Oldman Watershed Council busy over summer
The Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) spent much time travelling the watershed and speaking to people of all ages about the health of the watershed and how everyone has a big role to play.
“Our primary focus is on improving the health of the headwaters through our Engaging Recreationists,” Shannon Frank, the Executive Director of the Oldman Watershed Council said. “The mountains are the source of 90% of our water and their health has declined over the years and so we are working with many partners to encourage recreationists to steer clear of water and restore damaged stream banks.”
Frank says that the OWC’s second biggest project is the Watershed Legacy Program, where funding is provided to landowners for restoration projects like riparian fencing, bridges, off stream watering troughs to keep cattle away from water. This year, the Council provided funding to 5 great projects, which were:
Municipal District of Pincher Creek Transboundary Weeds, Water and Stewardship Tour that goes from Waterton Park to Castle Parks, into the Crowsnest Pass and the East Kootenays.
Municipal District of Willow Creek - Continued support of Bio-control Agent projects to control invasive weed species along the Oldman river and various tributaries.
Cody Spencer, Sweetgrass Bison - Oldman River Riparian Fencing & Restoration – Phase 1 along the lower Oldman river.
Pincher Creek Watershed Group - 16th Annual Blueweed Blitz along Pincher creek and its tributaries.
Allan and Bev Garbutt 1.5km of riparian fencing along the Oldman River
“One of our other goals was to talk to at least 1000 people and we achieved that goal,” Frank said. “Another was to assist our partners with their restoration efforts and we achieved that as well by assisting with weed pulls, planting seedlings, and decking bridges.”
The OWC’s two summer Outreach Assistants, who are students from the University of Lethbridge, also had face-to-face conversations with over 1000 people, including many kids, and played interactive games to highlight the importance of water quality, preventing invasive species, and protecting native fish.
“There are always lots of opportunities for volunteers to get involved,” Frank said. “Right now, we are seeking Caring for Our Watersheds Ambassadors to present to students in grades 7-12 about the watershed and encourage them to participate in a youth contest. Students develop a realistic project proposal to answer the question "what can I do to improve my watershed?" and a panel of judges determines the winners. Nutrien sponsors this program and offers cash prizes for the students and classrooms.”
Frank says that the OWC also helped many of their partners pull thousands of weeds and plant hundreds of seedlings and willows to restore damaged streambanks. The Council, Frank says, considers watching the trees and shrubs grow back very rewarding because they know they are filtering water, holding back sediment, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife.
“OWC is a charity that can only do its work with support from our community,” Frank said. “We are proud to work with people from all sectors and welcome new members, volunteers and donors to get involved. It is our water at stake and we decide how it's managed so being involved is critical.”
The Oldman Watershed Council, according to Frank, is currently planning the activities for fall and winter, crunching the data from this past year/summer and using that data to improve for next year. This winter, the Council will be creating some new videos in partnership with Lethbridge County and developing a book to share the history of the watershed. Winter is also when a lot of fundraising and reporting back to fund sources happens.
“OWC is proud to receive support from many donors including individuals, local businesses and farms, municipalities, irrigation districts, Alberta Environment and Parks, Environment Canada, Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, Alberta Conservation Association and many more,” Frank said. “As a registered charity, we rely on donations to do our work.”
There were a lot of different projects worked on this summer by the hardworking staff of the Oldman Watershed Council.