Answering your questions: Environmental Protection

Dear candidates,

            This question concerns the effect of eco-tourism on Pinawa’s wildlife. Many of the candidates have talked about the importance of eco-tourism to Pinawa’s economy, and that it can be a way for people to appreciate nature. However, multiple studies have shown that eco-tourism is not a simple ‘benefits-for-all’ approach. “Ecotourism is… commonly viewed as highly compatible with conservation objectives, and indeed it contributes a number of important benefits, including revenue generation, support for conservation, and educational opportunities for visitors and local communities. Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that human visitation to natural areas can have significant effects on the environment and the wildlife therein” (Shannon, Larson, Reed, Crooks, & Angeloni, 2017, p.30). These effects include direct mortality (ex: in car accidents), habit degradation stemming from the building of tourist infrastructure, the bringing of non-native invasive species (ex: zebra mussels), and long-term behavioural shifts. In terms of behavioural shifts, studies of urban foxes, pigeons and blackbirds living around humans showed that these species became less vigilant, and thus more susceptible to predators. This increased susceptibility impacted individual reproduction, survival, and population dynamics amongst these species (Mccleery, 2009; Rodriguez-Prieto, Fernández-Juricic, Martín, & Regis, 2009; Santos, Cramer, Pârâu, Miranda, Wikelski, & Dechmann, 2015; as cited in Shannon, Larson, Reed, Crooks, & Angeloni, 2017). In a 2015 meta-analysis on over 100 case studies of eco-tourism’s affect on animals, its authors write, “If individuals [animals] selectively habituate to humans — particularly tourists — and if invasive tourism practices enhance this habituation, we might be selecting for, or creating traits or syndromes that have unintended consequences, such as increased predation risk. Even a small human-induced perturbation [deviation of a system caused by outside influence, in this case the outside influence being tourism] could affect the behavior or population biology of a species and influence the species’ function in its community” (Geffroy, Samia, Bessa, & Blumstein, 2015, p.763).

            It is not only the negative non-intended consequences of eco-tourism which may affect Pinawa’s wildlife. Unfortunately, as one resident noted, turtle nests in the beach area have been dug up, and turtles themselves harassed. With more traffic to this area, comes more potential for turtles to be harmed.

            Considering these potential negative effects from eco-tourism, my question is: what steps would you pursue as councillor to ensure that – to the best of council’s ability – the externalities from Pinawa’s eco-tourism do not harm animals and their habitat? What measures would you bring to Council to prevent the spread of invasive species, prevent the harassment of animals, and encourage the conservation of habitats?

            Thank you for your time,

            Sophie Long.

Works Cited

GGeffroy, B., Samia, D.S.M., Bessa, E., & Blumstein, D.T. (2015). How nature-based tourism might increase prey vulnerability to predators. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30:755-765. https://blumsteinlab.eeb.ucla.edu/publications/

SShannon, G., Larson, C., Reed, S., Crooks, K., & Angeloni, L. (2017). “Ecological Consequences of Ecotourism for Wildlife Populations and Communities.” In D.T. Blumstein, B. Geffroy, D.G.M. Samia, & E. Bessa(Eds.), Ecotourism’s promise and peril: A biological evaluation (pp.19-46). Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-58331-0_3

Photo by Sunsetoned on Pexels.com

Dear Sophie,

Thank you for your question. My intention is to offer you an answer befitting the effort you put into articulating your concern.

You are absolutely right. As you very well described and cited, there are externalities from any industry and tourism is no exception. The prefix eco can get thrown around sometimes too easily. We need to be careful to not be greenwashing our activities. Frankly, I think Pinawa is engaging in this today. Just because we are a town surrounded by nature does not mean that we are Green. Just because there is an urban deer population does not mean that we are stewarding a healthy ecosystem. Just because tourism happens outdoors, does not make it eco.

Pinawa is about to engage in a tourism study in consultation with researchers from the University of Manitoba. The information gathered here and the direction of study (to be completed in Q4 2021) will inform council’s decisions going forward into the winter season and will set up tourism development plans for many years. This is an extremely important project for Pinawa. I am campaigning hard in this election because I want to be at the council table, this year, to bring a new voice to our marketing philosophy. My vision is to promote a town in transition. True eco-tourism.

The world is grappling with pollution and ecocide on massive scale. Governments around the world including Canada, the United States, China, and the EU, are investing heavily in recovering their post-pandemic economies with investment in low-carbon infrastructure. I believe that Pinawa is in a position to be a leader in demonstrating how small rural communities can make changes to improve their ecological footprint, and can use this leadership as a marketing tool to promote further economic investment in the community. I refuse to believe there is a dichotomy where we must choose between protecting the land versus economic growth.

We must work with our community partners to find innovative ways to organize and systematically protect both the environment, and the economic benefit that such protection brings.

In response to your letter, I have taken the following actions as of April 29:

  • I have initiated a motion in the PCDC marketing committee to include literature regarding invasive species such as Zebra Mussels in our promotional materials in different medias.
  • I have also initiated a motion in the PCDC marketing committee to consider the creation of an annual prize which will be awarded to a local enterprise who demonstrates exceptional innovation to their business practices that reduces their environmental impact, promotes ecological awareness, increases efficiency of resource use, and/or stewardship of the natural environment.
  • I have taken steps to begin a dialogue to organize a strategic partnership with the intention of getting Boat Launch users to power wash the hulls of their vessels in an effort to reduce the potential of invasive aquatic species contamination.
  • I have been in talks with Leslie Wilson, Environmental Specialist, about a signage project to promote the Pinawa Channel not as a utilitarian activity, but rather an opportunity to experience a unique boreal community. The goal is to promote a culture shift towards better awareness and behaviour. You can read that report here.

In terms of the townsite itself, I seek to study the best practices of other jurisdictions and towns that are leaders in safety, conservation, and social equity, then adapt those to Pinawa wherever possible. One of my priorities is to develop a plan to specifically manage the parks and open spaces in Pinawa. The Development Plan states in its objectives:

To identify lands with environmental constraints and/or the presence of sensitive features and establish policies to promote the protection, conservation, maintenance and enhancement of such features.

To protect the natural environment, including fisheries and wildlife.

Pinawa Development Plan 3.3.1

To encourage the identification, preservation, conservation and maintenance of natural, cultural or man-made historical or heritage features.

Pinawa Development Plan 3.3.2

With this in mind, as Councillor I intend to enhance our ecological performance by:

  • Working with community partners, such as yourself, to identify ecologically sensitive areas or wildlife populations and develop plans to improve their viability.
  • Developing a forest recovery strategy to improve the long term sustainability of our urban forest reserves.
  • Encouraging enterprises and community groups to promote conservation and environmental community awareness.
  • Advocating that future developments are done according to the best practices of conservation and active transportation methods.
  • Investigating ways to improve our waste management processes and to have Pinawa commit to a Zero-Waste Target for the future.
  • Providing leadership on the portfolio of Parks, Recreation, and Trails. These are some of our most critical assets. With involvement from the community, I seek to designate several open space areas to be specialty parks to facilitate different goals of conservation, human wellness and recreation, and educational opportunity.
  • Advocating that Tourism in this town is managed in a way that promotes conservation, education, and stewardship and does not compromise the fundamental identity of our community.

Pinawa’s greatest source of energy is not Nuclear, but rather it is Human Energy.

Our community has more to offer than the commercialization of Mother Earth. While campaigning I have heard many intelligent ideas from regular people, and after being cooped up for this long, there is a lot of pent up energy waiting to be harnessed. We have an opportunity, post pandemic, to revitalize our community, and the more we get involved the better it’s going to be. We cannot change the wind, but we can adjust our sails. Let’s set our sights on a positive future for Pinawa.

Thank you for your writing and for the work you have done in this community, and for the contributions you are yet to make.

Sincerely,

2 thoughts on “Answering your questions: Environmental Protection

  1. What a wonderful question from Sophie and answer from you. One of my pet projects that I wanted to introduce as a possibility for tourism operators was the much softer activity of “Forest Bathing”. Any operator in Pinawa could make this a real asset to their business.

    Like

    1. Thanks Nancy. Yes, it was a great question from Sophie! Forest Bathing sounds like a pretty nice way to spend time practicing mindfulness. I think everyone could gain value from that! Be well.

      Like

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