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News from March 2018

Check out these Water Well Management Workshops

March 16, 2018

For 10 years now Working Well has delivered informative, hands-on workshops to well owners, helping them learn the basics of groundwater, well construction, common well problems, contamination risks, importance of well reclamation and best management practices.

Spring workshops

There are six workshops planned in April, May and June 2018. Check out the Spring 2018 Working Well Workshop Schedule and plan to attend a workshop in a community near you.

Learn more

Learn more about Working Well and check out the free information resources available to water well owners and others interested in learning and promoting how to protect and maintain water wells at workingwell.alberta.ca


Meet a Municipal Leader in Environmental Stewardship

March 15, 2018

Citizens often look to the provincial and federal government for leadership in environmental management and regulation. While these entities are central to Canada’s environmental policy and decision making process, Alberta’s municipal governments also play a key role in setting standards, developing policy, delivering programs and being innovators in environmental stewardship within their jurisdictions. Today, we shine a light on a local municipality, Parkland County, and learn how they are setting themselves apart as a leader and champion of stewardship in Alberta.

Diverse landscape, diverse population

Parkland County is a unique and diverse municipality. It faces rural pressures – from hamlets, agriculture and country residential, and lakeshore communities, as well as urban pressures from larger neighbouring municipalities such as the Cities of Spruce Grove and Edmonton. These, coupled with a diverse landscape (wetlands, lakes, streams, prime agricultural lands, natural resources) and wide-ranging land use (agriculture, resource development and extraction, recreation, industrial), makes managing the Parkland County landscape a complex task. However, this has not stopped them from finding solutions to and implementing sound stewardship programs.

“Our County approaches environmental stewardship and management in a balanced, holistic manner,” shares Megan McFall, Sustainability Coordinator with Parkland County.

To meet the needs of its diverse population and varied landscape, Parkland County offers several stewardship programs, each geared towards a specific audience. The programs include Green Acreages, ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) and Guide to Waterfront Living. Many of Parkland’s programs are voluntary and they incorporate incentives for landowners to implement best management practices.

“We provide incentives for those who choose to provide a public service on private land by conserving our ecosystems. “Megan explains. “We provide information and funding to remove barriers and ensure residents are able to establish innovative stewardship projects that benefit the greater community.”

A concerted effort

While these County programs have been doing well, and hundreds of acres have been put into the production of ecosystem services, success has not come overnight or without obstacles. Megan explains that running environmental programs can be difficult if there are no policies and procedures in place within the organization to aid in a program’s success. So, all of these efforts are supported by the County’s Environmental Conservation Master Plan, Council’s Long-Term Strategic Plan, Integrated Community Sustainability Plan and Municipal Development Plan. Success also requires the support of County staff, and the Community Sustainability Department, responsible for implementing these programs, has grown from a single summer student in 2011 to eight full time and part time staff.

When asked what one piece of advice Parkland County would offer to other municipalities wanting to develop and implement environmental programs, the response is a resounding “listen to your residents.”

“Many programs are not as successful as they could be because not enough time was spent incorporating residents’ needs or feedback into the development of a program,” Megan adds. To ensure success of their own programs, Parkland County confirmed there was a targeted need in the community and developed their program accordingly to address those needs.

An important role

Municipalities play an important role as stewards of the environment; from establishing appropriate policies and by-laws to developing and delivering effective stewardship and extension programs. It is also up to them how innovative and proactive they choose to be in this arena. Parkland County has purposefully decided to be an innovator in environmental management, and it is only a matter of time before more municipalities see the benefit in following their lead.

“The County has taken a long-term, strategic approach to how it can promote balanced growth, ensure healthy ecosystems, build sustainable communities and diversify the economy,” Megan concludes. “The uptake and success of our stewardship programs is a strong indicator that this approach is working.”

Learn more about Parkland County’s environmental programs.


Meet our New Team Member

March 14, 2018

Help us welcome Elisa Valade to the Land Stewardship team.

Elisa holds a degree in Environmental Policy and Practice from the University of Toronto. She has been exploring her interest in environmental conservation through the ecosystem services program with Alberta Innovates over the past five years.

More recently, she has been developing her skills and expertise in stakeholder engagement, outreach and communication as the Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator for the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network (ESBN).

A long-time partner in the ESBN, Land Stewardship Centre has recently taken on the role of providing administrative and operational support to the Network. This includes making Elisa part of the LSC family.

Elisa is excited to apply her skills and further develop these capacities as a member of the Land Stewardship Centre team in her new role as Project Coordinator for ESBN.

Connect with Elisa

Learn more about ESBN


Build Trust, Provide Support, Protect a Watershed

March 13, 2018

The Vermillion River Watershed Alliance’s (VRWA) vision is simple – a healthy and sustainable watershed. With a concerted effort, a lot of relationship building, and some financial incentives to support on-the-ground activities, this small, collaborative watershed group is bringing their vision to life through projects to restore drained wetlands.

A focused effort

In an effort to ensure a healthy and sustainable watershed, and to safeguard Alberta’s vulnerable water resources, VRWA is advancing the objectives outlined in the Vermilion River Watershed Management Plan through their Vermilion River Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Project (VRWREP). The main goal of the VRWREP project is to restore or enhance wetlands and riparian areas within the Vermilion River Watershed.

“This watershed has been a priority consideration for both flood and drought mitigation,” explains Mara Erickson, Extension & Stewardship Coordinator for the VRWA. “Healthy wetlands and riparian areas are an important piece of this puzzle which is why they are the focus of this project.”

Reduce barriers

More often than not, these wetland and riparian areas are on private land. While many landowners are interested in and would like to do restoration activities on their land, the financial requirements for projects of this nature can a barrier. The VRWREP project helps address this issue by partnering with private landowners who are interested in doing restoration work on their land, and providing them with financial incentives to support their efforts.

“This is a win-win situation,” says Mara. “We help ease the financial burden and the landowners are responsible for the actual restoration and enhancement activities.”

In the words of one participating landowner who fenced off livestock access to the Vermilion River, “The cost to do this type of work can be prohibitive for a landowner. But with [financial] support, projects that improve water quality along the river, and have long term environmental benefits for people, wildlife, vegetation, can become a reality.”

Collaborate to succeed

To date, VRWA has worked with 26 landowners to implement 33 projects, resulting in 4500 tree seedlings planted in degraded wetland areas, and over 125 hectares of wetlands and riparian areas enhanced or restored. Through the project, VRWA engaged more than 10 partner groups and municipalities and, through a partnership with the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, utilized three separate sources of funding: the Government of Alberta’s Watershed Resiliency & Restoration Program, Environment & Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) National Wetland Conservation Fund, and ECCC’s EcoAction Community Funding Program.

“Working with partners really helped us achieve success and everyone played an important role,” Mara adds. “Local municipalities were instrumental in spreading the word to landowners about the funding opportunity.”

Trust supports success

Mara says that the key to establishing successful partnerships is to first build trust. Community involvement, listening to potential participants’ stories, and understanding their concerns and values is critical to designing a project that will work on the ground. Mara adds that restoration activities have to make both ecological as well as economic sense for the one making the operation change.

Learn more about VRWA and their VRWREP project.