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A Piece of the Watershed Puzzle

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Jan. 17, 2023
Angie Patterson on her acreage.
Angie Patterson on her acreage.

Nature’s Haven. That's the name Angie Patterson and her partner Wendy Nurcombe gave their acreage. The land is a haven for the two of them, a place to get away. But more than that, Nature’s Haven is a haven for birds, insects and native species of all kinds.

“Our goal is to have the property become as natural as possible to support a diverse range of wildlife,” Angie says. “But the land needed some intervention, some help to renaturalize and have more biodiversity.”  

While some conservation philosophies view humans as a threat to the landscape, Angie and Wendy are proving that people and nature can work together. The pair are building their property to be a place where they can be in harmony with nature, as part of the watershed, not intruders or disrupters.

Angie sees their property as one puzzle piece in the larger landscape. But, to realize her goals, she also realized she needed some support. Angie attended a virtual Green Acreages workshop that opened her eyes to the funding available through the Green Acreages program and found the help she needed. 

Wetlands and their associated riparian areas are an important part of the landscape on Angie’s acreage, supporting biodiversity and mitigating the impacts of flooding and drought. Angie received funding from Green Acreages program to plant trees and shrubs and enhance the riparian areas on their property. With the support of Green Acreages and advice from a professional wetlands consultant, she and Wendy have planted 190 native trees and shrubs to support the various species that call their acreage home.

For more than 10 years, the Green Acreages program has provided rural residential landowners like Angie with the information and tools they need to support biodiversity and conservation on their properties. With funding support from Alberta’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program in 2020, Land Stewardship Centre was able to expand Green Acreages to offer incentives to acreage owners like Angie to support eligible stewardship initiatives on their properties.

Angie’s plan is to keep the property in a natural state and nurture the landscape so it can attract all the wildlife and plants that have called this land home since well before they were there. Both the wetland and the riparian zone on their property offer rich habitat for amphibians, waterfowl and other mud- and water-dwelling critters to inhabit. 

“What’s interesting about Angie and Wendy is that they are looking at their acreage as a piece of the bigger landscape,” says Milena McWatt, Green Acreages program coordinator. “This wasn’t just about planting trees. They really took into account the whole watershed around them and looked at how to support the health of the riparian area.”

Milena spent some time with Angie on her property this summer and saw firsthand how she and Wendy put the Green Acreages program support into action.

In the spring and fall, shallow marshes on the property, among other things, offer a transition zone for migratory birds. Aquatic creatures like swans, geese and other waterfowl rely on these wetlands in spring and fall to build habitats. Adding native species back on the landscape supported wetland health on their acreage. Since incorporating these changes, Angie has spotted deer, chickadees, blue jays, ruffed grouse and countless other critters, including Canada geese and goslings. 

When asked what motivated them to want to do something about their property Angie replied, “The land was lonely and needed some life and diversity back.”  

Creating the conditions for migratory birds to build habitats has been important for Angie. While she works to reduce invasive weeds to bring the land back to a more natural setting, adding native shrubs and trees has created optimal conditions for the other native species on their property.

“It's really common when there's an anthropogenic disturbance to the land you get the establishment of weeds and they can be quite prolific. By reestablishing native species, they can start to take the land back from the weeds,” explains Milena.

By focusing on riparian areas and planting native species, Angie is supporting the health of and biodiversity in the local watershed. But Angie is not just planting some trees on her property and calling it a day. She hopes to get more funding to continue her stewardship journey, viewing the property as one aspect of the watershed. She sees the acreage in context and conversation with the area around it, which is not distinct from her own property.

For Angie, the Green Acreages program broadened her understanding of what is possible when it comes to practicing conservation on her property.

“The Green Acreages program really changed my perspective,” says Angie. “It changed what I thought was possible and opened me up to new ideas and possibilities.”  

With Nature’s Haven, Angie and Wendy have taken a long-term, holistic view of the land in context and planted native species that support the land in returning to a more natural, diverse state.

“It'll be really interesting to do a follow up with Angie in a year to see what wildlife and vegetation she’s seeing, what’s popping up naturally because of her work,” adds Milena. “It’ll be really cool to see the effects of this project on the land.”

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