Calgary BiodiversityCalgary BiodiversityMy eyebrows reached my hairline when I heard my hometown had a biodiversity strategy. With over a million people, I hadn't thought of Calgary, Alberta as a biodiversity hotspot. True, it has the most extensive urban pathway network in North America and I've enjoyed watching owls and eagles along the Bow River in the city center but isn't a city a bad home for wildlife?

Surprisingly, there are more opportunities for critters than you might think. Next to parkland, wasteland, railway yards and industrial areas have high numbers of rare and important species. Perhaps because those areas have open spaces and few people. Some animals don't coexist well with humans like the sharp-tailed grouse eliminated by off-leash dog use on Nose Hill but others adapt. Scientists have observed some urban birds adjusting their calls to be heard over traffic noise.

The City of Calgary tabled its biodiversity strategy in March 2015. With 80% of Canadians currently living in urban areas and with a projected increase of 90% in North American urban areas by 2030, it makes sense to develop biodiversity strategies that mitigate urban sprawl. 

City of Calgary representative Chris Manderson says Calgarians understand abstract biodiversity concepts and 74% think biodiversity is important, but that doesn’t always translate to action in real life. As an example, he described comments people made on a ravine in their neighborhood, “some people asked if we were going to fill it in as it looks too messy." Other comments included "a little too natural...because of this no one uses it" or "there are coyotes because of the ravine." This ravine was important habitat for wildlife but not everyone connected their support of biodiversity with landscapes not designated as a park.

Manderson says the City needs to educate citizens on biodiversity. "We need to rethink our relationship with wildlife in our city." Asked if provincial or federal jurisdictions are working with Calgary on their biodiversity strategy, Manderson said there was interest but it wasn't a priority for them. It sounds like city biodiversity strategies are a new concept for many. Hopefully more city dwellers will soon be thinking about how they share the landscape with their animal neighbors.

To learn more about Calgary's plans go to http://www.calgary.ca/

To learn more about Carol Patterson’s keynote speeches and workshops to Inspire Everyday Explorers visit www.carolpatterson.ca or call 403.290.0805