Conserving the Legacy
Nature Saskatchewan / 12 July 2022

Conserving the Legacy: Wildlife Conservation in Saskatchewan 1905-2005by G. Wayne PepperPublished by Nature SaskatchewanReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780921104360 Conserving the Legacy is a physically powerful book. Weighing in at just shy of a hefty one kilogram, it packs a wallop. It is a pleasure to hold. And that is all before you get past the beautiful cover image of a male sharp-tailed grouse sparring. Once inside, it is clear that a massive amount of time, effort, and planning went into this book. It contains a tremendous volume of information detailing how wildlife was maintained during the first century of our province’s history.  In an era when anyone can toss a few random facts together, throw a dozen pages online for sale and call it a book, this piece of work stands out. It rings in at close to 400 awesome and comprehensive pages. The amount of research that went into this book is mind-blowing. Conserving the Legacy was clearly a labour of love for Pepper and it shows on every page. This is a book you can come back to often when looking for information on wildlife conservation. It never fails to inform you of something new.  I…

Cry Wolf
University of Regina Press / 17 November 2021

Cry Wolf: Inquest into the True Nature of a Predatorby Harold JohnsonReviewed by Madonna HamelPublished by University of Regina Press$16.95 ISBN 9780889777385 As with every topic Harold Johnson tackles, Cry Wolf is a book aimed at getting to the truth of the matter, because “the truth matters.” Johnson was the lawyer asked by the Carnegies, parents of Kenton Carnegie, a young geologist killed in a wolf attack in Northern Saskatchewan, to re-examine the coroner’s report. Johnson’s own disquieting encounters with wolves as a Saskatchewan trapline owner made him their perfect choice. Johnson is nothing if not thorough in his investigation. The book opens with a warning that “the writing depicts a violent death by wolf attack and discretion is advised”. At the same time, he makes it clear that “after twenty years of practice reviewing too many autopsy and crime scene photographs” his tolerance for the gruesome has not increased, but in fact diminished. “A sensitivity seems to have built up over the years.” Today he tells young lawyers “Don’t look at the pictures if you don’t have to.” If our species is going to survive, we will need accurate information about the environment, writes Johnson. We can’t be swayed…

Beaver, Bison, Horse

Beaver, Bison, Horse: The Traditional Knowledge and Ecology of the Northern Great Plainsby R. Grace MorganPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Elena Bentley$34.95 ISBN 9780889777880 The gratitude, kindness, and respect with which James Daschuk and Cristina Eisenberg write the foreword and afterword to Beaver, Bison, Horse: The Traditional Knowledge and Ecology of the Northern Great Plains reveals just how deeply influential Dr. R. Grace Morgan’s research has been, and continues to be, on the study of Plains ecology. Central to Dr. Morgan’s book is her insistence on the importance of acknowledging Indigenous ways of knowing the land—a view not widely shared by the scientific community at the time she was conducting her field research. According to Eisenberg, Indigenous “oral histories have only recently been allowed to inform [ecological] restoration. … However, this is changing thanks to [Dr. Morgan’s] persevering work.” Dr. Morgan originally undertook her doctoral research in the late 1980s, and completed her dissertation in 1991. Sadly, Dr. Morgan passed away before the publication of her book in 2020, but her children, and a few dedicated friends and colleagues, made sure her work found its way into the world because her scientific contribution “remains as important today as…

Backyard Bird Feeding
Nature Saskatchewan / 16 June 2021

Backyard Bird Feeding: A Saskatchewan Guide: A Complete Guide to Year-round Bird Feeding in SaskatchewanWritten by Trevor Herriot and Myrna PearmanPublished by Nature SaskatchewanReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-780921-104353 It’s apropos that a Blue Jay graces the cover of Backyard Bird Feeding: A Saskatchewan Guide: A Complete Guide to Year-round Bird Feeding in Saskatchewan. The Blue Jay is my home province’s provincial bird, and Blue Jay is also the name of Nature Saskatchewan’s quarterly publication. And did you know that these handsome birds also have such incredible memories, they hide seeds and nuts in trees or in the ground and return later to enjoy them? I can’t even remember where I left my glasses a minute ago. The seven chapters in this photograph-full softcover provide a compendium of information for those who, like bird-experts Trevor Herriot and Myrna Pearman, admire—and are inspired by—“the remarkable lives of wild birds,” and understand how it’s beneficial to birds and humans when we study, support and discuss them. “To feed birds in a mid-continental temperate place like Saskatchewan is to reach out a hand toward the untamed dramas outside our windows,” the co-authors write. This easy-to-read, school notebook-sized guide begins with a history…

Man of the Trees
University of Regina Press / 7 December 2018

Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist by Paul Hanley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-566-4 Americans have Johnny Appleseed as one of their folk heroes; Saskatchewan has Richard St. Barbe Baker, a real-life action hero. Although Baker is not as well known, he is the original tree hugger, so well documented in Paul Hanley’s biography, Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist. Born in 1889, Baker was an eccentric Englishman obsessed with trees. As a youngster, he wandered through a forest, lost but thoroughly enjoying the trees’ embrace. It was as if they’d adopted him. He felt born again. Enthralled with stories he’d heard of Canada, Baker migrated and in 1909 took the train to Saskatoon. He was one of the first 100 students to enrol in the new University of Saskatchewan, taking out a homestead at Beaver Creek, fifteen miles from the campus. He then worked as a lumberjack north of Prince Albert. The nearby sawmill at Big River was the largest in the world at that time. Appalled at the wastage in the cutting process, Baker determined to save trees….

Islands of Grass
Coteau Books / 2 February 2018

Islands of Grass Text by Trevor Herriot, Photos by Branimir Gjetvaj Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $39.95 ISBN 9-781550-509311 Saskatchewan naturalist, activist, and Governor-General’s Award-nominee Trevor Herriot has penned another title that should be on every bookshelf, and particularly on the shelves of those who love our precarious prairie grasslands and the threatened creatures who inhabit them. In Islands of Grass, Herriot has teamed with environmental photographer Branimir Gjetvaj to create a coffee table-esque hardcover that’s part call to action, part celebration, and part Ecology 101. The pair’s mutual passion for our disappearing grasslands – the term “islands” deftly illustrates their fate – is evident on every page of this important and beautiful must-read. Herriot’s erudite essays are personal, political, and urgent. Filled with first-person anecdotes (ie: his father’s memories of dust storms), plus stories from ranchers, ecologists, and agency professionals, they also explain the history of grass and reveal how pioneers were encouraged to plow in order to prosper. There’s much plant, bird, and animal information, including statistical numbers re: their endangerment and recovery. The book’s five chapters are written in the engaging conversational/informational style Herriot’s faithful readers have come to expect, ie: the opening…

Living Skies
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 November 2017

Living Skies by Craig Hilts Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $54.99 ISBN 978-1-988783-05-5 There’s nothing like lightning, baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes to get one’s adrenaline pumping. There’s also nothing like a serene sky after a rain to calm a viewer. Craig Hilts, in his hardcover coffee table book Living Skies, has experienced both. He invites readers to look skyward and enjoy a visual feast of pigmentation and textures, especially noticeable in the swirling colours of the aurora borealis. Some photos spread across two-pages, providing a panoramic view of prairie horizons. Occasionally Hilts combines two similar photos, merging them so precisely on facing pages that the combined photos appear as one seamless image. His more than 150 colour photos range from scenic landscapes to the tumult of angry skies. Sometimes the scenery can seem so calm while storm clouds churn above. No wonder Saskatchewan has earned the title, Land of Living Skies. Hilts notes that a green sky, eerie to behold, is usually a warning of an impending tornado and/or severe hail. He’s experienced the rapid-fire force of baseball-sized hail smashing into his vehicle, but fortunately the protective shielding he developed offered some protection. No stranger…

Magnificent Nahanni, The

The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place by Gordon Nelson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-460-5 Can man and nature live in harmony? Can they even co-exist? These are issues Gordon Nelson addresses in The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place. Nahanni National Park Reserve, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, is indeed impressive. Nelson describes a magical place with cliffs, canyons, caves, and a waterfall even higher than Niagara Falls. This is a place where wildlife predominates – bright flowers, butterflies and birds, caribou and wolf. The Nahanni River itself “stands out among northern rivers, not because of its size but because of its unique grandeur and rich natural diversity,” he says. All these attributes have been described in other books, but what sets Nelson’s apart is his detailed description of the enormous efforts required to preserve this lush landscape, focusing on the long struggle to conserve the river and its watershed as a national park reserve. The name of the Nahanni River likely evolved from the mysterious Indigenous people who inhabited the area. Nelson notes that the name has a “vague mystical flavour” suggesting the inhabitants…

Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 6 February 2013

Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan by Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $19.95 ISBN 978-0-921104-29-2 Saskatchewan’s uncultivated prairie, the archetypical provincial geography, is grassland — yet many of those thin-leaves are not grasses. The sedges, or Carex, which have three sided blades as opposed to the round stems of grasses, have ‘edges’. And they increase in abundance at edges. If you have canoed through a waterside fen, recall the rough whisper of sedge blades against your hull and paddle. Hiking or hunting in the boreal forests, sedge skirt open spaces, forming thick carpets between forest stands and providing a valuable source of forage and seed to wildlife, as well as a protected habitat for flowering and medicinal plants. With over 103 native species the sedges are the largest genus of vascular plants in Saskatchewan, yet one of the least known and most difficult to identify. Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan, Fascicle 3 of the Flora of Saskatchewan’s compendium of provincial botany, reveals the importance of the genus and its role in each of the provincial ecozones. The volume is dedicated to John Howard Hudson (1923-2010), a botanist and educator whose detailed notes and archival specimen collection remain…

Lilies, Irises, & Orchids of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 27 June 2012

Lilies, Irises, & Orchids of Saskatchewan by Vernon L. Harms and Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-13 987-0-921104-28-5 There is something about flowers—from Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” to Spike Jonze’s film “Adaptation,” our culture celebrates their transient beauty above the reproductive bodies of other flora. Intriguing though mushrooms and pinecones may be, they just don’t have the aura of mystique that draws floraphiles to the many-coloured monocots. In this keyed field guide from Nature Saskatchewan, professional and amateur botanists are introduced to Saskatchewan’s fifty-one species of lilies, irises and orchids, twenty-one of which are considered rare or endangered. The guide’s authors, Anna Leighton and Vernon L. Harms, are key players in the Flora of Saskatchewan Association’s volunteer-driven initiative to document the province’s flora, and in this offering they supplement detailed line drawings, colour photographs, and identification keys with interesting notes and commentary regarding the distribution and seasonal appearances of each flowering species. True to the diversity of species at large, the guide includes both native species and ‘garden-escapes.’ Thus, we see cultivated chives beside Red ‘Tiger’ Lilies in the Lily Family, and introduced German Irises alongside native Blue Flag in the…

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