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Gus Yaki walks across province to raise awareness for grassland conservation

gus yaki walk

Naturalist Gus Yaki is walking across Alberta to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.

A Calgary-based naturalist and expert birder is currently walking across southern Alberta, marking Canada’s 150th birthday, to save grasslands, the world’s most endangered ecosystem.
Between now and June 22 Gus Yaki and about 40 supporters are walking across Alberta to fund-raise for various conservation organizations including the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Alberta Wilderness Association, and Bird Studies Canada.
Along the way, they are watching for and documenting all of the plants, animals, and geographical features unique to Canada’s grasslands.
Globally, more than half of the planet’s temperate grasslands have been converted to crops and other land uses.
Grasslands are severely impaired, and continuing to decline.
Yaki’s trek is split into three segments.
They made a 10-day hike from the Saskatchewan border to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park twice with 10 participants each time.
The first trip is done and the second one started June 2.
The third leg of the trek will leave from Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park on June 12 and will end in Waterton Lakes National Park on June 22.
The hike is not for the faint-of-heart. The route leads through some of the most remote areas of the province where residences are often 30 kilometres or more apart.
Because of a lack of facilities en route, the participants are camping along the way, often courtesy of the land owners.
Yaki and his partner Aileen are supporters of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Not only are they active and committed Leaders in Conservation members, both Gus and Aileen have been true leaders through the nature walks and birding events that have helped to raise awareness and funding for conservancy.
Over the course of their journey, the participants are hoping to see many species of the rarer wildlife that live in the grasslands.
This includes such species as the endangered burrowing owl, the threatened ferruginous hawk, and the Sprague’s pipit.
If lucky, the group will have the opportunity to encounter rare reptiles such as the yellow-bellied racer and amphibians like the Northern leopard frog and plains spadefoot toad.
Yaki also expects the group may see some species that are new to Alberta.
This includes species that have historically lived south of the border that may migrate north in search of new habitat.
Yaki leads the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society birding classes, which are attended by more than 300 participants, and has been leading birding outings around Calgary since he arrived here in 1993.
Yaki’s passion for the outdoors dates back to his childhood, when he walked almost three miles to school each day, recording the flora and fauna along the way.
Over the years his enthusiasm and knowledge have expanded; he now inspires others to protect our country’s wild spaces and provide habitat for the species that live here.

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