Protecting fragile species can start in your own backyard, says Saskatoon conservationist

The UN this week issued a startling report suggesting that more than one million species of plants and animals are on the brink of extinction unless something is done. One expert suggests we take a look in our own backyards.

Expert says we must do our part to help, after dire UN report on the state of nature

The South Saskatchewan River Valley is home to many of the species included in the UN report warning of mass extinctions. (CBC)

The UN this week issued a startling report suggesting that more than one million species of plants and animals are on the brink of extinction unless something is done.

One Saskatoon expert suggests we take a look in our own backyards. 

"Everyone seriously needs to band together," Kenton Lysak, with the Meewasin Valley Authority, urged. "I guess the big thing we've got to remember…is that all life is connected."

We're viewing this as a call to action.- Kenton Lysak

Welcome bees and bats

The Meewasin Valley Authority is a conservation group in Saskatoon that works to protect the cultural and natural resources of the South Saskatchewan River Valley. Some of the species mentioned in the UN report this week call the region home.

"I think my reaction was similar to a lot of environmental scientists out there. First we took a deep breath, a sigh. But this wasn't a surprise for us. Unfortunately we've known our environment has been changing because of the negative impacts that we have had on it," Lysak said.

Local species under pressure, Lysak said, include badgers, grassland birds, bats, some species of fish and some native bees.

"We're viewing this as a call for action, an opportunity for everyone to band together to try to prevent further loss of biodiversity," Lysak said. "I don't care what walk of life you come. We all need to make a significant impact on our environment in order to see a positive change."

So what can people do? Lysak is urging people to focus in on what's happening in their own yard and to invite species in with certain plants and simple things like bird feeders.

There can also be an educational component to this work, he suggested, by getting children involved and helping them understand there is nothing to fear from some of these critters.

Kenton Lysak says bee boxes, similar to the one shown here, are easy to build and can make a big difference. (Radio-Canada)

Take for example, native bees.

"These bees don't sting humans," he said "These are bees that have been here for thousands of years and have learned to in some sense, not just live on the prairies, but live with us. Put a bee box in your yard and you'll see that your flowers are pollinated faster than your neighbors."

While you are building that bee box, Lysak suggested you may also want to build a home for the neighbourhood bats. According to Lysak, bats can help make your backyard a lot more liveable in the summer months my eating about 1200 mosquitos an hour.

"You'd be surprised how much of a difference it makes," he said.

Kenton Lysak says that bringing bats into your yard can help keep the mosquito population low. (Erin Miller)

Forget about the perfect lawn 

The other big change people can make is the plants they choose. Forget about having the perfect green lawn, Lysak suggested, and begin introducing more native species of plants. Lysak said the native plants support the native critters and with a little work you can "turn your yard into a biodiversity hotspot."

Ignorance, Lysak said, is no excuse. If you don't know where to begin, he said, just ask around.

"The coolest thing about Saskatoon is you've got so many people working to try to educate people," he said.

"We're going to have to keep on pushing ourselves to think more sustainably."

with files from Saskatoon Morning


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