Communities Care

Recognizing Alberta’s environmental leaders

Two recent Emerald Award winners

The Emerald Foundation is Alberta’s champion of environmental excellence, recognizing achievement in management, technology and education through its Emerald Awards program. Receiving over 100 nominations annually, the AEF has honoured over 2,500 initiatives and innovations since 1992. Their efforts raise public awareness of environmental preservation as a necessary adjunct to economic growth and resource development.

Quantifiable, sustainable change is the criterion for Emerald consideration and, from the classroom to the corporation, a variety of sectors and projects are eligible. Large or small business, government or community group, not-for-profit organization or individual (including youth): the Foundation seeks to identify and celebrate anyone prioritizing a commitment to the environment. These are two recent Award recipients.

Winner – Community Group or Not-For-Profit Association: Grassroots
Carnivores and Communities Program, Waterton Biosphere Reserve
Pincher Creek, AB

Large carnivores and agricultural land users are in conflict in southwestern Alberta—and we need to address the needs of both to ensure their peaceful coexistence, we must address the needs of both. Solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all, so neighbour-to-neighbour coffee table conversations are just as important for tackling the issues as research and government support can be. Fortunately, the Waterton Biosphere Reserve’s Carnivores and Communities Program (CACP) is up to the task of managing this complex process.

How can we support the bears, wolves and cougars inhabiting scarce public and protected areas, while also safeguarding private agricultural land? It begins with mediating a multifaceted, community-driven discussion between landowners, the provincial government and nature conservancy groups—a process that can become controversial, and emotionally charged.

The CACP promotes a three-pronged approach that manages ‘attractants’ (elements that interest wild animals), removes ‘deadstock’ (farm animals killed by wild animals), and prioritizes human safety. Carnivores and Communities assists with electric fencing projects, grain bin replacements and feed storage retrofits. Their free farm pickups remove deadstock; and agricultural families benefit from the CACP’s bear safety workshops. To date, 60 cost-shared attractant management projects have helped 50 families, and over 3,600 carcasses were removed from 500,000 hectares. These success stories help raises awareness about the program, and encourages participation in hopes of protecting carnivore populations, local livelihoods and residents.

Winner: Youth — presented by Syncrude-logo2
Mission Replant Fort McMurray, Eco YOLO
Fort McMurray, AB

These aren’t your everyday 14-year-olds. Fort McMurray junior high students Chintan Desai and Krish Shah, who had previously been part of Wood Buffalo’s Green Teen program, wanted to help replenish what was lost in the 2016 wildfires that ravaged their community. Meeting weekly at Ecole McTavish Junior High, the pair worked to engage city youth in replanting trees lost to the largest natural disaster in Canadian history. The two teens explain that the program name is a compound: “Eco” for the environment and “YOLO” because you only live once, so you need to protect the planet. In spring 2017, a core group of 11 Eco YOLO members enlisted equally dedicated teachers to recruit over 200 city youth. They planted 1,650 young trees at Saprae Creek in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo. It took passion and commitment to learn the protocols for planting the “right tree in the right place”—in this case, low-moisture deciduous trees and conifers that resist fire spreading—and to find local and national corporate sponsors who would finance the project. Eco YOLO received more than $17,000 in funding from Chevrolet Canada, Intact Insurance and others sponsors.

The Alberta Emerald Foundation operates almost exclusively through dedicated volunteer contributions.