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/).
The Friends of Elk Island Society’s latest Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on January 25, 2020, almost exactly one year after our last AGM, which was held January 26, 2019. Our paid membership varied monthly over that period, but an average somewhere around 50. We did see an increase in our Meetup group from 1,750 to 2,019 people. While our focus is largely on delivering and/or supporting important research and outreach activities that we typically offer to everyone, it is important that we maintain a core of paying members, as this increases our ability to successfully apply for funding opportunities.
Over the past year we have participated in a number of outreach and research activities. These events have typically been supported by members of the Board, and we need to work harder to engage a greater proportion of our general membership in these activities. Events in which we played an active part, either as the lead organization or in a supporting role, included providing outreach at: BioBlitz (Strathcona Wilderness Centre); Family Day and Parks Day (Elk Island National Park); presentation on the Friends of Elk Island Society and our activities (Alberta Wilderness Association); training of university and college students on winter tracking of mammals. We participated in or led a number of research or citizen science projects, including: beaver lodge monitoring, amphibian monitoring, pellet counts (ungulate monitoring), a bee survey, camera-based monitoring of ungulates (an MSc project at the University of Alberta), and the Christmas Bird Count, all in Elk Island National Park. We also led several outdoor recreational or social activities, such as hikes and a picnic at Beaver Bay on Astotin Lake in EINP. We established three beds of native plants in the parking lot of the EINP Visitors Centre, an ongoing project. We also participated in filming for the Striking Balance program, which is a series of episodes examining Canadian biospheres, including the Beaver Hills Biosphere, of which Elk Island National Park is such an important component.
The Friends has interacted with a variety of other agencies over the past year, to the mutual benefit of all parties. We have collaborated with Parks Canada, the Strathcona Wilderness Centre, the Alberta Wilderness Association, the University of Alberta Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the University of Alberta Department of Biological Sciences, and the Beaver Hills Biosphere.
The Friends of Elk Island Society relies on 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested or would like more information.
The Friends of Elk Island Society provided a range of outreach and recreational activities to Alberta’s residents and visitors to Elk Island National Park and the surrounding area, initiated or supported numerous research or citizen science efforts, and interacted with Parks Canada staff to complement their activities and support their needs. We look forward to increasing our offerings for our members, and for the public, in the future, and to taking an ever more active role in ensuring Elk Island National Park and the Beaver Hills Biosphere continue as important venues for people to experience the natural world in a sustainable and positive way.
Brian Eaton, Chair, Friends of Elk Island Society
January 25, 2020