There are many ways that people can help the environment. These can be as easy as not flushing goldfish and as complex as planting a rain garden.
On March 11, the Lesser Slave Lake Watershed Council (LSWC), M.D. of Lesser Slave River, and Land Stewardship Centre held a workshop in Widewater called – Living on the Lake: Stewardship, Habitat & More! This included information on grants to help landowners make a positive impact on the Lesser Slave watershed. Also, some easier tips that anyone can do.
The easy options
Kenda Kozdroski, Lesser Slave River ag fieldman, told participants two easy ways for everyone to protect the environment. Firstly, do not buy wildflower seed mixes. Secondly, do not flush goldfish.
Gold fish are a hearty fish which grow as big as their environment allows and adapt to the colour of other fish, says Kozdroski. “They are harming our species in the North Saskatchewan.”
Wildflower seed mixes often contain seeds not listed on the back or have flowers which are noxious weeds here, but not where they were harvested, said Kozdroski.
Some plants are prohibited noxious or noxious weeds in Alberta. Many of these have pretty flowers and were introduced in people’s flower gardens. These non-native plants can compete with native plants to cause ecological issues.
Especially, dangerous are the ones which can make their way into waterways – such as Himalayan balsam, pale yellow iris, and flowering rush.
One of the ag fieldman’s jobs is as a weed and pest inspector.
Kozdroski goes to the local stores to check seed packets, especially wildflower mixes. If she has concerns, she asks the stores not to sell them. She also goes to greenhouses to check for prohibited noxious and noxious weeds being sold as flowers.
To be safe, people should avoid wildflower mixes, says Kozdroski.
Also, before buying plants they can check the Identification Guide for Alberta Invasive Plants. This is online and there are print copies.
In the spring, Kozdroski and her assistant weed inspectors travel throughout the M.D. looking for prohibited noxious and noxious weeds.
They inform land owners, including Alberta Transportation and CN rail, of weed issues. They have a conversation with the owners about how they are going to control the weeds. If nothing happens eventually a weed notice is issued.
One prohibited noxious which is high on her radar is Himalayan balsam.
“Himalayan balsam within the Town of Slave Lake has become a huge problem,” said Kozdroski. This is an aquatic invasive that if it gets into the riparian (waters edge) area can cause a lot of damage. The M.D. is working with the town to come up with a plan to eradicate it and keep it from spreading into the M.D.
Residents are encouraged to bag weeds and take them to the landfills, not take them to the recycle station or dump them in the bush.
Rain gardens, bioswales, etc.
At the workshop, Meghan Payne, LSWC executive director, and Milena McWatt, Green Acreages coordinator with the Land Stewardship Centre, spoke about matching grants for rural landowners to do bigger projects. These can be used for nature-based solutions to deal with water on their land.
Acreage owners are a growing rural population in Alberta, said McWatt. Combined they represent a large amount of “non-agricultural properties which can have a cumulative impact” on the environment.
For over a decade, Green Acreages has provided resources to small rural land-owners. It also has some matching grants.
Acreages include non-agricultural rural properties, hobby farms, holiday locations, etc.
This represents “a lot of people managing the land,” added McWatt. Some of their land-use choices can protect their investment in the land and protect the environment.
The grant supports projects that “lessen the impacts of flooding or drought, enhance the natural watershed function, work with the path of the water and the flow of the water,” said McWatt.
The Land Stewardship Centre has a video coming out about one of the grant projects it did with an acreage owner in the Lac La Biche area. Her first spring a corner of her property flooded. She used two nature-based solutions to stop the flooding. These were a bioswale and a rain garden. Both use native plants and work with the natural flow of water.
“She worked with a permaculture expert to make her bioswale food producing,” said McWatt. She did this using native bushes that produce berries.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a bioswale as “a long, channeled depression or trench that receives rainwater runoff (as from a parking lot) and has vegetation (such as grasses, flowering herbs, and shrubs) and organic matter (such as mulch) to slow water infiltration and filter out pollutants.”
The Ground Water Foundation says, “A rain garden is a garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope. It is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns. Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90 per cent of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80 per cent of sediments from the rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30 per cent more water to soak into the ground.
“A rain garden is not a water garden. Nor is it a pond or a wetland. Conversely, a rain garden is dry most of the time. It typically holds water only during and following a rainfall event. Because rain gardens will drain within 12-48 hours, they prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.”
Other options for the grant include off-site watering systems, fences to keep livestock out of a stream or wetland, willow staking to stop erosion, and stream crossings.
Payne’s presentation focused on “a holistic look at land and watershed stewardship.”
LSWC started in the mid-1990s by community members and municipal councillors to address water-related issues with Lesser Slave Lake. In 2007, the provincial government recognized it as a Watershed Planning and Advisory Council (WPAC). It is one of 11 in Alberta.
The LSWC goal is “a healthy Lesser Slave watershed.”
The watershed is all of the land which drains into a water-body. The LSWC is the only lake-based WPAC in Alberta. All of the others are river-based.
“Our watershed is a busy place,” said Payne. It is crossed with seismic lines, pipelines, forestry, agriculture, residential, and industry development. The most recent land-use map LSWC has of the whole watershed is from 2011.
Payne uses the example of an upside down umbrella to explain how the Lesser Slave watershed works. Rain and snow that fall on the Swan Hills, Marten Hills, and areas on the west side of the Lesser Slave Lake all drain into the lake. The lake drains into the Lesser Slave River north of Slave Lake.
Sawridge Creek, and the other creeks east of the lake flow into the Lesser Slave River. This goes into the Athabasca river near Smith. The water eventually makes its way to the Arctic Ocean.
We are all upstream and downstream of someone, said Payne.
The LSWC has grant money for agricultural landowners, and will help all types of landowners apply for grants
by Pearl Lorentzen
March 22, 2023
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