The Environment Committee met virtually on August 4, 2020 during the CCA’s Semi-Annual Meeting.
Chair, Duane Thompson, presented the report highlighting that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has posted several interim codes of practice that will be finalized in the fall of 2021. Of importance to beef producers are the interim codes for beaver dam removal, culvert maintenance and end of pipe screening when pumping water in fish habitat. While slow to initiate, DFO has begun ag industry consultations on these interim Codes of Practice and CCA staff are developing comments on aspects of the interim codes that need clarification, or are impractical for landowners to follow.
The CCA had submitted a formal Notice of Objection to the re-evaluation decision by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to terminate the registered use of strychnine for the control of Richardson's ground squirrels (RGS). CCA also co-signed a letter to Federal Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, noting the science does not support the PMRA decision. It remains to be seen if PMRA will reverse its decision. In the meantime, strychnine use for RGS control is to be phased out over three years.
On March 31, 2020, the 2015-2020 Species At Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands project officially ended. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) had indicated future funding to continue the very successful program was likely. Just prior to the Semi-Annual Meeting, CCA received confirmation by senior ECCC staff that it would indeed receive funding.
Despite the impacts of COVID-19, it was decided to go ahead with presenting the 2020 Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA). To get the most exposure possible during these pandemic restrictive times, CCA held a media showcase of the TESA nominees ahead of the virtual TESA awards ceremony set for August 12, 2020 during the Canadian Beef Industry Conference.
Dr. Ryan Brook, associate professor at the Animal and Poultry Science Department at the University of Saskatchewan, presented on the findings of his team's research from 2010 to 2020 on the population of wild pigs across the prairies. Brook showed data indicating a significant and rapid expansion in the wild pig population is occurring across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and regions of Alberta. Dr. Brook indicated the only solution, based on experience elsewhere, is for jurisdictions to take an eradication approach as these wild pigs are very prolific year-round breeders and have multiple litters per sow each year.
CCA Environment and Sustainability Manager, Larry Thomas, updated the committee on the progress of the Food Water Wellness Foundation’s project on quantifying soil organic carbon on ranches across Alberta. The target is to use a new technology and methodology to test a system whereby farm scale soil carbon stores and actual soil carbon accrual can be measured, thus enabling producers to monitor their soil carbon status and perhaps receive incentives for improving soil carbon levels over time. Lab analyses are underway and it's hoped preliminary results will be available this coming winter. He also reported on the Wetlands Valuation Project being proposed by the Canadian Wetlands Roundtable and Ducks Unlimited Canada. The project objective is to determine the asset value of wetlands to Canadians. This value analysis is critical to placing wetlands as real assets on balance sheets of conservation organizations, governments and private landowners. Having a scientific robust valuation of various types of wetlands could be important in future incentives-based conservation offset programs.