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Build Trust, Provide Support, Protect a Watershed

Posted March 13, 2018 by LSC

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.

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