SAPAA, the State of Sites, and the role Protected Areas have in the economy and well-being of Albertans. 

SOUTH-Monitoring & Reporting 

Trust by Verify is central to the concept of stewardship. In 2023, we produced the first ‘State of Sites’ report. This online tool provides historical and real-time information to monitor usage, damage and recovery to protected areas. 

Ministry Reporting. In 2025, ‘State of Sites’ was incorporated into the Ministry’s annual report. 

Technology: Enabler and Partner. Visiting a Protected Area is a chance to escape technology and information overload. Nevertheless, technology enables us to do more with fewer volunteers.  We will continue to partner with technology organizations, schools, and peers.  

Key Partners. Partnership with post-secondary institutions provides opportunities for environmental, technology and business students to develop their future skills in their selected fields. Agreements with First Nation communities helped protection of sites for the future, while remembering the past.

A Glimpse into the 2030’s 

An Enduring Compass. The SAPAA compass helped SAPAA navigate the past decade.  Looking ahead, demands on Protected Areas continue to grow. The 2030’s may see more transfers of provincial Protected Areas to land-trusts and municipalities. Our job is never done but getting out into a Protected Area makes it worthwhile.

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