The number of rural residents in Alberta is growing. For many rural residential landowners, stewarding the land is of great importance. But not everyone knows where to begin, or how to do it. That’s where the Green Acreages program comes in.
After successfully piloting a landowner stewardship incentive initiative through the Green Acreages program, Land Stewardship Centre is excited to continue this important work over the next couple years, having recently received new grant funding from the Government of Alberta’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP). The WRRP is focused on enhancing watersheds across Alberta, and the Green Acreages is helping to deliver on that mandate with funding for everything from climate resiliency to carbon sequestration to improving biodiversity. The program supports stewardship on rural residential properties by providing resources, facilitated workshops, consulting and cost-share funding for on-acreage projects.
Milena McWatt, the Green Acreages program coordinator, works with property owners and has seen over and over how this funding empowers landowners to improve their property and inspire them on their stewardship journey.
“The pilot project was a great starting point and now with this new round of WRRP funding, I feel we’re really going to build momentum,” says Milena.
This work is only the beginning. To mitigate the negative cumulative effects of climate change, we must continue the momentum, building positive cumulative effects and equipping landowners to do this important work. While projects are funded individually, their impact goes far beyond the property lines of any individual’s land. One project on its own might not seem to accomplish much in the grand scheme of things – but Green Acreages is much more than one project. Over the last three years of the program, landowners have completed projects on more than 630 acres, across 15 municipalities. And over time, these numbers, and the impact of what’s being done on these properties, will add up.
“Acreage owners are passionate, willing to put in in-kind hours and pay out of pocket to complete these projects. The Green Acreages program supports their efforts and helps remove barriers to completing their projects,” Milena adds.
Looking ahead, and with more funding now available, Milena is confident in the program’s ability to serve even more landowners and have a greater positive impact on the landscape.
For those who have already participated in and benefitted from Green Acreages resources and incentives, the program has been an opportunity to take their own small steps that ultimately contribute to a more sustainable future.
For example, acreage owner Lana Toews, whose project focused on planting vegetated swale, and trees and shrubs to prevent erosion and mitigate the impacts of drought on her property, the Green Acreages program made it easy to get involved. The opportunity to invest in the future and “plant a tree that someone else will sit under” motivates her to keep doing the difficult but satisfying work on her land.
Green Acreages helped Ashley Davidson plant trees in suitable areas, incorporate a rain garden and add a bioswale for flood and erosion prevention on her property.
Taylor Lund, whose project focused on reestablishing native woody vegetation and riparian planting, might have said it best.
“You own a small piece of the planet and what you do on that piece of property can make a difference in the grand scheme of things,” Taylor says.
While many landowners work individually on small projects, the end result is a better world for all of us – now and in the future.