West-Central Forage Association

Lobstick River Stewardship Project

West-Central Forage Association and Yellowhead County, as partners in the Stewardship Alliance for Conservation Agriculture (SACA), have secured funding with Alberta Conservation Association to initiate a Lobstick River Stewardship Project. The project focuses on concerns that have been brought forward regarding the environmental condition of the Lobstick River, the riparian area along the river, and its adjacent landholdings.

The need for investigation into the health of the Lobstick River became apparent in 2012, during the Chip Lake Stewardship Project, when the assessed areas on the Lobstick showed a great deal of variation in riparian health; some sites were quite healthy and others were very heavily and negatively impacted.

There are 58 quarter-sections of land adjacent to the river, which flows out of Chip Lake and into the Pembina River. The river winds its way through a variety of landscapes, including agricultural land and muskeg (organic, poor draining soils), eventually draining into the Pembina River. There are a number of fish species in the Lobstick River including northern pike, walleye, burbot, whitefish and goldeye. There are more than 120 species of birds and waterfowl in addition to moose, whitetail and mule deer, and elk recorded in the area. This region is used by many hunters for deer and other ungulates and by the general public for recreational purposes.

The rationale behind this project is to determine the overall health of the river and to identify primary issues where agricultural practices have potentially had impacts on the ecosystem such as channel incisement, the presence of invasive and disturbance-caused plant species, and human or livestock altered stream banks. All of the planned activities will lead to mitigation strategies that will enhance water quality, fish and wildlife habitat and improve the overall health of the river and adjacent riparian areas, which will benefit landowners and others who use and value the Lobstick River for livelihood or recreational use.ACA Logo

The primary disturbance along the river is from unrestricted cattle grazing, resulting in significant consequences on the riparian area. It was observed that invasive weeds are present, and in some areas vegetation is degenerated, woody vegetation is non-existent or supplanted by non-preference species (i.e. rosebush, buckbrush, etc), soils are compacted and eroded, and bank stability is undermined.

SACA sees the opportunity for a stewardship group that will address the environmental health of the Lobstick River, and believes it is needed for the longevity of a project of this nature. We are actively seeking the support and participation of individuals that live around or near the river and use this area for business or recreational activities, or nature conservation.

The Lobstick River Stewardship Project has three goals:

  • Carry out detailed riparian health inventories along the Lobstick River to measure stream health and overall impact on the ecosystem, and develop physical benchmarks by which to design future project;
  • Conduct water quality sampling, to establish benchmarks;
  • Initiate the formation of, and maintain support of, a group of stakeholders around the Lobstick River to create awareness and gain feedback in regards to the river and ecosystem health as well as beneficial management practices to maintain or improve the environmental health of the river.

If you are interested in participating in the Lobstick River Stewardship Project, please contact Tina Pultz (780) 727-4447 or Patricia O’Neil at (780) 325-3782.

Healthy riparian areas provide habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality for livestock and downstream water users, and can mitigate the impacts of drought or floods. The landowners along the Lobstick River (east of Chip Lake) recognize the importance of the water and lands within the watershed in which they live. Healthy riparian areas provide habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality for livestock and downstream water users and can mitigate the impacts of drought or floods. This project will be ongoing as more landowners become involved and there is increased participation in the activities that will enhance these riparian areas.

WCFA sees riparian health inventories (RHI) as a part of the pathway to identifying and addressing the challenges of human interaction in and around riparian ecosystems. RHIs also have the potential to identify where landowners are being successful with their riparian management. It is an important step for community-based action, future planning and monitoring.

RHI is not just about collecting data. Once the field work, data analysis and reporting are complete, the landowners will have a baseline of the current condition of the riparian areas in their region, which will be a building block for future projects to address issues. Once this information is gathered it can also be used for comparison in future years, as we would hope to repeat the RHIs in five years to monitor changes.

It is also anticipated that through the RHIs we will be able to identify possible demonstration and profile sites. Our plan is that the demonstrations or profiles would be developed as future projects so that we are able to showcase what can be done to keep the riparian areas in good shape. These future projects could include installing exclusion fencing, planting trees and shrubs to stabilize riverbanks, and reducing invasive weeds using biological control methods.

 

This project was funded in part by Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and Yellowhead County.

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