By LSWC Staff
For South Peace News
The Lesser Slave Watershed Council aims to improve the health of our watershed by supporting land owners in making positive changes that benefit the environment and their operations.
Over the past two years the LSWC has had the opportunity to work with four local cattle producers to implement projects that will improve riparian health and function.
What is a riparian area and why do they matter? According to Cows and Fish, “Riparian areas are the lands adjacent to streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands, where the vegetation and soils are strongly influenced by the presence of water. Although they make up only a small fraction of the land, they are among the most productive and valuable of all landscape types.”
Whether you enjoy fishing, hunting or even bird watching, riparian areas are important. They provide habitat for over 80 per cent of Alberta’s wildlife at some point in their life cycle.
A healthy riparian area will trap and hold sediment, absorb nutrients, provide habitat, stabilize creekbanks and lakeshores with root mass, reduce the impact of flood events, recharge ground water, and provide shade and cover for birds and animals.
The LSWC has established a partnership of local and provincial organizations that support watershed improvement projects. Big Lakes County Agricultural Service Board, Peace Country Beef and Forage Association, and Cows and Fish are working with the LSWC to support healthy watersheds.
The LSWC has received provincial grant funding through the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program, as well as from Big Lakes Agricultural Service Board, to carry out projects in priority areas. Staff members from PCBFA, Cows and Fish, Big Lakes County, and the LSWC are involved in project planning and delivery, extensions events, and promotion of the opportunity to work together.
Projects include an on-farm visit with an interested producer to assess areas with challenges such as: poor water quality, bank erosion, invasive weeds, need for a livestock watering solution, neighbourly disputes with beavers, or other unique challenges. A pre-project riparian health assessment is an important starting point. Riparian health assessment helps you address the questions, “Where am I?”, “Where do I want to go?”, and “Did I make it?” in terms of riparian health. Cows and Fish field technicians visit the project sites and complete the assessment for the landowner. The producer and project team work together on a project plan and budget that will address challenges in a cost effective manner.
A list of projects is included on this page.
The LSWC is able to offer financial support to producers who enter a project agreement with us. We can cover up to 50 per cent of costs associated with materials and equipment for project work.
Peace Country Beef and Forage Association staff aid with forage assessments and grazing management strategies and also work with producers to complete an Environmental Farm Plan. A completed EFP opens the door to the Canadian Agricultural Partnership grant program [formerly Growing Forward], a federal-provincial territorial partnership with a mandate to drive an innovative, competitive and profitable Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. Cows and Fish’s vast experience in riparian management expertise contributes to projects.
The benefits of a healthy water source and healthy riparian area are proven: cleaner water, healthier and faster gaining livestock, enhanced habitat, and peace of mind that you are doing your part to keep our freshwater systems healthy for future generations to enjoy.
The LSWC is looking to engage in at least two new projects in Big Lakes County in the spring of 2018. If you are a cattle producer or landowner with a wetland or riparian in need of some care, or have an idea for a project that will improve your operation and the watershed, please reach out to us to talk about it.
Please call Meghan Payne or Kaylyn Jackson at the LSWC office  523-9800 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Partner with the Watershed Council and consider the following projects at your farm:
* Digging a shallow well for livestock;
* Off stream solar watering systems;
* Riparian fencing and selective grazing;
* Small scale erosion control [i.e. bioengineering];
* Pond levelers at problematic beaver dams;
* Exclusion fencing for beavers at problematic culverts;
* Invasive weed control;
* Revegetation of bare soil areas;
* Installation of cattle crossings.
Call  523-9800 for more details.