Media Advisory and News Release: January 20, 2015

cropped-smalllogo.png   News Release

Embargoed to: 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Society amps up to protect North Saskatchewan River Valley

Edmonton–The North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society (NSRVCS) proudly announces it has received a grant from the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation that enables it to hire former City of Edmonton Councillor Michael Phair as its first Executive Director.

“We are fortunate that a person of Michael Phair’s background and experience was available,” said NSRVCS President Ian Murray.  “Michael has been a dedicated volunteer for the NSRVCS and now we are able to continue to benefit from his dedication in a paid capacity.”

“I’m very pleased to assume this position,” said Mr. Phair, “and to be able to better coordinate efforts to protect Edmonton’s most valuable natural asset, the North Saskatchewan River Valley.”

The NSRVCS was formed in 2008 to protect the river valley and to oppose gravel extraction and heavy industrial development in Edmonton’s “Ribbon of Green.”  With the injection of new capital and staff capacity, the Society will redouble its efforts to protect environmentally sensitive areas within the North Saskatchewan River Valley, particularly promoting its flagship initiative, the Big Island-Woodbend natural area.  According to the Edmonton and Area Land Trust, “16 percent of Edmonton’s Natural Areas have disappeared in the decade between 1995 and 2005.”

The Big Island-Woodbend Natural Area, dubbed “Nature at Its Best” by the River Valley Alliance, spans approximately 5.5 km of the North Saskatchewan River in southwest Edmonton and includes a 2.5 mm connecting ravine to the Sand Dunes Natural Area adjacent to Winterburn Road.  It is over 400 hectares, largely unaltered by development, and boasts some of Edmonton’s most diverse biophysical features.

  • Two former “islands,” now attached to the bank as the river changed course over time: Big Island at the north end of the Natural Area and “Bigger Island” (as we have named it) to the south.
  • The river valley’s largest population of white-tailed and mule deer.
  • An old-growth White Spruce forest, more than 100 years old, that provides critical winter habitat for deer.
  • Moose, porcupines, birds, amphibians and other wildlife.
  • Edmonton’s largest riparian wetlands fed by numerous contact springs along the river bank edge, with the largest and most diverse bird population in the river valley.
  • A spectacular narrow ravine that cuts steeply through a pre-glacial channel, with a creek that flows underground as it reaches the river flats into the North Saskatchewan and unique vegetation that creates an “alpine feel.”
  • The longest backchannel in Edmonton’s river valley, over one kilometer in length, an important fish refugium.
  • The Edmonton Sand Dunes Natural Area, one of the few places where the 21,000 hectare Stoney Plain Dunefield reaches into the City, and which includes a rare blow-out feature. It was once home to Edmonton’s only native pine (Jackpine), and is planned for restoration.
  • The Edmonton river valley’s only natural dykes – long linear piles of alluvium over seven metres high, possibly rafted up against ice jams during major flood events in the past.

Most of the land within the Big Island-Woodbend natural area is currently privately owned.  The NSRVCS aims to work with the City of Edmonton and the River Valley Alliance to raise enough funds to buy the land and formally designate it as a conservation area. This move would make Edmonton’s river valley the largest urban natural area in Canada.  In 2012 the NSRVCS entered into agreements with the Edmonton and Area Land Trust and the Edmonton Community Foundation to coordinate efforts in this regard.

“Edmontonians are justifiably proud of our river valley,” said Mr. Phair.  “It’s among the largest urban parks in North America, it’s a four-season outdoor recreation destination, and in its more remote stretches, offers an unparalleled natural experience in the heart of a major metropolitan area.  It’s important we work together to ensure its protection.”

The NSRVCS is a grassroots environmental advocacy that champions the protection of Edmonton’s most valuable natural asset, the North Saskatchewan River Valley.

Alberta Ecotrust is a unique partnership between the corporate sector and the environmental community. It funds non-profit environmental projects, strengthens the ability of the voluntary sector to affect positive environmental change, and promotes the environment as the foundation of a healthy community.

 

For more information, contact:

Michael Phair, Executive Director

Phone: (780) 426-1516

Visit our new website at: http://www.edmontonrivervalley.org/.

Visit Alberta Ecotrust at: http://albertaecotrust.com/2014/.

Visit the River Valley Alliance at: http://www.rivervalley.ab.ca/

Visit the Edmonton and Area Land Trust at: http://www.ealt.ca/

Visit the Edmonton Community Foundation at:

  cropped-smalllogo.png   Backgrounder

NSRVCS appoints first Executive Director

The North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society proudly announces the appointment of Michael Phair as its first Executive Director.  He was among the Society’s founding members in 2008.

Mr. Phair represented Ward 4 on Edmonton City Council for five consecutive terms, from 1992 to 2007.  He served on all of Council’s standing committees as well as representing the City on numerous boards and agencies.  As Councillor, Mr. Phair initiated a policy to preserve natural areas within Edmonton.

After leaving municipal politics, Mr. Phair served as Director, Community Relations for the University of Alberta from 2007 to 2011, and as an adjunct professor/education coordinator with the Institute of Minority Studies and Services, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta.

Both prior to his election and after leaving Council, Mr. Phair has been a well-known community advocate having served – or currently serving – in a leadership role with several organizations, including the Alberta Association of Young Children, Early Childhood Professional Association of Alberta, HIV Edmonton Society (founder), Edmonton Social Planning Council, Greater Edmonton Foundation (Seniors Housing Organization), Canadian Native Friendship Centre, Advisory Committee, EXPO 2017 City Bid, Global Visions Film Festival, City of Edmonton Task Force on Community Sustainability: Mature Neighborhoods and Schools, City-Region Studies Centre, U of A Faculty of Arts External Advisory Committee, Edmonton Homeward Trust, Edmonton Arts Council, NeWest Publishing Board and the HOPE Foundation.

The Alberta Ecotrust Foundation is a unique partnership between the corporate sector and the environmental community.  It invests in the people and projects that protect the natural systems Albertans rely on for life and prosperity.

The Foundation achieves this goal through three main programs: environmental grant making, capacity building, and community collaboration.  It funds non-profit environmental projects, strengthens the ability of the voluntary sector to affect positive environmental change, and promotes the environment as the foundation of a healthy community.

Alberta Ecotrust supports the people and organizations working to protect the environment, and invests in projects that either directly or indirectly improve the way it is managed and preserved.

 

Visit Alberta Ecotrust at: http://albertaecotrust.com/2014/.

 

For more information, contact:

Michael Phair, Executive Director

Phone: (780) 426-1516

Visit our new website at: http://www.edmontonrivervalley.org/.