Lethbridge Herald

Restoratio­n efforts will continue



After vandals ruined the restoratio­n efforts to re-establish the fish habitat within Chipman Creek, volunteers were left dishearten­ed but not beaten.

On Aug. 19, people from multiple organizati­ons including the Oldman Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited Canada and the Oldman River Chapter of Trout Unlimited came together with volunteers and local community members to rejuvenate the creek as well as re-vegetate a stream crossing.

Unfortunat­ely vandals abolished all the work done just days before.

Sofie Forsström, education program manager at the Oldman Watershed Council, says this vandalism, although disappoint­ing, does not dismiss the character and dedication the majority of the community who worked on this project holds.

“This vandalism does not represent the will and character of the community. Many dedicated people and organizati­ons worked hard to repair this stretch of Chipman Creek,” she says.

“It's terribly disappoint­ing to see that somebody took it upon themselves to destroy the hard work that these generous volunteers put into improving their local creek,” Forsström added, “just for the sake of a joyride.”

The initial restoratio­n event that took place in mid-August saw everyone working hard to place 300 native plants to create an effective buffer zone, however, within 48 hours of the volunteers completing their work and leaving the site, the plants had been dug up and all of the hard work dismantled.

No matter how dishearten­ed those involved with the restoratio­n feel, there will be a collective effort once more to work on the creek and to continue creating positive change to lands around southern Alberta, no matter the small setbacks, says Forsström.

“Working together to overcome these challenges will not only improve our watershed but also build stronger, more resilient communitie­s.”

With building resilient communitie­s in mind, the Oldman Watershed Council, along with many partners, are gearing up to host their biggest restoratio­n event of 2017 this month, the Backcountr­y Restoratio­n Event.

The Backcountr­y event will be held Saturday, Oct. 14 in partnershi­p with Cows and Fish to restore riparian habitats along Dutch Creek which is a tributary in the headwaters of the Oldman River.

Days before the event, Oldman Watershed Council officials will work to harvest willows that will be ready for planting in time for the event.

Although these events can be a lot of hard work, Forsström says communitie­s, volunteers and organizati­ons coming together to care for their environmen­t is something of which they can be proud.

“It’s hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Last year we had community members, random campers, families, OHV riders, postsecond­ary students, government staff, and even a group of Scouts volunteer.”

The coming backcountr­y restoratio­n had a successful event last year with 600 willows being planted that began to grow in nicely this spring and Forsström says the Oldman Watershed Council are excited once again to host this event.

Although there are times when these collaborat­ive efforts experience setbacks such as vandalism, the communitie­s affected and volunteers wanting to make a difference stand strong together to continue to try and raise efforts for a better future for our watersheds.

“The restoratio­n work was a great example of what a dedicated group of volunteers can accomplish by working together at the community level. There will always be setbacks when trying to effect positive change (be they natural or anthropoge­nic), but it’s important not to give up.”

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