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Protecting the North Saskatchewan Watershed

A guest post from Stephanie Weizenbach, outreach coordinator for the Edmonton and Area Land Trust, who describes the group’s efforts to conserve wild spaces in the the North Saskatchewan watershed.

The Edmonton and Area Land Trust (EALT) strives to conserve wild spaces in the wider Edmonton region, a critical part of the North Saskatchewan watershed that connects the Alberta Headwaters to large communities downstream. This guest post, by EALT outreach coordinator Stephanie Weizenbach, describes the group’s achievements and future goals.

Founded in 2007, EALT currently conserves over 1,235 ac (500 ha) of land and contribute to the protection of nearly 2,100 ac (850 ha) of wildlife habitat. EALT is working to secure an additional 850 ac (344 ha) within the next year to add to the network of natural areas in the Edmonton region.

EALT’s natural areas are well connected on the larger landscape. Our Glory Hills Conservation Lands boasts a lake, several small wetlands, deciduous forest and small meadows. Located within the North Saskatchewan River Basin, this natural area is at the northern most point of an important chain of relatively undisturbed lakes.

The lake and wetlands of the Glory Hills natural area are an integral part of the watershed and serve as an important wildlife corridor, which has been designated as an Ecologically Significant Area (ESA) by the province.

A similar description rings true for all of EALT’s seven conservation areas, with each having its own unique characteristics. In addition to its impact on wildlife habitat, human activities on the land directly impact water quality within a watershed. Therefore, EALT needs to steward and care for our natural areas, not just preserve them as is.

EALT invests a lot of funds and organizes many volunteer hours to steward all of our natural areas. Volunteers work tirelessly to modify fences to be wildlife friendly, and spend endless hours hand-pulling invasive weeds to conserve biodiversity and improving wildlife nesting and foraging habitat.

We also maintain wildlife friendly fences around our sensitive natural areas, to protect them from damage from off-highway vehicle (OHV) trespassing. OHVs such as quads and snowmobiles degrade the health of the watershed through damage to the lake shore, wetlands and plant communities by eroding slopes, spreading invasive weeds and reducing water quality.

EALT goes one step further by spreading awareness about these issues and sharing the importance of environmental stewardship with our community through various educational initiatives. We also maximize work through partnerships with local municipalities, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Conservation is truly a community effort, and with the support of the community, we successfully conserve natural areas in this local region.

As a key stakeholder within the North Saskatchewan River Basin, EALT was invited to complete workshops and contribute feedback to the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan. This land-use plan affects the headwaters, as well as the entire North Saskatchewan watershed, including the quality of our drinking water and the health of the wildlife corridors all across the province.

You can contribute to this plan too. Keep an eye on the North Saskatchewan Region website for updates and progress on the regional plan; this plan is your future.

Stephanie Weizenbach is the outreach coordinator for the Edmonton and Area Land Trust, a group that works together with volunteers and other local organizations and businesses to conserve our natural heritage, and spread awareness about conservation in the Edmonton region.

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