ALL WET The Legacy Wetland Restoration Program uses old aerial photos to identify former wetlands and guide the restoration process
Restoring wetlands benefits the environment, wildlife and society, say participants in the Legacy Wetland Restoration Program.
“It’s a win-win situation that is an incredibly positive thing that makes changes in the landscape,” said Robbin Hunka, a conservation program specialist with Ducks Unlimited.
The program, which involves projects across the Prairies, was created with a $1-million donation from Agrium in 2009. The area around Daysland, 40 kilometres southwest of Camrose, was identified as a prime area for wetland restoration and Ducks Unlimited struck deals with landowners Peter and Rose Gabruck, Werner and Marianne Strohhaecker, and Bev and Duane Ronsko.
Werner Strohhaecker became interested in the idea when Ducks Unlimited surveyed his land two years ago, and ended up selling two of his eight quarters to the organization. He said he wanted to see wildlife such as ducks, geese and coyotes return.
“It was not a hard decision,” he said.
The Daysland area was chosen after a study of aerial photography conducted in 1949.
“We know that the wetland density here is one of the best places in northeast Alberta,” said Hunka.
The photos not only helped identify the area, but guided the restoration work.
“In all the restorations we do, we want to take it back to where the historical level was,” said Hunka.
The restoration work involves plugging drainage ditches, but it’s not as easy as backfilling some dirt into a ditch. Creating a “ditch plug,” which costs about $15,000, begins with the removal of soil and then clay is put in and carefully packed to ensure water can’t flow under the plug. Finally, the soil is used to landscape the area in a natural fashion.
“We use strict criteria and pay a lot to do the restoration,” said Hunka. “We need willing landowners and use the drained inventory survey to know the acres to restore.”
Restoring the Strohhaecker land required about 15 ditch plugs.