BPEG sponsors monthly presentations and, from time to time other events in the community. The entries below summarize these events and in some cases link to audio or video recordings.
Karen Farbridge talks about her experiences as a mayor of Guelph.
As a youth Karen Farbridge announced she would be studying big carnivorous cats in Africa. Instead, she went from studying toxic salmon in polluted streams in her home province to studying toxic carnivorous characters in local politics! In fact, she tamed both citizens and city councillors using careful strategies of listening, humility, understanding priorities and setting goals where all could prosper.
Farbridge, former mayor of Guelph, was guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group in Lion’s Head on Aug. 1. Her topic: How local government and community can work together to preserve the environment. Guelph activists inspired Farbridge, who has a doctorate in biology, to leave the research lab in 1993 and work on local issues. When she approached city council with an allotted five-minute presentation on conservation, she was met with a boisterous reprimand from one member of council who said she was wasting their time. This only strengthened her resolve. She was 10 years ahead of her time with her conservation plan, she reckons, but she could see that the slogan, Think Globally, Act Locally, was the right path for her and her city. Working with engaged citizens and community leaders on issues of social justice and sustainability, she quickly realized the status quo works very hard to “do it the way it has always been done” to protect its self interest.
She had to convince community leaders that water conservation, protecting farmland and groundwater, waste management through composting, protecting natural heritage sites, and other sustainability programs would benefit everyone. Having studied the issues she was proposing and having examples of communities that had involved themselves in these programs helped.
She noted that a local reporter came up with this line about her plans: “The government may have no business in your bedroom, but it does want to know what you do in the bathroom.” Dealing with libertarians, conservatives, evangelicals, tax fighters, contrarians, and others of various stripes is the stuff of city council meetings. Finding common ground is key. The city of Guelph managed to construct an eight-point plan for sustainability that would serve all of the people. Toilet and washing machine rebates, grey water systems, built-in rain water collection systems pitched to developers would mean more growth for their business if the taxes remained reasonable to new home builders. Leaving streams open for enjoyment instead of enclosing them was an ecological as well as economical move.
With four political campaigns and three terms as mayor, her advice, “Be clear about your values, be humble about what you don’t know, listen with empathy, and be open to change.” She believes a democracy should reflect a balance of gender and ethnic diversity on all government levels.
Dr. Trace Mackay talks about ticks on the peninsula, their life cycle and presence among us, and what we need to know to protect ourselves.
Background on me: veterinarian for 15 years and completed a masters of public health degree in 2010. For that degree I did a placement at the Grey Bruce Health Unit and conducted active tick surveillance in Bruce county dragging for ticks and did not find any Lyme disease positive ticks or significant signs of endemic tick populations in the county.
About ticks: Most ticks live in forested areas with sandy soil and lots of leaf litter. They wait on grasses upto 30cm in height to hitchhike onto passing animals or people - this is called questing. Wild animals are typically the target - mice and deer are part of the natural blacklegged tick/deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) life cycle and are involved in spreading the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that can cause Lyme disease. There are other ticks around (groudhog ticks, dog ticks, brown ticks, and the newest tick in town the Lonestar tick) and other tick borne diseases than Lyme disease. People and dogs are not the intended targets for ticks but incidental targets - dogs are more likely to pick up ticks than people as they will wander off paths into grassy places where leaf litter builds up and they have nice fur to cling onto - this is why dogs are important sentinels for the discovery of tick problem areas. Ticks usually hitch a ride on clothing and then find a way to get to our skin until the can find a warm, moist location to attach and feed. Most common spots to find attached ticks on people are hairline/scalp, behind or in ears, armpits and groin, and between toes but they could attach anywhere. Spots to check on pets include in/around the ears, under collars, on the back/neck, axillae (dog "armpits") and groin and between toes.
Do we have a problem with ticks and Lyme disease on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula? The answer is not likely. There is no evidence that tick populations are cycling through our winters and there is no evidence to suggest we have an endemic Lyme disease problem in our tick and wildlife populations. What we do have is all of the perfect habitat, wildlife hosts and migrating birds that will drop ticks off in the spring that they have picked up further south. As climate change continues and our winters shorter with less below freezing days, tick populations can establish (ticks can be active anytime temperatures are 4'C or warmer - we can still see tick activity all through the winter on breakthrough warm days). So we need to be aware of ticks, but not worried too much about tick bites and tick borne disease yet. There are many areas in Ontario that are Lyme endemic areas with large tick populations (notably along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence waterway) so extra precautions should be taken when visiting these areas. Not all ticks carry disease causing bacteria and even when they do, people and dogs have less than a 5% chance of contracting an illness from a Lyme positive tick. It takes 24-36 hours of blood feeding/attachment time for ticks to infect a person or pet with bacteria or viruses. If a tick is just crawling on your skin, you won't get sick from it and there is no need to keep it or get it/yourself/or your pet tested - flushing it down the toilet is the best way to get rid of it.
What can we do about ticks? Prevention, prevention, prevention. In our own backyards, we should keep grass cut and remove leafy debris where ticks will go to molt and lay eggs. We should stay on paths when we hike and wear appropriate clothing in areas where picking up a tick is possible - long pants tucked into socks, shirt tucked in. Use effective repellents on lower body clothing like DEET and check yourself, your family members and pets for ticks after walking in wooded/grassy areas. A sticky lint roller brush is a great tool to take over your clothes or throw them in the dryer when you get home - this would dry out and kill ticks on clothing. Having a shower will wash off any ticks that may have gotten onto your skin within hours of a hike. Ask your veterinarian about tick medications for your dogs and outdoor cats that kill ticks quickly rather than just repel ticks - any dead tick is one less tick that could lay 100s of eggs that will grow into more ticks.
What if you still find a tick on yourself or your pet? The best thing to do is remove it quickly without "ticking off the tick" - use tweezers or a tick removal tool to get under the biting pieces and pull straight out. Do not put any irritants like alcohol on the tick as this can cause it to dump more bacteria from its gut into your skin. If you can't pull the tick off yourself, seek medical or veterinary assistance or use vaseline or vegetable oil to smother the tick for a slower release. Wash the area with basic disinfectant. Save that tick - you can submit ticks to the Grey Bruce Public Health Unit for testing if found on a person or to a veterinary clinic that is collecting ticks as part of the passive surveillance plan. Pet owners can also send pictures of ticks or mail ticks to the University of Guelph to be identified and tested - information on how to submit ticks can be found at www.petsandticks.com. And monitor your health and your pets healthy for any changes up to 30 days after a tick exposure. If you develop a bulls eye rash that spread outwards from the bite site or experience any other unusual symptoms, seek care from your doctor as most tick borne diseases are easily treated with a course of antibiotics. Early detection and early treatment are key in preventing Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses.
So the bottom line is this: we should be aware of ticks on ourselves and our pets, do what we can to prevent tick exposures, but keep on enjoying the great outdoors as the health benefits of keeping ourselves and our pets active far outweighs the risk of contracting a tick borne disease on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula.
by Jan Mackie
Dr Martyn Obbard gives us the details on the black bears of the Bruce Peninsula. Very fascinating and informative. And gives us food for thought on how we might live better with these unique creatures.
The June meeting was a joint venture between the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group and the Sources of Knowledge, held at the Visitors Centre at the Park and was well attended.
Brian McAddie introduced Dr. Martyn Obbard, now retired, an Emeritus Research Scientist with OMNR&F and a professor at Trent University.
In 1996/7 there were concerns about the black bear population on the Bruce Peninsula which had not been previously researched. Dr. Obbard embarked on a project for which there is data between 1998 & 2012.
Originally the project was a 3-year collaborative agreement between MNR & Parks Canada with support from managers. Funding was shared with the MNR bringing in graduate students
The concerns were: 1. Possible isolation of the BP bears, 2. Possible small population, 3. Habitat fragmentation, 4. Human-Bear conflict
The objectives of the project were: A) what is the size of the bear population on the Peninsula and B) Is the genetic diversity sufficient for the population to be sustainable.
The field work began in late summer of 1998. That year only one female bear was outfitted with a radio collar. Traps made from old oil drums with a trap door were used. In 1999, 14 bears were radio collared, giving the research team the ability to track their movements. When the bears are live trapped they are sedated, weighed, examined for age & health and given a radio collar. These collars are only placed on the females as the neck of the males is too thick and they can slip the collar off. These collars allowed the researchers to track the bears’ movements and locate the bears in their dens in the winter to gather information about numbers of cubs being born.
Bears ranged in size from: males – 64 to 128kg – females 60.5 to 78.8kg and newborns are tiny, approx. 300grms. From information gathered it was estimated that there were approx. 316 bears on the peninsula in 2012.
The winter work of the research team consisted of tracking the females in their dens when the cubs would be 8-10 weeks old. Each female has 2 or 3 cubs per winter and remains somewhat awake to tend to the cubs, nursing & grooming them. Dr Obbard entertained us with the Mercer Report episode of finding the winter dens and extracting the cubs & mother to weigh them and check on their health.
To determine the genetic diversity of the peninsula bear population hair traps were set. A sample of hair would be left on the barbed wire when the bears passed under it for the bait. DNA from these samples and from the live traps showed that the bears on the Bruce peninsula are genetically unique, differing from other bear populations in Ontario. This lack of diversity could be an issue for the sustainability of the population and the idea of occasionally introducing a bear with different DNA is an option that researchers are looking at.
The dens of the peninsula bears are also unique – of the ones the researchers visited, 80% were in deep rock crevices, a few were excavated under brush piles or overhanging boulders. This crevice den is not found amongst other bears in Ontario.
This separation from other Ontario bears is likely due to the bottleneck at the base of the peninsula created by development.
If the bear population were reduced to just the park, within 50 years the bears would be gone. One more threat has appeared in the last couple of years in the form of the Beech bark disease that is currently threatening the entire population of Beech trees. Beech nuts provide an important staple to their diet.
In order to reduce the risk of extirpation (wiping out of this unique population) there is the need to 1. Conserve habitat outside of the park (dense mixed and deciduous forests), 2. Reduce incidental mortality (roadkill), 3. Reduce overall harvest (hunting), 4. Reduce proportion of the adult female harvest.
To hear the entire talk go to www.bpeg.ca
All of us who live on and visit the peninsula have a part to play in keeping this unique bear population from going into serious decline. One simple thing we can do to reduce the possibility of human-bear conflict is by not leaving food & garbage out to attract the bears. We need to put our garbage out only on the day of collection. If you are a weekend visitor your garbage can be taken to the Lindsay landfill site (for full info go to www.northbrucepeninsula.ca ) that is open on Sundays during the summer until 6pm OR take it home where you can add it to your local collection system. And if you rent out your cottage be sure to leave information available to encourage visitors to be aware & deal with food & garbage appropriately.
At BPEG’s May meeting Tim Matheson gave us some facts and insights on electric vehicles, providing information and entertaining us all at once. Tim is the owner of a Chevy Bolt and, as he says, has little or no technical knowledge of the workings of the vehicle but understands well the likely cost savings to his pocketbook and the potential benefits to our environment. Tim started with a bit of history, reminding us that the idea of electric vehicles has been around a long time, the first electric car being made in 1922. However the battery technology, which had not advanced sufficiently and the (at the time) lower cost of fossil fuels led the auto industry down the path of gas powered vehicles.
In answer to the audiences anticipated questions, Tim had prepared a number of very accessible charts comparing the costs of his current vehicle over a ten-year period and the expected costs of his new Bolt over ten years. There is an amazing difference! His current Honda CRV (which is relatively fuel efficient) has required approximately $46,000 – the cost for electricity for the Bolt will be between $5,000 & $11,000 depending on the whether it is charged at high or low peak times. – A side note here – in order for the electrical grid to provide the necessary baseline of energy much electricity goes unused at night, making this an ideal time to recharge your electric car. Due to the low maintenance costs of this type of vehicle there are many other savings – no exhaust system or radiator to maintain or oil changes, less braking costs due to the regenerative powering of the brakes and the fact that the resistance of the engine takes care of much of the braking. When you include the initial cost of the vehicles, which are approximately the same, the total over the 10 years looks like this: Honda CRV $103,949 – Chevy Bolt $52,437. Plus currently there are substantial government incentives depending on the vehicle – for the all-electric Bolt it is up to $14,000.
So then what about the space in the vehicle – Tim’s experience is that there is plenty of room for the driver and plenty of storage space as well as passenger seating for three in the back seat.
And how far can it go on a full charge? – approximately 300 km, depending of course on how one drives and the weather conditions.
And what is the cost for charging? And where are the charging stations?
Currently there is no cost to charge at a charging station but this will likely change with time. There are 3 types of chargers, each working at a different rate of charging. More and more are appearing in various places – there is one at Walmart in Owen Sound and more can be accessed in a variety of locations. If one has a station in their garage, this can be used at night when electricity is cheapest.
And what of the environmental impact? By Tim’s calculations, replacing one gas vehicle with an all-electric one we are saving the carbon equivalent of 40 acres of new forest/year and helping to reduce the amount of CO2 being absorbed by and polluting the oceans.
Now, what if all at once every vehicle in North America (300,000,000) were electric – there is the possibility to save the carbon equivalent of 12 TRILLION acres of forest – that’s 10 times the surface area of the continental USA.
So now you have more questions about these vehicles – listen to Tim’s talk on the BPEG website www.bpeg.ca and search out information on the internet – we all need to be informed.
On February 7, 2018, residents and business owners from across the peninsula, as well as members of Chippewas of Nawash and North Bruce Peninsula councils, gathered to hear an update on the Sustainable Tourism Action Plan.
Megan Myles, representing the Sustainable Tourism Steering Committee, offered a overview of the Draft Action Plan compiled by the consulting firm Twenty31.
The plan aims to develop a clear locally defined vision for sustainable tourism. A survey of a full spectrum of tourism, business, community and governmental stakeholders identified some positives – including the fact that NBP is “one of the strongest volunteer community” Twenty31 has worked with. With the obvious problems such as noise, congestion, garbage, limited infrastructure and amenities, Megan states “the negative impacts and continued tourism growth without having any sort of management can be catastrophic and cause the degradation of natural, social and cultural assets.” However, she sees an incredible opportunity to position North Bruce as a leader in sustainable tourism, as well as create an environment to attract sustainably-minded entrepreneurs.
Twenty 31 recommends: 1) a more robust tourism governance model, including creation of a tourism advisory group who are empowered by a charter to implement the plan, 2) the hiring of a Tourism Development Manager, and 3) appropriate financial resources to implement initial projects.
Once these resources are in place, the plan advocates for a visitor management framework known as the Limits of Acceptable Change, a framework developed by the US Parks Service and comparable to the framework used by Parks Canada, locally and federally.
This framework would allow us to identify what undesirable impacts are occurring or may be occurring, develop indicators to monitor these impacts, set limits or thresholds of acceptable change and actively apply direct or indirect management responses.
“How much is too much?” is not the question to be asking, since it is impossible to arrive at that number, but rather focus on the desirable environmental, social, cultural, political and visitor experience conditions.
Recognizing that the negative impacts are not equally distributed through all parts of the peninsula and for the purposes of understanding and describing the distribution of tourism impacts, Twenty 31 segregated the peninsula into the following “zones”: Bruce Peninsula National Park; Fathom Five National Marine Conservation Area; Downtowns – Tobermory & Lions Head; Rural; and Highway Corridors.
Undesirable behaviour occurs in predictable patterns and if we understand this through research, we can guide management with proactive strategic planning which would mitigate the undesirable behaviours and maximum the benefits from tourism.
Megan used the example of her Green Tourism certification for the Fitz Hostel. She keeps track of the volume of garbage and recycling she produces in relation to the number of guests. This monitoring gives her baseline data from 2017 to compare with 2018, so she can set goals to minimize waste.
By establishing baseline conditions and limits of thresholds, we will be able to monitor the data and determine what impacts need prioritizing for mitigation given the reality of financial and personnel constraints.
In the breakout sessions, eight groups considered what the limits of acceptable change are and offered their comments.
A key interest of the audience was how to deal with this year’s visitors, offer quality vs. quantity, the sentiment being, “We have to get this right.”
One group felt “We need to dial back 5 years...look at those numbers and consider how best to manage those numbers.”
Thorsten Arnold, a local farmer and formerly of Eat Local Grey Bruce, indicates he would like to offer culinary experiences, but not sure how to attract the crowd heading to the Grotto.
A Tobermory group who described themselves as being “on the front lines” would like to see more activities to engage the 18- 35 year old crowd.
Megan sees an opportunity to build on the “You are Here” Manifesto campaign produced last year to encourage desirable visitor behaviours.
Tony Keeshig, Economic Development Officer for the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, said, “We are here to protect the land and water, building more parking lots is going in the wrong direction.” He would like to see an interpretive centre around Wiarton, maybe even in Toronto, where information sessions about the entire Bruce Peninsula could be offered and local merchants could set up a kiosk to sell their wares.
Jeff Corner cited advice from Roger Brooks, a destination development and marketing expert,
"If we consider ourselves a premier destination we need at least 10 top restaurants; 10 top activities and 10 top accommodators.”
Other suggestions included traffic circles, speed bumps, more police presence, “taking the car out of the equation” in downtown Tobermory and pre-booking for accommodations and activities.
To hear more of this presentation, search for the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group on YouTube.
The community was invited to email feedback about the draft plan by Feb. 14. A link to the draft plan can be found at www.rto7.ca/Public/Resources/Municipality-of-Northern-Bruce-Peninsula
The final plan will be completed by the end of March.
You can view a videotaped recording of this meeting HERE.
Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, is the fourth largest lake in the world, and is and an international one at that, is one of the world’s most complex bodies of water with a bathymetry – or topography – quite different from other lakes. Jason reviewed the transformations of the lake over the last 100 years to explain some of the changes in the lake’s ecology, including its food web and the approaches taken to preserve the lake’s native fish species in the face of overwhelming challenges.
In the early 1900s, Lake Huron supported strong commercial fisheries in both Canada and the U.S. However, theis level of fishing was not sustainable and, harvests declined and mademaking native fish more vulnerable to invasive species. In the 1940s, Lake Huron’s ecology faced a strong challenge from thefollowing the invasion of the non-native sea lamprey and the alewife that were introduced- through the Welland Canal from the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next twenty years, lake trout, whitefish and lake herring cicsco populations were devastated as a result of lamprey-induced mortality while populations of alewife and smelt flourished without predators and competition from other fish. But the smelt population flourished since it was not prey to either.
In the 1960s, non-native Chinook and coho salmon were introduced to control smelt and alewife populations and to create a new sport fishery. This approach recognized that diversity among fish stocks would be important to the diversity of the fish community as a whole and to achieve this there would need to be a balance throughout Lake Huron between predator and prey fish. With the introduction of new predators,Consequently, alewife numbers decreased while, and numbers of native species increased – like sculpin, burbot and various types of trout.
By the 1980s, other invasive species such as- zebra and quagga mussels - had arrived, brought in by cargo ships; they spread throughout the Great Lakes and inland waterways. These mussels are filter feeders, consuming the plankton that feed small fish from the water column and concentrating nutrients at the bottom on the lake. As a result of their introduction, Lake Huron became clearer. However, they also caused a reduction in plankton though the water column that feed small fish causing ripples throughout the food chain with aincluding a startling decrease in forage fish. The overall biomass of the fish population decreased over the next twenty years, and populations of predatory fish such a salmon rapidly declined. Jason’s charts illustrated the rise in density of mussels in Lake Huron in the early 2000s.
As anglers know, the salmon population did have declined but other many native fish species populations have grown. Without alewifes, walleye and lake trout have been able to flourish as have emerald shiners, bloaters and smallmouth bass. Jason finished on an upbeat note: native fish species, including sturgeon, grow and thrive showing that the Lake Huron ecology continues to evolve.
An Invasive Species task force has been formed with comprehensive representation from all levels of government, conservation authorities, non-governmental organizations and community members on the peninsula. The job of the taskforce is to map, prioritize and manage active populations of invasive species as well as to be on the lookout for new invasions on the Bruce.
Tyler Miller, Park Canada’s Resource Management Officer for the Bruce Peninsula, presented first: Invasive plants occupy and are invading all our ecosystems, above and below water. Southern Ontario contains the highest number – one hundred and thirty-nine - of invasive plant species in the country that have originally come from Europe or Asia. Of these, forty-nine species have invaded the Bruce Peninsula.
Miller defined invasive species as those that pose alarming ecological, economic, and social threats. These plant species cause irreversible damage to the environment, leave lasting scars on the landscape and are recognised to be one of the foremost causes of declining biodiversity globally. Moreover, cleanup is costly for government, industry and households. For example, Tyler said, invasive plants cost the agriculture and forest industries in Canada about $7.3 billion annually.
Esme Batten, Coordinator, Conservation Biology for the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula of the Nature Conservancy of Canada described the projects currently underway to control phragmites – a particularly aggressive form of reed - across the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula.
Esme cautioned us all: Do not be a pathway for these terrestrial invaders. But, working on prevention, early detection and eradication of invasive plant species is the most economical and effective means of invasive plant management.
She said that it is important to ensure new weed species or vegetative reproductive plant parts are not introduced into a new area. Here’s where individuals may play a role in identifying new weeds and working with local organizations to deal with new infestations to eradicate them as soon as possible.
A take-away from the meeting was that preventing the establishment and spread of invasive species may be one of the most valuable actions that we can do for conservation. Contact Esme Batten at firstname.lastname@example.org if you identify an invasive plant or wish to volunteer on eradication of invasive plant species.