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More environmental good work is in the works

The Heart River Watershed Restoration is the latest in a 
long line of environmental projects funded by the foundation

An Alberta foundation has invested nearly $100,000 for projects that will help protect the province’s environment.

“The environment is critically important, and the people who are supporting it — which is who we’re working with — do incredibly valuable work,” said Rod Ruff, program director for the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation.

“You can see it across the board in these projects, from restoring a watershed that provides healthy and available water for everyone to educating kids on an energy efficient future.

“There’s nothing more important we can do for ourselves than to invest in projects like these.”

Alberta Ecotrust was founded almost 25 years ago to invest in environmental projects across Alberta. Since then, the foundation has supported over 500 projects with nearly $7.5 million in funding. This year, the organization chose seven projects to fund for $98,500, ranging from defining a special management area in the South Saskatchewan planning region to conserving Alberta’s bat populations.

“We do like to see a broad suite of strategies working on environmental issues, rather than just focusing on one or two,” said Ruff. “We think all of this work is very important.”

Other projects supported through the grant include recovery strategies for foothills fescue grassland; an energy efficiency education program; sensitive habitat inventory mapping; and climate change information sessions.

One of the biggest projects supported by this year’s grant is the Heart River Watershed Restoration project, he said.

“That’s a really interesting project because it’s a collaboration between five or six different organizations,” he said. “All five organizations are doing a little bit different work to work on restoring the watershed. It’s a really unique collaboration. We’re excited to see that.”

With the $17,000 grant, the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society — more commonly known as Cows and Fish — will be working to improve the Heart River Watershed with organizations like the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance, Northern Sunrise County, Peace Country Beef and Forage, Smoky Applied Research and Demonstration Association, and the Village of Nampa.

“Cows and Fish is working with a bunch of other organizations in the area to help do some education and awareness, as well as to monitor the health of a number of riparian sites,” said Norine Ambrose, executive director of Cows and Fish.

“The project is going to include about a half a dozen different restoration management and improvement projects, several of which are going to be supported with the Alberta Ecotrust funding.”

Riparian areas are an “interface between land and water,” and because of that, they need to be protected, said Ambrose.

“They’re really important for water filtration, water storage, water quality improvement, as well as biodiversity and fish habitats,” said Ambrose. “They’re very productive places, but they’re also fairly sensitive. They do require some special management sometimes.”

The grant will be used to establish baseline information about riparian health in the area, as well as to provide education and host public information sessions, said Ambrose.

“If we can better understand how these pieces of our landscape function, then we can do a better job of understanding how to manage them to maintain their health and function.”

The group will also be working with producers in the area to “find out what works for them” in order to provide management recommendations.

“We’ll be working with the various organizations to come up with techniques and strategies that work for the landowner but also that can actually help improve the management and restore the sites,” 
she said.

This project is also supported through other grants, including the Environmental Damages Fund.

“Cows and Fish is a non-profit, and we rely very extensively on grants to do the work we do,” said Ambrose. “Education and outreach are something that are important for helping people understand how to more effectively and carefully manage riparian areas.

“Without the money, the work just doesn’t happen.”

For more information, visit albertaecotrust.com.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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