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The Power of the Dark Side: Darth Vader weighs in on the Calgary SW Ring Road

“Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends.” I never thought I would be quoting one of the most notorious villains in the unknown galaxies, albeit a far, far away galaxy, but I must say when it comes to future street lighting, Darth Vader has a point. If we consider our friends to be our wildlife neighbours, or the astronomers at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO), or even our neighbour down the road, then darker is better. Why? Because circadian rhythms depend on the natural dark and light ratios of day and night, and all those friends need regular circadian rhythms to be healthy individuals. I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of recommendations that I would like to think Darth Vader would approve of to achieve his goals of spreading the Dark Side across the galaxies including the future Calgary SW Ring Road.

  1. Use the right amount of light-  A luminaire Backlight, Uplight and Glare value of zero should be used. Shorter lamp posts also ensure the light only goes where it is needed.
  2. Use efficient and environmentally friendly lamps and bulbs- Of course the Empire cares about cutting costs. For those of you unfamiliar with the Death Star, let us just say it was really big, labour intensive, and an expensive project. Efficient environmentally friendly bulbs mean less energy used which turns into money saved for you, the taxpayer.
  3. Using flat lens cobra head fixtures- ensures all your light goes downwards where it is needed preventing Uplight. Less Uplight means more stars are visible which is great for migrating birds, astronomers and the Millennium Falcon’s hyperspace jumps.
  4. Consider adopting those nice red hues often seen in Sith lightsabers. Warm yellows are also acceptable. Lights with warm colours have a longer wavelength and appear to be less disruptive to our circadian rhythms and night vision.
  5. Follow the MD Foothills Dark Skies Bylaw*.
  6. Dimming capabilities. Having highway lights that can be dimmed during low traffic times can reduce energy costs by at least 30%. Recent technology has even made motion-sensor highway lighting available, which in addition to saving energy also helps to track movement of Rebel Alliance that may be passing through the area.

Darth Vader was a presence. When he walked on screen you took notice. However, he does not hold much sway in public policy. If we are to embrace the power of the Dark Side then it is up to us to contact our MLAs and Alberta Transportation to let them know that Canada's first Nocturnal Preserve, the ASCCA, and one of Canada's largest Astrophysical Observatories, the RAO, should be kept dark; and that they are worthy of a Special Geographical Area designation that would require lighting designs to be designed to minimize light pollution as outlined in IESNA RP-33 in the Alberta Transportation Highway Lighting Guide. And may the Force be with us.

*For more information go to http://www.mdfoothills.com/residents/planning/environment/dark_sky_initiative/dark_sky_faqs.html

By: Laura Griffin

Posted by: Anna

150 Trees - making connections, filling spaces

Our July Canada 150 Legacy Tree Planting event started in February. We’d just submitted our application to the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th with an idea to invite new Canadians still putting down roots to plant a legacy forest, connecting them to their home. I often feel that the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area has an organizational dynamic like a tree. A tree that connects, grows and changes.

Several months before this event was conceptualized, I planted my first tree in the area. I’ll never forget that experience, and the realization of what I had become a part of. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with several plantings. Tree planting is a substantial part of our conservation work, leaving behind an impact that’s larger than ourselves. A young tree is like a growing child, holding immeasurable potential. With the trees we plant we seed our hopes and dreams. We dream of the right now, a time for action and a time for reaching out, to cross boundaries.

In March, our application was accepted. We had become part of a larger national dialogue spurred by community foundations across Canada, to share our stories and celebrate our Canada. The ASCCA’s Canada is Alberta’s Canada, and Calgary’s Canada – a Canada for the world; a Canada that belongs to each of us. Within it we discover the simple joy of being outdoors, a zest for life, of relishing in the beauty of nature and feeling a strong desire to protect it, preserve it, and share it with the ones we love.

On July 8, 2017, more than 100 new Canadians and their families came to plant trees in the area, in partnership with Calgary YMCA LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada). I’ll never forget how their faces lit up, holding the trees they were about to plant. We all took time digging holes, packing down dirt and getting our hands dirty. It was lovingly that we carried buckets for watering the trees, taking proud photos and smiling at the thought of coming back to see how they’d grow. Some of the participants may have experienced their first time in a place like the ASCCA. It’s not hard to understand how someone new to Canada might feel overwhelmed or even alienated. Canada can seem expansive and daunting, with harsh winters and wide open spaces. Let’s seek to fill them.

Anna Aldridge
Communications and Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

Teaching Children the Importance of Wildlife Conservation 

Jackie Edwards

Jackie Edwards is an editor, researcher and writer who lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two daughters. Both are keen environmentalists and wish to share their love of nature with others, especially young children. To read more, please visit their blog at http://www.footstepsintheforest.com.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Children About Conservation

In our technology-fueled world, children are spending less time wandering around the great outdoors and much more time plugged in to a screen. As parents, it becomes increasingly important to bestow on our children the importance of interacting with nature and taking care of the environment.

Around Calgary, there are many opportunities for children to experience all of the wonders of wildlife and learn about conservation. Even if you do not live in the area, most places in the world today are aware of the changing climates and have ways you and your family can get involved in protecting the environment.

The Best Place to Start is Home 

Learning always begins at home. Whether you make sure to turn off the lights when you leave a room, or you try to cut back on using water in the kitchen or bathroom, your children will learn best by your example. Making your home ecologically-friendly by using energy-saving light bulbs and reusable grocery bags, will lead to your children learning and internalizing numerous habits that will impact the environment in positive ways as they grow.

Another activity that you can begin at home is keeping a “life list.” These are the perfect idea for your children to get excited about discovering new species in their own backyards. By keeping track of all of the critters, plants, or insects you uncover together, your children will soon be wildlife enthusiasts and think of the outdoors as a place for discovery.

Other Activities for the Outdoor 

In addition to talking to your children about conservation techniques in the household, it is vital that you bring them on exciting adventures in your community. Many cities that are rich in nature have preserved parks or trails, such as our very own Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area in Alberta. Places like these have numerous events and activities planned for children, such as scavenger hunts and even education programs.

You can also be aware of summer camps for children, which are a popular way for your little conservationists to experience an immersive experience in nature. Any memory formed while playing outdoors is sure to be a lasting one, as children are generally less inclined to spend time in nature on their own. By taking your children to parks, pointing out different trees as you drive, or even stopping the car to peer at a family of deer, you can be sure to spawn the next generation of animal-lovers and nature protectors.  

Posted by: Anna

"Exactly one year ago today, I came to hike at the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area for the very first time. I'll never forget the feeling that hit me once I reached this point and got a glimpse of the sweeping majesty of the land, the distant mesmerizing point where the horizon meets the sky, clean fresh air and brilliant sunshine. I took this picture and fell in love. For anyone coming out here who hasn't been before, they'll likely feel the same"

Anna Aldridge, ASCCA Communications and Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

If Darkness Fails…

Late in the evening on March 18, 2017 a group of neighbours and friends gathered at Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA). Among these friends were the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) represented by five stellar volunteers, the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO) represented by their amazing Education Coordinator, and the ASCCA was joined by Ann Cross' son Marshall Abbott. But what prompted this meeting under the cover of darkness? Curiosity about our interstellar views and concern for that darkness itself was at the top of the list.

As mentioned in last month's article the trees along the 22X were recently cleared for future utilities. These utilities are to include new lighting along the highway. Lighting that has the potential to disrupt the dark sky that has allowed the ASCCA to become Canada's first Nocturnal Preserve and has given the Rothney Observatory years of important astronomical research. If the light fixtures that are planned along the highway and other nearby developments go into place, the resulting light pollution will be astronomical, which is sadly not a pun as with fewer stars seen through the glow of development would mean the Observatory's ability to operate under such brightening conditions would be increasingly limited, and possibly non-existent in the future.

The RASC did a wonderful job educating participants on the less obvious impacts that the new light pollution would have on the ecological balance of our Nocturnal Preserve. For example, there is the disruption that artificial light has on every organism's circadian rhythm, or the changes in foraging patterns of nocturnal animals who avoid bright lights. Birds who use the stars to migrate successfully year after year are having their maps obscured from the sky. Another impact is the insects and some birds who are drawn into artificial light that fly around, transfixed, until they fall to the ground in exhaustion.

We are not asking Alberta Transportation not to put up lights along the 22X; we are just asking them to reconsider the type of light fixtures and LED lamps that they plan to install. To install fixtures that will allow both the RAO and ASCCA to continue to operate in the best possible darkness. One grade six student who recently discovered the plans for new lights along the 22X blurted out “but don't they know there is an observatory and Nocturnal Preserve here?” The answer to that is yes they do know our concerns. What Alberta Transportation is unaware of is whether our neighbours care about what their lights will do to these two legacies of Sandy Cross. “What we need”, says Marshall Abbott, “is for those who are concerned about the lights to write to their members of government and ask them to please tone it down when it comes to these lights.”

For more information on the impacts of light pollution on astronomy and wildlife please go to the RASC website at http://calgary.rasc.ca/lp/  . To contact Alberta Transportation please email: Rizwan.Hussain@gov.ab.ca or phone (403) 297-5500

Laura Griffin
Education Intepretor

Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Last week we saw unseasonably warm weather, a welcome respite from some of this winter's downright frigid temperatures. The cold weather, from time to time, has made it challenging for our volunteers to do their weekly nature survey, a 8 - 10 km trek that goes on and off the trails of the conservation area to do a detailed survey of seasonal plants and animals. On February 15, it reached a balmy 16 degrees, and our steward volunteers enjoyed their lunch on a grassy hill with a beautiful view! Dick Choy supplied us photographs of Great Hairy Screw Moss and the Earth Star mushroom. It's amazing what you can find in nature when you look for it, despite the cooler weather, the natural world is not only surviving, but thriving.

Anna Aldridge
ASCCA Volunteer Coordinator

Posted by: Anna

2016 started winter a little bit (too) cold for comfort, with bitter chills and icy roads. For several weeks enchanting hoarfrost clung to swatches of grass and tree branches, making it feel a bit like living inside of a snow-globe. December saw a smattering of snow, which was a welcome change from the brown palette we see after autumn leaves have fallen. It wasn't until January when we saw real snow at the ASCCA. The cold had yet to subside, which meant the snow caught in the trees wouldn't melt until an eventual chinook. We were gifted with some of the most magical sights that nature has to offer this time of year, worth braving a few minutes cold for a few remarkable photos. With warmer weather on the horizon, the snowy grasslands and blanketed forests have begun to melt, and children are enjoying the sights and sounds that the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area has to offer. You can almost sense the approach of spring.

But let's not forget, it's not yet February, and this is Canada!

(photos: Anna Aldridge, December 2016 - January 2017)

 

Posted by: Anna

"When we hear the word conservation, we usually imagine other people involved in organizations trying to protect something that needs protecting.  We rarely see it as a word that applies to us as individuals within our own communities.  We rarely take ownership of this word.  It is better left to those who know more than we do.

Conservation more than anything means realizing that the earth, and all its land, living creatures and plant-life, are NOT commodities that belong to humans, but rather vital components of a community to which we all belong.  We cannot survive on this planet without a healthy land beneath our feet, and without the biodiversity of life that lives upon it.  Conservation means recognizing that all of our day-to-day actions and decisions impact the health of our natural world, and that by choosing and acting differently, and more conscientiously, we can both conserve and revitalize.

Conservation is an internal mind-set as well as an external action.  We must start recognizing that a healthy wilderness, abundant species, and respected resources are imperative to sustainable life on earth.  Nothing else we do or dream about or create will matter if we do not have a planet on which to live. 

Conservation means you and I and every other person on this planet taking positive, responsible action to ensure that this planet continues to live, so that we can live upon it.

Conservation means life."

- Jennifer Clark

Jennifer has enjoyed visiting the ASCCA on hikes and for programs with her son, and hopes to encourage others to appreciate nature.

Posted by: Anna

This week, I once again ventured out into the great beautiful land of ASCCA with a group of our steward volunteers for their weekly nature survey. I was amazed at the rich natural beauty around me, several times having to stop to take it all in. I made a comment that the aspen trees must be preparing for Halloween, with their striking orange leaves and black bark. This time, our group was smaller, being composed of skilled hiking lead Bev Lane, the eager and inspiring Ing-Britt Renborg, the insightful and enthusiastic Linda Blasetti and the seasoned outdoors (wo)man, Martha Clarke.

I of course had to learn the non-technical name for black knot fungus (poop on a stick) and was surprised to see purple showy fleabane in bloom among the prairie grasses. We were extremely lucky and saw a young male moose, bounding away from us when we startled it upon cresting a hill. A 'small rodent' crossed my path, luckily avoiding being stepped on. Continuing on my path, as the volunteer coordinator at the ASCCA, I will continue to be energized by the whimsy, change and strength of boundless nature.

A very happy and healthy thanks-giving to you and yours.

Anna Aldridge
Communications and Volunteer Coordinator
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Yesterday, I experienced what I can only describe as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, joining a small group of ASCCA's dedicated volunteers on their weekly hike and nature survey. Bev Lane and Ing-Britt Renborg, along with Ursula Wiese, Peggy and Chris Mills and Mal and Linda Blasetti all impressed me with their knowledge of the land. We all started out from Belvedere House on what would be about a 7 km trip around the conservation area. We traveled along the trails some, where the volunteers pointed out native flowers, grasses and even invasive 'noxious' weeds such as pesky burdock and yellow toadflax (aka butter and eggs).

Before stopping for lunch, we headed carefully down the grown-over Pine Creek Trail, which has been closed some years for habitat restoration. There was some excitement when our group happened upon an elusive owl, though it was hiding a bit too well for me to see. Following lunch in a secluded clearing, the most enjoyable part of the hike for me was heading down an old rancher's path close to Paradise Trail, lined by thick aspen forest. I felt transfixed and transported to a separate magical world with its own time and space.

I will always treasure my day spent with ASCCA's volunteers and their infectious love and enthusiasm for nature, and our need to watch over and protect it. 

Anna Aldridge
​Communications & Volunteer Coordinator
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Posted by: Anna

Last week, I experienced hands-on the some of the important work we're doing at ASCCA to restore and protect natural habitats. A few years back, in partnership with The Carbon Farmer, we began an initiative to plan 1 million trees, shrubs and native grasses on select portions of the conservation area. On August 19, I had the privilege of joining Brad Rabiey at the south-west corner of our land to plant a few lodgepole pine saplings. UPS Canada has been a valuable partner in turning our ambitious dream into a reality, and two of their staff came along to plant trees and be part of what will be a lasting legacy on the land.

Anna Aldridge
​Communications & Volunteer Coordinator
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area

 

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area wildlife + plants

Least Weasel
Mustela nivalis

Walnut brown back, with white belly.  Short tail, with a few black hairs, but not  entirely black-tipped.  Coat turns entirely white in winter.

 

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