Collaborating to save species and protect habitats: Nature Canada launches Women for Nature

On February 4, 2014, Nature Canada will officially launch its Women for Nature initiative during a reception on Parliament Hill. I am proud to say that I am one of 40 women from diverse backgrounds who are founding members of this exciting initiative.

Nature Canada’s Women for Nature network brings together the leadership, knowledge, experience, and passion of women across Canada who, like myself, are committed to nature conservation. This powerful network will champion nature, engage and empower Canadians to save species, protect habitats, and connect children to nature.

Fish swimming in British Columbia’s bountiful ecosystem (photo: BC Hydro).

Throughout my career working on environmental policy in both the public and private sectors, I’ve learned that you can achieve much more when you are part of something bigger than when you’re a lone voice. We have a global responsibility to protect our natural heritage—a monumental task—and one that demands the support of friendships, partnerships, and networks between environmental organizations, the private sector, and industry associations like the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA).

That is what Women for Nature is about—forging partnerships and bringing together a network of influential women to bring leadership to the cause of nature conservation in Canada.

Manitoba Hydro supports research on woodland caribou populations, which sheds light on caribou behavior and could help plan and design future generation and transmission developments (photo: Manitoba Hydro).

Part of my role at CEA is to promote a reliable and sustainable electricity sector in Canada. Much like our intergenerational obligation to invest in electricity infrastructure now to renew the grid and ensure that we pass on a reliable system for our children, we have a similar obligation to develop sustainable energy that respects nature and preserves it for future generations. I am proud to be part of a sector that is doing great work in this area. Through my involvement in Women for Nature, I hope to continue to encourage and promote some of the excellent initiatives that CEA members are undertaking to protect biological diversity:

    • In 2012, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) became the first Canadian organization to receive the Pollinator Advocate Award from the Wildlife Habitat Council in recognition of its efforts to improve the habitat for pollinating insects on OPG lands, and in other community locations, and for its efforts to educate the public.

Access roads built entirely of ice and snow to protect the ground in the sensitive sand dune area (photo: AltaLink).

    • AltaLink used an icy solution to protect sand dune areas during construction of the Casills to Bowmanton Transmission Line. The line crosses a sensitive sand dune area and since construction traffic and activities can cause vegetation loss, soil rutting, and erosion without proper mitigation, AltaLink waited until the winter months to being the project and then built access roads entirely of snow and ice to protect the sensitive sand dunes underneath. AltaLink has also done great work protecting and recovering Ferruginous Hawks.

ATCO Electric contractors erect one of more than 30 ferruginous hawk nest platforms in southeastern Alberta (photo: ATCO Electric).

    • ATCO Electric was one of the first utilities in Canada to formalize an avian protection initiative when in 2012, they retrofitted existing power line structures in southeastern Alberta to reduce the number of bird electrocutions. This retrofit will also improve the reliability of electricity supply to customers as bird-caused outages are significantly reduced.
    • Hydro One has created a Biodiversity Advisory Committee to develop policies, guidelines, and mechanisms to evaluate biodiversity-related initiatives. One initiative is the development of a Geographic Information Systems solution to document commitments made by lines of business to promote biodiversity and to ensure that commitments made by one line of business to promote a biodiversity project will not be contravened by other lines of business during the execution of their work activities.
    • Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro decided to relocate an 18.5 kilometre distribution line to avoid damaging a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original line—located along the foothills of the Tablelands within Gros Morne National Park—was built in 1968 and traverses a unique habitat along one of the most spectacular view planes within the province. Reconstructing the original line would have resulted in prolonged customer outages, significant environmental risk, and a two-year construction period so instead, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro relocated the existing line adjacent to the main road to Trout River.

A Maritime Electric employee holds an osprey (photo: Maritime Electric).

These initiatives, and others like them, are great illustrations of how the electricity sector is taking action to ensure the recovery and protection of animals, plants and habitats, and collectively work to preserve nature for future generations.

Women for Nature will be a forum through which I can share these wonderful stories of the biodiversity and stewardship work taking place in our sector, learn about similar initiatives in other industries, and work together to further champion nature conservation efforts.

I am delighted to be part of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature network to further promote and carry out this important work alongside other influential and inspiring women as dedicated and passionate as I am to building a country where our natural heritage continues to be protected, and the natural world is embraced by all Canadians.

Sandra Schwartz is Vice President, External Relations and Communications at the Canadian Electricity Association.