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News from May 2020

2020 WSG Recipients Announced

May 12, 2020

Each year, the sophistication and innovation of project proposals submitted by stewardship groups to the Watershed Stewardship Grant (WSG) amplifies. Applicants continue to inspire with their dedication to on the ground activities that enhance, protect and restore Alberta’s precious water resources.

It is rewarding to see the reach and diversification of stewardship activities supported by this grant program from year to year. Learn about the recipients who have received support from the WSG in 2020. LSC gratefully acknowledges Alberta Environment and Parks as the core funder of the WSG.

Blood Tribe Land Management Blood Tribe First Nation, the largest First Nation in Canada, will work to revive bison populations on native grasslands in Southern Alberta. Having a healthy water system is imperative to the success of this and future projects. The WSG will support the establishment of protection protocols within the Blood Tribe, and build their capacity to monitor wetlands, groundwater and riparian areas. The data will be provided to decision makers to ensure future community planning will incorporate science-based and culture-based factors.

Chinook Applied Research Association This project will improve the sustainability of the Sounding Creek Watershed area through enhanced awareness, a riparian health evaluation and subsequent restoration at specific points along the Creek and its tributaries (including bioengineering techniques such as planting willows and/or poplars; exclusion fencing, adjusting grazing systems, etc.). The Association will utilize WSG funds to engage school classes and local 4-H clubs in the planting of trees and restoration activities.

Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society This unique project seeks to build the Friends’ organizational capacity by creatively harnessing the strengths of technology to streamline monitoring processes. With the development of an app, the Society will revamp how they collect, analyze and prioritize data meaningfully across all watershed stewardship initiatives. The project will harness significant volunteer time through the successful Park Watch program and, with technology, will enable long-term organizational capacity and efficiency and the standardization of data collection for stewardship groups.

Ghost Watershed Alliance Society The Society will implement recommendations from the 2018 Ghost River State of the Watershed (SOW) Report and will undertake aquatic biomonitoring (as part of the Canada-wide STREAM Project). The Society will also conduct outreach and collaboration by engaging with members, partners, ENGOs, industry and government staff to action recommendations in the Ghost River SOW Report.

Highway 2 Conservation (H2C) H2C will continue their successful work in riparian restoration, protection and education by implementing three key activities: working with landowners to implement the Riparian Improvement Program, using bio-control agents to remove invasive weeds at two protected sites and hosting four field trip events (Pond Days) for over 300 Grade 5 children. H2C has collaborated with and engaged several organizations in their project including Cows and Fish, Athabasca Watershed Council, Lac La Nonne Enhancement and Protection Association and more.

Inside Education Society of Alberta Their comprehensive project has multiple program areas designed to work together and broaden both the reach and content of watershed education, while providing multiple opportunities to engage with both students and teachers province wide. WSG funds will specifically support Inside Education’s Water & Agriculture Teacher Professional Development Program, WestSlope Cutthroat Trout Posters & Teacher Guide and Water Science Classroom Programs (Grade 7–12). The project will provide students and teachers throughout Alberta with multiple learning experiences about their own watershed.

Louis Bull Tribe (LBT) LBT will be creating a publicly accessible, educational outdoor experience to entice LBT members, school groups, surrounding communities and visitors to explore and discover a local prairie wetland. The WSG will support a marked trail head which will provide users with the experience of wandering trails through the transition between prairie uplands, riparian vegetation and wetland waterbodies. Interactive educational signage will engage visitors in the importance of wetlands and watershed health, promoting knowledge, understanding and stewardship.

Moose Lake Watershed Society With support from the WSG, the Society will engage with partners and enhance their Keep our Lake Blue campaign. By installing three additional signs and hosting three events during summer 2020, the Society aims to increase the campaign’s exposure and spur watershed stewardship action.

Nature Alberta For over 50 years, Nature Alberta (NA) has worked to be a strong voice for the greater appreciation and conservation of Alberta’s natural environment. With WSG support, Nature Alberta will implement a shoreline naturalization project at Willowbend Resort in Lac La Nonne. More than 600 trees will be planted to restore the shoreline to help prevent erosion, reduce water run-off, and add a natural buffer. In addition, their Nature Kids program will host a community event onsite featuring nest box installations and educational presenters to engage families on the importance of keeping shorelines natural for healthy biodiversity and water quality.

Peace Country Beef & Forage Association (PCBFA) Support from the WSG will enable PCBFA to purchase a Beaver Pond Leveler with the intent to host a demonstration day for municipalities, environmental consultants, and agricultural producers. Through this project, PCBFA will demonstrate ways that agricultural producers can work with beaver populations rather than against them, assisting beaver populations and ensuring these animals can remain in the watershed and continue their important role in filtering run-off water and controlling flow across the landscape.

Pincher Creek Watershed Group Having spearheaded this local event sixteen years ago, this watershed stewardship group is receiving support from the WSG to host their Annual Blueweed Blitz in summer 2020. The event will harness the volunteer power of over 100 people and will work to eradicate the relentless noxious weed, mitigating against the destruction of the watershed from Blueweed (Echium vulgare).

Ridge Reservoir Working Group This year, in partnership with County of Warner and Raymond Elementary School, the Group will hold a clean-up day around the reservoir and plant trees and shrubs with youth volunteers along the shoreline. This will help improve and protect water quality, increase biodiversity and provide wildlife habitat. Signage will also be installed at the restoration sites for educational purposes.

Society of Grasslands Naturalists The Medicine Hat Interpretive Program, which is managed by the Society, will be leading this project titled Hidden Neighbours in collaboration with South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, local colleges and volunteers. Public events, including hands-on stewardship activities, will provide opportunities for people to explore the creeks, wetlands and riverbanks to build understanding of local riparian areas along Saskatchewan River, Seven Persons Creek and Ross Creek, as well as wetlands within the city. Outcomes from the project will be showcased at an exhibit in the Police Point Park Nature Centre from February to June 2021.

Stettler & District Adult Learning Council Building on momentum from a project funded by the WSG in 2018, this year the Council will expand their Rural Routes to Climate Solutions initiative. By running a series of workshops and field days in rural Alberta for agricultural producers, farmers and ranchers will learn how they can adopt on-farm climate solutions that benefit local watersheds. Rural Routes also launched a spin-off podcast, which will continue to be developed and produced by the Council in 2020.

Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) The project, which takes place at sites in the Waiparous Creek watershed, involves the restoration of 100+ meters of damaged riparian habitat where areas have been degraded by OHV use, grazing and road building. On two separate workdays, TUC will engage volunteers to harvest and plant at least 1,000 live willow stakes. Staff and volunteers will also prepare and install signs to educate the public about this project, native trout recovery and encourage responsible OHV use.

Wabamun Watershed Management Council (WWMC) The WWMC will host three open houses to build community consensus for the Wabamun Lake watershed management plan. At these events, and through educational presentations and incorporating community feedback, the WWMC will develop a community implementation plan that will be printed and distributed and posted on the WWMC and North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance websites.

Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association (WBRA) The WBRA, one of only two UNESCO designated biosphere reserves in Alberta, will implement year two of their Building Resiliency for Bats project. WBRA will also enrich their wetland youth education events by incorporating information about bats and their use of riparian/wetland areas, and partnering with Alberta Community Bat Program to bring their educational resources to the Wetland Field Day and Day on the Creek events in 2020.

Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society The Society will complete the final year of a five-year study which is monitoring and investigating the biological and ecological implications of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Construction project on the Weaselhead/Glenmore Park and surrounding area. The long-term goal of the study is to generate comparable data from the pre-disturbance, construction, and operational phases of the road, to inform and guide future studies, similar projects and conservation efforts.

Wizard Lake Watershed and Lake Stewardship Association (WLWLSA) The goal of this project is to collate all existing water quality data performed at Wizard Lake in the past 15 years and summarize the results of the analysis in a plain language document. This document and recommendations will be promoted through active community outreach to enhance lake and watershed health.

The Green Acreages Program is Growing

May 12, 2020

Our long-standing Green Acreages program has received provincial funding and, with strong municipal collaboration, will soon be supporting stewardship, drought and flood resiliency efforts among acreage owners across Alberta.

The 2016 census states that rural residents represent 16.1% of Alberta’s population – a growing proportion of the rural population. As the number of rural residents increases, they will have a greater cumulative impact on Alberta’s soil, water, air and wildlife resources. Acreage owners generally want to ‘do the right thing’ for their properties, but, historically, resources specific to managing small landholdings have been limited.

Launched in 2012, Green Acreages is a core program of Land Stewardship Centre (LSC). Distributed to and used by over 40 municipalities and organizations across Alberta, the Green Acreages Primer and Workbook resources have resonated deeply with municipalities, the stewardship community and acreage owners. In recent years, both Parkland County and Red Deer County even developed and implemented full-fledged municipal Green Acreages Programs utilizing these resources.

“We’ve run our own Green Acreages program in Red Deer County since 2013, providing information and funding to acreage owners to implement environmentally beneficial projects,” shares Ken Lewis, Conservation Coordinator at Red Deer County.

Other municipalities, including Mountain View County and Clearwater County, have taken different approaches including distributing the Green Acreages resources and hosting workshops for their residents.

“Mountain View County has been a supporter of the Green Acreages resources for many years,” says Lorelee Grattidge, Sustainable Agricultural Specialist with the county. “We have distributed Green Acreage Primers to our residents since 2016.”

Based on this longstanding and positive response to, and continued uptake and extensive use of the Green Acreages resources by municipalities, LSC long believed there was an opportunity to do more to deliver information and resources to acreage owners across the province.

Subsequent discussions with municipal stakeholders offered important perspectives along with valuable information which became the foundation for a funding proposal to Alberta’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP) to support a broader, more cohesive approach to delivering coordinated Green Acreages programming.

With WRRP funding confirmed earlier this year, LSC, in partnership with Red Deer County, Parkland County, Clearwater County, Brazeau County, Mountain View County and Rocky View County, has just launched a two-year Green Acreages pilot project. Through virtual (and when feasible, face-to-face) workshops, educational resources and physical restoration projects, this initiative embraces a collaborative approach to connecting and working directly with acreage owners, promoting sustainability through stewardship, supporting drought and flood mitigation efforts, and enhancing the ecosystem services associated with private land in Alberta.

Program partners and LSC are excited to see this long-awaited idea come to life.

“The number of acreage owners in Mountain View County is on a steady increase with many of these new residents moving from urban settings,” adds Lorelee. “We are fully supportive and very glad to see this new approach to Green Acreages evolve to assist acreage owners to protect and enhance the ecosystem services associated with their land.”

Ken Lewis from Red Deer wholeheartedly agrees. “It’s fantastic to see this opportunity for acreage owners across Alberta, and we look forward to working with LSC as the program continues to grow.”

Meet the new Green Acreages Program Coordinator.

Meet Our Newest Team Member

May 12, 2020

Milena McWatt

Green Acreages Program Coordinator

In the late nineteenth century, answering lists of questions was a popular parlour game among Victorians. French writer, Marcel Proust, answered a list of questions posed to him by his friend Antoinette. Since then, Proust’s answers have been published, in one form or another, for more than a century. Many have used the Proust Questionnaire in various formats, the most notable being Vanity Fair’s version posed to various celebrities.

Taking a break from the typical interview process and article, we’ve put our own spin on the Proust Questionnaire to introduce you to our newest team member, Milena McWatt, who will be leading the charge with our enhanced Green Acreages program.

Hometown? I grew up near Fairview, in northwestern Alberta’s Peace Country. That being said, my childhood home is slightly closer to Bluesky than to Fairview.

Greatest educational achievement? I think this would either be completing my Master’s in Resource and Environmental Management from Dalhousie, or getting a full academic year in my undergraduate degree while on exchange in Brazil and while learning Portuguese (which was the language of instruction).

Favorite colour and flower? My favourite colour is green and I love being in the forest or fields in summer and observing all the different types of green. My favourite flower is lily of the valley. They are only out for a short time in spring, but they are pretty and smell the best!

Favorite outdoor pastime? This is a tie between walking my dog in the woods and kayaking on calm lakes.

Where would you like to live? I really fell in love with Rio de Janeiro when I lived there during my undergraduate studies. I don’t know that I’d want to live there full-time, but it’s like my home-away-from-home.

Greatest professional achievement? Something that really stands out is chairing the Gener8 and Navig8 Youth Energy and Water Summits when I was with Inside Education. It was really rewarding to see so many students, teachers, and stakeholders come together to learn and seek solutions for stewardship action.

Best thing that ever happened to you? It’s been six years since I adopted my dog Pepper and it’s been just the best. I have the perfect excuse to be outside a lot more now.

Mentors? I’ve been really lucky to encounter so many inspiring colleagues over the years and I look to them for guidance. It’s sometimes hard to evaluate yourself objectively and these folks have all been there to remind me of my strengths and achievements.

What drives you? I’m passionate about making a positive difference for the environment.

What do you most appreciate in a co-worker? A sense of humour and common values! When you can laugh at work and you’re doing something that is meaningful to you, it doesn’t feel like work anymore.

Stewardship philosophy? Everyone can make a difference and the cumulative impact of the changes we each make can be monumental.

Reason for accepting the Green Acreages Program Coordinator position? I grew up in a rural area and, with my background in resource and environmental management and education, it just felt like the perfect way to help promote stewardship across the province. I’m thrilled to be a part of the LSC team and get involved with on-the-ground stewardship projects!

What’s next? Due to the pandemic, we are exploring creative ways to keep our stakeholders engaged. I’m hoping to be able to work with my new colleagues to provide digital resources and online events to support municipalities and landowners. We can make some great stewardship gains in this uncertain time, as acreage owners are spending more time on their land and may have more time for initiatives. I’m excited to get started!

Learn who else is involved and what’s going to happen with Green Acreages.

Stewardship Showcase: Lac La Nonne Education Centre

May 12, 2020

Keep reading to learn about this group of dedicated stewards from west of Edmonton who received funding from the Watershed Stewardship Grant to enhance their local lake and surrounding community.

The Lac La Nonne Enhancement and Protection Association received a 2019 Watershed Stewardship Grant to support their long-term goal of constructing an education center on an underutilized piece of lakefront property.

The project consisted of transforming a parcel of unused land in Klondike Park, and bolstering community engagement and awareness of environmental and lake health concerns.

“Lac La Nonne is a high activity lake,” shares Maureen Teha, Secretary of LEPA. “From locals to visitors from surrounding urban areas, there was a need to educate people using the lake about responsible lake recreation and management and protecting lake health.”

With the education center infrastructure and construction complete, LEPA is working on installing signage at various points in the park which promote sustainable activities on the lake. They are also using native plants for landscaping and installing bird houses and bat nesting boxes.

This effort led by LEPA, in collaboration with Highway 2 Conservation, County of Barrhead and many volunteers, will continue educating and engaging visitors about the riparian area, native plant species, and the importance of bats and birds around water for years to come.

“We’re really grateful for the support we received from the Watershed Stewardship Grant program,” shares Maureen. “Sometimes just a little bit of funding can go a long way, especially when you have passionate volunteers with a vested interest in bettering their community.”

Learn more about LEPA and how you can join their efforts, working together for the health of the lake and surrounding area.