Environment File: yellow fish and frog talks


Yellow Fish funded

Yellow fish could swim on St. Albert’s streets forevermore now that city council has agreed to back a popular environmental education program.

St. Albert council voted unanimously Monday to give Trout Unlimited $5,000 in ongoing annual funding to run the Yellow Fish Road program in town starting in 2019. The money will be subject to a signed annual agreement with the city and will come out of the utilities budget.

Started in 1991, the Yellow Fish Road program teaches youths about water pollution, and has them paint yellow fish on storm drains to remind people not to pour paint and other harmful substances down them.

The city gave the program a $5,000 Environmental Initiatives Grant in 2016. Some 1,174 students learned about water pollution as a result, with some of those students going on to paint 454 yellow fish on storm drains and distribute 1,810 fish-shaped pamphlets to area homes, a report to council reads.

The city gave the program a second $5,000 grant last year at the recommendation of the Environmental Advisory Committee. At that time, the committee recommended that the city fund the program on an ongoing basis.

This is clearly a very successful program that has been delivered to thousands of students, said Coun. Ken MacKay, who moved the committee’s recommendation Monday.

“It’s strong information in relation to (how) what goes down our drains gets eventually into our river and water systems.”

Coun. Natalie Joly was concerned about the ongoing nature of this funding, and said that administration should review it regularly in case better methods of public education turn up. MacKay accepted her and Coun. Sheena Hughes’ suggestion to have this money subject to a signed agreement so that administration could review the program’s effectiveness.

City environment manager Christian Benson said staffers plan to set out goals and targets for this program with Trout Unlimited each year, adding that this cash agreement could be brought back to council should the program ever prove unsatisfactory.

Free frog talk

A former city resident will speak next week on how there may be frog-sicles sleeping in your backyard this winter.

Alberta Conservation Association biologist Kris Kendell is giving a free talk this Feb. 16 on Alberta’s amphibians and reptiles. The talk is part of the Edmonton Nature Club’s ongoing speaker series.

A former St. Albert resident, Kendell said he’s had a lifelong interest in amphibians and reptiles, partially because a patient kid can get really, really close to them.

“There’s a bit of mysteriousness about them,” he said, as they tend to go about their business unnoticed by people.

There are few reptiles and amphibians in Alberta that aren’t threatened ecologically in some way due to habitat loss, particularly the wetlands in which they feed and breed, Kendell said. You’ll typically find just five species near St. Albert – tiger salamanders, boreal toads, boreal chorus and wood frogs, and red-sided and plains garter snakes – although you might spot a Canadian toad if you’re really lucky.

You won’t find snakes on the surface right now, as it’s too cold for them, Kendell said. Snakes will be huddled in naturally made underground chambers called hibernacula, which are protected by provincial law and extremely tough to find. (Look for places with lots of snakes in the spring and fall, he suggests.)

Toads and salamanders will have burrowed beneath the frost line, but local frogs are still on the surface, frozen solid, Kendell said. Boreal chorus and wood frogs stuff their cells full of sugar to keep them from exploding when frozen, allowing them to survive and thaw out come spring.

Amphibians are important sources of food for many creatures and help keep pesky bugs in line, Kendell said. He encouraged residents to report amphibian sightings through the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program.

Kendell’s talk is open to the public and starts at 7:30 p.m. at The King’s University in Edmonton. Admission is by donation. Visit edmontonnatureclub.org for details.


About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.