Karelian bear dogs help keep people and bears safe


Our Fish and Wildlife friends at Alberta Justice enlist some furry friends to help with bear control – here’s the scoop.

Originally posted on Alberta Justice & Solicitor General:

Alberta’s dog program barking up the right tree

A dog is man’s best friend, goes the old saying. That familiar phrase rings true for those Albertans who know about Justice and Solicitor General’s Karelian Bear Dog program.  The dogs use shepherding techniques to teach bears to recognize and avoid inhabited areas, helping to keep Alberta’s communities safe and secure. Watch a video of the dogs in action here.

During a wildlife encounter, a well-trained Karelian will force a bear to leave the area by standing its ground and barking. “We are really grateful to have these fantastic dogs in Alberta,” said fish and wildlife officer John Clarke. “The initiative helps Albertans and bears share the land. And it often means that problem bears do not need to be relocated or destroyed because the dogs teach them not to approach people.”

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The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is finished. Here’s how the final version reflects your feedback.

SSRP banner

The SSRP has been a long time in the making. Over three phases of consultation we heard from 7,500 Albertans and received 2,000 online workbooks and written submissions.

The views and ideas we heard were diverse to say the least (you can check out all the summaries of the consultation sessions here). But there were also some concerns and ideas that we heard in almost every community we visited. We’ve made changes based on those comments.

Today, we’re happy to announce that the SSRP has been finalized. Here are some of the changes we’ve made to reflect your feedback: SSRP sign Taber 2013

  • More land for the Castle Wildland Provincial Park (now 54,588 hectares) and Pekisko Heritage Rangeland (34,356 hectares)
  • A formal commitment to work with our stakeholders to explore conservation opportunities in the Twin River and Onefour Heritage Rangeland Natural Areas of the grasslands
  • Improved connectivity for wildlife habitats, both within the South Saskatchewan region and connecting to other regions
  • A commitment to explore new tools and incentives for stewardship and conservation on private land
  • Longer terms for grazing leases (20 years instead of 10)

That’s not all that’s in the plan, of course. It’s a blueprint for how we’ll balance development in the South Sask region with protecting its resources – so it sets objectives for conservation; monitoring and environmental management; biodiversity; recreation; private land stewardship; recreation – and lots more.

If you’d like the full scoop on the plan, you can check it out here. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be blogging about some of the ‘hot topics’ that came up at our SSRP community sessions, explaining how the finished plan will address the concerns that we heard. We’ll talk about:

  • How we decide where to create new conservation areas
  • What wildlife habitat connectivity means and why it’s important
  • Protections for the region’s grasslands
  • What the SSRP means for recreation
  • Tools for private land stewardship and conservation
  • What’s next for air and water quality frameworks in the region, and how they’ll impact monitoring

Is there a topic you’d like to see covered? Tell us in the comments!

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.


Take the Calgary WMA Geocaching challenge

The Calgary Wildfire Management Office is giving you a chance to go on a geocaching adventure – while exploring some of the most picturesque spots in Alberta’s Southern Rockies! They’ve hidden 15 puzzles in geocaches around the area. Once you collect all the puzzle pieces, you can bring them to the CWMA office and exchange them for a bag full of cool outdoor gear and other fun stuff.

What makes this geocache challenge so unique? Each puzzle piece arms you with crucial wildfire prevention information – making this experience educational as well as fun. Since the majority of geocaches can be accessed fairly easily, this is a great family activity. So what are you waiting for – grab your GPS and get going! Good luck!

All done with the challenge? Here’s where to take your puzzle pieces:

Southern Rockies Geocache
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

8660 Bearspaw Dam Road NW
Calgary Alberta Canada T3L 1S4

Coming home to roost: after 50 years, peregrines have returned to the Pembina

We’re pretty careful about the acronyms we use on this blog – but DDT needs no introduction. The pesticide (officially called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) came into common use after the Second World War because it was great at killing the insects that ruin crops and spread disease. Unfortunately, it was bad news for more than just bugs. After it was linked to health problems for humans and many other species, its use was banned in the 1970s.

Photo of an adult peregrine falcon.

Photo credit: Gordon Court.

It’s been more than 30 years since then – but some species in Alberta are still recovering. One of these is the peregrine falcon. In the early 1970s, our initial surveys of the peregrine population showed a steady and drastic decline, mainly due to earlier DDT use. Unless something changed – and soon – we feared we would lose the species entirely in Alberta.

So we took emergency measures to prevent that from happening. First, young birds from the very last pairs of peregrines in southern Canada were brought into captivity and placed in a federal breeding facility in Camp Wainwright, Alberta. Eventually, this program produced enough falcons for us to attempt re-introducing the species in the wild. This has gone well: surveys conducted in 1995-2010 have documented pairs of peregrines returning to nest at sites on the North Saskatchewan, Peace, Slave, Red Deer, and Brazeau Rivers.

For the past three summers, we’ve released captive-raised young near the Pembina River, where peregrines haven’t nested for decades. This project has truly been a team effort – supported by funds from Transalta Utilities; Capital Power; and the Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation (ASRPW) as well as the government of Alberta. We also received logistic support from the Alberta Conservation Association and Pembina River Provincial Park. These new additions increase the breeding pool, helping the population grow faster.

This May, all of our hard work paid off. Biologists discovered a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the banks of the Pembina – the first to do so in exactly 50 years. Although the species is still officially designated as threatened, things are definitely looking up.

Photo of a peregrine falcon nest built into a cliff.

This summer marks the first time peregrines have nested on the Pembina River in half a century. Photo credit: Gordon Court.

In 2015, we’ll conduct a province-wide survey to assess the status of the peregrine falcon. If we have at least 70 nesting pairs of birds, the species may be removed from the Threatened Species list. At any rate, these birds are on track to continue reclaiming their place in Alberta’s ecosystems – and we’re happy to welcome them back.

We’re RAC-ing up some advice for the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan


If you follow us on Twitter, you might have seen calls this past spring for applications to serve on a very special advisory council. This is the Regional Advisory Council for the North Saskatchewan region.

At the start of each regional plan, one of the first things we do is put the call out for Albertans to sit on the Regional Advisory Council (RAC) for the region we’re working on. A Regional Advisory Council is pretty much what it sounds like: a group of experts and experienced individuals who give advice about regional issues for a specific part of Alberta.

We’re pleased to announce that a council has now been appointed for the North Saskatchewan region. You can view the list of members here.

Why we have Regional Advisory Councils

Regional planning covers a huge number of different topics and priorities. Every region is different, and everyone has a slightly different vision for what it should become. Rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach, we think it’s a better idea to ask people who know each region really well what we should focus on.

That means getting ideas from people who work or specialize in different areas – including industry, conservation, agriculture, recreation, academia, and municipal governance. Our goal is to create advisory councils representing all of these different perspectives.

To achieve this, we put out a call for applicants, and then choose a representative council from the applications that we get. Each person who sits on the council commits to bringing their own expertise and views – rather than those of their employer – to the table.

What happens now

  1. Based on the general goals we want to accomplish in each region, government provides the appointed council with the same Terms of Reference for the plan that Albertans are currently providing feedback on.
  2. The council meets to discuss the main issues facing the region throughout the summer and fall. After those meetings, the council provides us with draft advice for the plan.
  3. Albertans provide feedback on this advice through an online survey.
  4. Based on the advice of the council and the feedback Albertans have provided, we produce a draft regional plan.
  5. During the next phase of consultations, we ask Albertans what they think about that draft plan.

We’ll be announcing updates about the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan on Twitter as they happen.  Our Phase One community consultation sessions have wrapped up – you can check out what we heard here – but you can still fill out the online workbook until July 31st.

If you’d like to read more about where we’re at with regional planning, you can check out the status of each region right here.

Map of Alberta's North Saskatchewan region.

Calling 310-FIRE to report a wildfire? Here’s what the operator needs to know.


When it comes to fighting wildfires, timing is everything – the earlier we can get to a wildfire, the better. Our wildlife lookouts and lightning mapping system help us do this – but we can’t have eyes everywhere at once. 310Fire_MobileAds_1034x1024_v8

That’s why it’s so important to call 310-FIRE (3473) if you spot a wildfire. In the past five years, over 5,000 Albertans have called the number – and 1,000 of these calls have helped us locate wildfires.

When you call in a wildfire, you’re our eyes and ears on the ground. Here are the details our dispatchers are looking for – check them out so that you’ll be prepared if you ever need to make the call.

We need to know where the fire is. Depending on where you are, this might include:

  • An address – GPS coordinates or a legal land description, but even an intersection will do!
  • Whether the fire is near a road or community
  • Landmarks – like a well site, a campground, or a lake
  • Any other details you can provide to help pinpoint the location

We need info about how the fire is burning – this helps ensure we’re prepared to fight it when we arrive.

  • What is burning – Grass? Trees? Is it on agricultural land?
  • How fast is the fire spreading – is it stationary? If it’s moving, is it slower or faster than a normal walking speed?
  • What color is the smoke – is it light grey? Dark grey to black?
  • How thick is the smoke – light or heavy?

Any other relevant information about the situation that you can provide is helpful.

  • What’s in the immediate area – people? Property?
  • Is road access available to the area, or is it blocked?
  • Do you see any clues to what started the fire – like a campfire, off-highway vehicles, or lightning?
  • Is water readily available at the scene?
Photo of a prescribed fire in a field of dead grass.

The color and thickness of smoke can tell us a lot about the wildfire that produced it.

We also appreciate it if you can provide your contact information for any follow-up questions we might have.

Calling 310-FIRE is quick and easy: it’s available 24/7, toll-free. So if you see a wildfire or suspicious smoke – no matter where or when it happens – we hope you’ll make the call.

For further reading, check out our posts on how to prevent your campfire and off-highway vehicle from sparking a blaze this summer.

Want up-to-date info on the wildfire risk in your area? Click here to download the Alberta Wildfire app for iOS and Android. 

Fire hazard is high in Central and Northern Alberta. You can help us minimize the risk of wildfire.

wildfire blog banner

It’s been a wet spring in some parts of the province – but that doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods when it comes to fire season. Due to a combination of high winds and little rain, the fire hazard level is now high in central and northern areas of the province.

AB fire weather index map July 3


What this means for you

It’s your responsibility to be aware of the fire hazard in your area before you burn – even if you have a permit. To give you as much information as possible on potential fire bans, the province has updated its system.

When an area’s fire hazard begins to climb, a fire advisory can be issued. This means your permit may be suspended or it may even be cancelled. Each advisory will vary depending on the current situation, so it’s important to check the details in your area. Remember: any burning in Alberta’s Forest Protection Area requires a permit during fire season – the only exceptions are campfires.

If the fire hazard continues to rise, a fire restriction or fire ban can be issued – which means that even campfires can be restricted or prohibited. In extreme situations, a fire ban may be upgraded to a forest area closure where no forest access is permitted for public safety reasons.

Here’s a breakdown of the fire ban system’s five levels:

ESRD fire ban summary 2014

You can check for fire bans for your area 24/7 at albertafirebans.ca

Help us minimize the risk

Last year, more than 900 wildfires in Alberta were caused by human activity. No matter where you are in the province, you can take some simple steps to minimize risk when you’re out and about this weekend: 310Fire_MobileAds_1034x1024_v8

  • Put it out. Know these three steps for building and extinguishing a campfire safely.
  • Check for hot spots. If you’re taking out an ATV or other off-highway vehicle, remember to check your vehicle’s hot spots and take steps to prevent a wildfire.
  • Report it. If you see a wildfire, you can call 310-FIRE (3473) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The sooner we know about a fire, the sooner we can start fighting it.


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


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


What we heard: great turnout and even better conversation as Phase One NSRP sessions wrap up in Edmonton


That’s a wrap, folks: yesterday was the last day for Phase One of our North Saskatchewan regional planning sessions. You can see the summaries for all sessions here.

We wrapped up with a stellar turnout in Edmonton: more than 100 Albertans (106 to be exact) turned up to share their concerns, ideas, and visions for the future of the region.

Numerous municipalities, organizations and industries were represented, including: Husky Energy, Shell Canada, Enbridge, the Alberta Endurance Ice Racing Association (AEIRA), City of Edmonton, Lafarge, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, City of Camrose, ATCO, County of Leduc, Strathcona County, Ram River Coal, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Sturgeon County, Nature Alberta, Capital Power, Snow and Mud.com, Pigeon Lake Watershed Association, Alberta Wilderness Association, Northern Alberta 4 Wheel Drive Association, Strathcona Wilderness Institute, Alpine Club of Canada, Toyota Expeditionary Association of Alberta, and Epcor.

Photo of a wall of comment cards.

Fun fact: during our Phase One sessions, we went through over 6,000 of these comment cards.


  • Vision is too focused on current situation and not the next fifty years
  • Vision is too long, too information-heavy and uses too many descriptors – not focused enough on ideas
  • Vision has a narrow view of the economy – greater emphasis needed on diversification (particularly a green, renewable energy sector)
  • How is it possible to have a unifying vision for such a diverse region?
  • Some participants are generally happy with the vision statement
  • More information needed about the carrying capacity of the region – what population and level of development can is sustain?
  • Not enough emphasis on people – social pillar should come first, then economy and environment
  • Greater emphasis needed on balancing all three outcomes (economy/environment/communities) and understanding the tradeoffs
  • More focus needed on what is unique about the region
  • Need to recognize the Canadian Force Bases (CFBs) and their role as communities and economic drivers
  • Economic section should focus on generation of wealth, not economic ‘growth’ – growth is not infinitely sustainable and not an end in itself
  • Tourism is missing from economic outcomes section
  • Environment outcomes need to include restoring and improving (as opposed to just maintaining status quo), reversing climate change, improving biodiversity
  • Lots of questions about the regional planning process, and how the different parts of the region connect


  • The knowledge sector – education institutions, research – is missing
  • Too much focus on Industrial Heartland
  • No reference to renewable energy sector in the plan – need to look to the future of this industry
  • The Capital Region needs a master plan for agriculture
  • Need to look at trade-offs for multiple industries using the same land
  • Currently, province is not doing enough to preserve high-quality agricultural land
  • Some participants think more tourism options are needed in rural areas;  others think tourism is just a ‘quick fix’ to keep industry from developing in certain areas
  • Economy and environmental health are connected – healthy economy starts with protecting the land and sustaining our natural resources

Thoughts about infrastructure and transportation:

  • Support for condensed multi-use transportation corridors to minimize environmental impact
  • Need more alternative transport systems, including public transit
  • Need to recognize transportation networks as an economic driver – not just for industry, but also for tourism
  • Why no mention of a regional rail system in the plan?
  • Transportation systems should help support local producers
  • Plan needs to specifically mention the international airport – this is a hub for the movement of both goods and people


  • Plan doesn’t say anything about urban environmental management (emissions, green spaces, etc.)
  • What is the baseline for environmental management – the current (damaged) state, or the earlier state? Do we have enough data about what things were like before development?
  • Municipalities need resources to achieve certain outcomes – lake management, wetlands restoration, etc.
  • The term ‘reclamation’ should be replaced with ‘restoration’ and this should be a higher priority in the plan
  • A definition is needed for ‘shared stewardship’
  • Need to adopt an adaptive management approach – how we measure and monitor success
  • Better enforcement of off-highway vehicle use needed on public lands
  • Biodiversity management section should be more action-focused and include a clearer definition of biodiversity
  • Better understanding needed of how biodiversity relates to other section of the plan – tourism, economic development, etc.
  • Emphasize connectivity of wildlife habitats across landscapes
  • Provincial strategies for environmental management need teeth
  • Action needed to measure and control the effect of water quality on fish populations
  • Development and conservation are not mutually exclusive – they can exist on the same land
  • Wetlands policy implementation should be a priority
  • Some participants are looking for more accessible info about the Alberta Land Stewardship Act

Thoughts on water and air:

  • Province needs to work with WPACs
  • More provincial government involvement needed in watershed management
  • Must address declining water levels in many areas
  • Lots of work has already been done on air quality management – need to recognize this and not re-invent the wheel. Clearly defined role needed for airshed groups.
  • Province needs more capacity to enforce air quality monitoring standards, ensure accountability
  • Air quality management needs to be holistic


  • Municipalities need more revenue streams
  • Support for inclusion of Aboriginal peoples in land-use planning. Unfortunate that no Aboriginal people were in attendance at this session – perspectives would really add to discussion.
  • Need effort to preserve traditional Aboriginal knowledge – but also use historical knowledge
  • Concern that Alberta’s youth are losing attachment to the land, understanding of where food comes from, etc
Photo of a farmer's field

Are Alberta’s young people losing a connection to the land and what it provides?

Thoughts about recreation:

  • Plan needs to define what recreation means – it’s different things to different people
  • More designated trails are needed – concerns about the loss of existing trails
  • Better education and enforcement is needed for off-highway vehicle use. We can use clubs and organizations to help achieve this – but how do we reach riders who are not part of these organizations?
  • Government should take responsibility for education about responsible access and use of trails
  • Off-highway vehicle use should be limited to designated areas
  • Sustained access to public land is needed
  • Private landowners need to be respected by those who want to use their land for recreation