Chairman's Report

Chairman’s Report January 2019

Introduction

The Friends of Elk Island Society (FEIS) is a non-profit, charitable organization started in 1984. We cooperate with Parks Canada to promote understanding, appreciation and respect for Elk Island National Park, and the larger landscape in which Elk Island is embedded – the Beaver Hills Biosphere. Elk Island National Park is only one component of the larger ecological landscape, and it is important to appreciate and understand this landscape if we are to conserve and promote the Park.

The Friends of Elk Island Society promotes and delivers conservation activities, science-based research, and recreational and educational events, and raises and administers funds to further the objectives of the Society. Information on FEIS and the activities we provide can be found on our website (http://www.elkisland.ca/), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/friendsofelkisland/), our Meetup site (https://www.meetup.com/elkisland/events/), and via our Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/friends_of_elk_island/).

Annual General Meeting

The Friends of Elk Island Society’s latest Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on January 26, 2019, approximately 14 months after our last AGM (held November 19, 2017). During that period we saw a decline in paid memberships (from approximately 80 to 50), but an increase of followers in our Meetup group from 1,427 to 1,750. While we need to maintain some level of paid membership to function, and it is useful when applying for grants, etc., our focus is largely on delivering and/or supporting important research and outreach activities related to Elk Island National Park and the Beaver Hills Biosphere, and many of these activities are offered to anyone. We do offer members-only events periodically, and we plan to offer more of these types of activities to encourage people to become paid members.

In the period between our AGMs our Society offered or supported a range of different nature-based events. These included hikes with the public and with international students from the University of Alberta, the Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 26th (which we based at the clubhouse of the Elk Island Golf Course), a Trail Clean Up day, and hosting a booth to provide outreach at a number of Parks Canada events (e.g. Family Day, Parks Day). Of note is the wildlife camera project developed by one of our Board members and initiated by the Friends; this project has been taken over by an M.Sc. student at the University of Alberta, and FEIS members continue to volunteer on the project. We look forward to hosting seminars for our membership and the public to highlight the results of this project as they become available.

We also supported activities in the wider Beaver Hills Biosphere, such as organizing an evening of observing the owl work being done at the Beaver Hill Bird Observatory, and doing outreach at the BioBlitz on World Snow Day at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre. Members of the Friends also set up and delivered a demonstration of different methods for monitoring wildlife in Elk Island National Park for an Edmonton school group, placed bird houses on the Strathcona Wilderness Centre property, and seeded three beds in the parking lot of the Visitors Centre in Elk Island National Park with native plants. Our group committed to the ongoing maintenance of both the bird houses and the planting beds, and these will become recurring activities in our yearly calendar. If there is an event or activity you would like to see the Friends host, please email your ideas to info@elkisland.ca.

The Friends of Elk Island Society could not exist without the dedicated group of volunteers who form the Board. The functions of the FEIS Board are to guide the group, develop and deliver events and programs, raise funds for the continued operation of the group, and keep the membership informed of the activities of the group. Our Board also works to promote conservation, knowledge and enjoyment of Elk Island National Park and the surrounding landscape, especially the Beaver Hills Biosphere, of which Elk Island is a crucial component. Current Board positions include: (a) Chair, (b) Vice Chair, (c) Secretary, (d) Treasurer, (e) Membership, (g) Conservation, Research and Education, and (h) several Members at Large, who take on various tasks as needed. A liaison from Elk Island National Park sits on the Board as a non-voting member. Many tasks are shared amongst multiple Board members (e.g. fundraising, volunteer coordination). All current members of the Society can become Board members; please contact us at info@elkisland.ca if you are interested or would like more information.

Fundraising is an important part of Board activities, one which is necessary to make sure we can provide events for our membership and the public, perform or support research, and to generate funds for future FEIS endeavors. In July 2018 members of our Board worked a casino in Camrose, raising a little over $20,000 for the Friends. Our next casino has been scheduled for 2022, so the funds from the 2018 casino need to be managed wisely to last the four years until we can get more casino funding. Other fundraising ideas are welcome; please send ideas our email address at info@elkisland.ca.

Recently, the Board has worked to increase the visibility and branding of the Friends of Elk Island Society. We now have our own shelter, table, branded tablecloth, flag and roll-up banner for outreach and other events, we have developed and had printed a pamphlet to describe our group and encourage folks to join, and have been working to build up a collection of materials for outreach events. This includes the recent acquisition of a collection of replica tracks and scat from a range of the wildlife that inhabit the Beaver Hills (the scat, in particular, are a big hit with children visiting our booth).

The past year has been an encouraging one for the Friends of Elk Island Society; we have procured funding, developed and delivered nature-based citizen science projects, recreational, conservation, and educational activities, and have cooperated with multiple agencies in the Beaver Hills on a range of projects and events. We have been more actively engaged with staff and management at Elk Island National Park, with mutual support for projects and events. We are looking forward to developing a broader membership, more stable funding, and more and varied activities for our membership.

Brian Eaton, Chair, Friends of Elk Island Society

January 26, 2019

FEIS Chairman, Brian Eaton presenting the Chairman's Report

Retired park warden and long-time FEIS supporter Wes Olson presenting a talk on the fascinating ecology of the bison and the way they shape their environment.