West-Central Forage Association

Paddle River Stewardship Project

The Paddle River Stewardship Group (PRSG), is made up of members of the community (Anselmo) that border the Paddle River. They have taken on the task of looking into the best interests of the riparian zone along the Paddle, from its source right up to the Paddle River Reservoir. This season marks the third season of work by the group, and the second phase of the West-Central Forage Association (WCFA) Paddle River Project.

2011

In 2010, with funding from Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), riparian assessments were carried out on ten different sites, and the aim was to assess the health of the riparian zones along the river, with the assistance of Cows and Fish and their Riparian Health Inventory tool. The results of those assessments were given as individual reports to the landowners as well as an over assessment of the health of the river. It also indicated a number of suggestions that would improve the ecosystems capacity further.

The PRSG, in partnership with WCFA, Alberta Conservation Association and West Central Conservation Group, decided to take those suggestions as sound advice and turn them into deliverables. These include, exclusion fencing stretches of the riparian zones to better manage cattle grazing, introducing stem-mining thistle weevils to tackle the abundance of Canada thistle, planting trees to reinvigorate riparian zones in declining health, and carrying out water tests to provide a benchmark for the overall water quality of the river.

A workshop was held with producers active in the PRSG to introduce them to effective fence design on exclusion fencing and riparian areas. Guest speaker Tom Lynch-Staunton of Antelope Butte Ranch explained success and failures as learned by the members of the Todd Creek Stewardship Group. Included at the workshop was a PRSG meeting where parameters were set for the distribution of funding amongst the individuals participating in this project; discussion was held to confirm that the current project is reflective of the Riparian Health Inventories (RHI) that were conducted in 2010 by Cows and Fish, and work done on each landowner's will be individualized to their Riparian Health Inventory and their own management concerns.

Unfortunately Mother Nature took its dues in 2011 and wreaked havoc with the PRSG's goals to carry out water tests and fencing. However, biding time paid off and water samples were finally collected in late August and the results have been collected into a primary report to be collated with results over the next two years to form a final report that will provide the PRSG with a benchmark for the rivers water quality and inform any future actions to address the Paddle Rivers water quality. All the producers who decided to put up exclusion fencing collected their materials and when provided the opportunity in their busy schedules, and when the weather cooperated, moved ahead on those plans. The Canada thistle stem-mining weevils were ordered up in August and were released at three producers' properties in dense thistle patches along the river. Trees were donated from the Barrhead County Agricultural Service Board tree nursery and 300 trees were planted along the Paddle River with the cooperation of three producer members. A tree application for the federal Prairie Shelterbelt Program was made for one producer; other member producers did not foresee the time to plant trees in the spring. Further plans will be made in 2012 to remedy this complication as one of the suggested outcomes is the RHI is that the PRSG agreed on was revitalization of the riparian zones through tree planting.   

The results of all this season's tasks will help inform the future goals of the PRSG and will give the group the ability and information needed to more readily and appropriately manage the riparian zones so that they and the land will see benefits. 

2012

A tree application for the federal Prairie Shelterbelt Program was made for one producer; other member producers did not foresee the time to plant trees in the spring. Trees (mixed tree and shrub willow, choke cherry, Siberian crab-apple, pincherry, red elder, spruce) were planted on a section of the river just east of Range Road 92.

Upon the recommendations of a report generated by a water specialist with Alberta Agriculture Rural Development Alberta, based on the samples taken last year, the water sampling protocols were changed this year. Instead of collecting water samples from four different sites two times a summer the protocol now is to collect samples from two sites (at the top end of the river by Range Road 114, and near the Paddle River reservoir). Samples were taken once a month from the months of May-August. Each sample was sent to the lab, and analysed for a suite of quality tests. Results are being tabulated into a report. This sampling will continue for the next two years to generate a base understanding of the Paddle River’s water quality.   

A meeting and BBQ was scheduled for the members of the Paddle River Group the 26th of June, to discuss the status of PRSG activities and project goals. A handful of members were able to attend but the information that resulted from the event was quite helpful. The emphasis was placed on fencing but with a focus on less limitations to time frames for getting the fences constructed.

A Paddle River Group event will be planned again for earlier in the spring 2013 to better allow for perticipants' schedules.  

2013

Water samples were again collected in 2013 in alignment with the 2012 protocols. This date was analyzed by Mainstream Aquatics Ltd.

This project is currently being funded by: Agriculture Opportunity Fund, Alberta Conservation Association and Woodlands County.