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Riparian Collaboration


PeterSL
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It’s not hard to understand why protection of riparian land is a priority for those  who spend much of their recreational time walking through it. Fishing is often more about being in those places where trout live than the act of catching them. Perhaps, as Roderick Haig-Brown wrote, fishing is just an excuse to be near rivers!

 Like many TUC Chapters, Northern Lights Fly Fishers has been actively involved in riparian protection throughout its history. Over the last five years, however, the Chapter has increased its efforts and helped protect 160 acres of riparian land and another 14 acres of upland habitat, which in turn provide benefits to the stream, its water, fish, invertebrates, and biodiversity.

All of this work has been in central Alberta’s cattle country along the Raven River and Dogpound Creek, both known for the quality of the brown trout angling they provide. Both streams are popular destinations for Chapter members so there was some self-interest in undertaking these projects! What made the work possible, however, was the funding provided by the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) through its Conservation, Community and Education grant program. Erecting fencing, especially wildlife friendly fencing, to keep cattle out of the stream, and providing alternative watering systems, are expensive undertakings.

Our 2021 project faced some special challenges. What was particularly remarkable was the cooperative effort that made it successful. Northern Lights had an ACA grant approved to protect 12 acres of riparian land on a ranch near the headwaters of Dogpound Creek, but the landowners decided not to go ahead with the work. Meanwhile, the owners of Leask Ranches, Bill and Carolyn, near Cremona, Alberta, contacted ACA for help regarding the damage their cattle were doing to Dogpound Creek – eroding banks, depleting vegetation, and muddying the water of what was otherwise a pristine stretch of a popular brown trout fishery. Steep banks along the Creek made provision of a different watering system a somewhat complex engineering challenge.

A cooperative effort began: ACA’s Riparian Coordinator quickly worked out a protection plan, gathered material and labour cost estimates, and arranged a 10 year agreement with the Leasks for them to maintain exclusion fencing; Bill Leask offered to build the new fencing required himself; Northern Lights and ACA worked out an agreement to transfer the previously-approved grant funding for fence materials and a watering system to the Leask project; Mountain View County  provided some cash towards fencing through its Alternative Land Use Program  (ALUS), and the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, aka ‘Cows and Fish’, also stepped in to help. Cows and Fish has been involved with landowners, improvements in grazing and management of riparian areas for about 20 years. It not only contributed towards the costs of a culvert well, pump, troughs, and solar panels to get water up the bank to the pasture land, but also provided a detailed assessment of riparian health to identify other means for improvement and a benchmark for long term monitoring. We may need volunteers to help plant willow stakes next spring!

 Collaboration accomplished a lot. The creek, its fish, fauna, flora and visitors, the cattle and the ranchers will all benefit.

Northern Lights is now looking for more riparian protection projects for 2022. There’s an added bonus to the pleasure of being able to walk a stream bank and cast a fly in knowing that you’ve made some small contribution to the health of that environment.

1. Dogpound at Leask Ranch.JPG

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