In March 2018, OWC partnered with WP Puppet Theatre to host a family puppet-making workshop at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. First, participants made some simple puppets and an aquatic habitat complete with clean, clear water and healthy riparian vegetation. Then, they recorded a quick clip using their handcrafted puppets. We’d like to share a short video compilation of some important messages these wise young folks have for everyone enjoying our watershed this summer (Keep reading below for the meaning behind the messages!):
"Respect our rivers"
Our Oldman River has its birthplace in the backcountry. Each mountain tributary may be but a tiny trickle, but combined they contribute 90% of the water in our Oldman river. What we do on land eventually makes its way into the water, impacting everyone downstream. Many of us who recreate in the headwaters actually live downstream, in communities like Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, Claresholm, etc. so more than just being a good neighbour, it’s to our own benefit to respect the river and its tributaries by following Leave No Trace principles and other best practices, like steering clear of water.
"Keep the water clean"
We all know that it’s important to clean up after ourselves and Leave No Trace when enjoying nature. Beyond garbage and pollution, today there are some emerging threats to our waters: namely, aquatic invasive species and whirling disease. In both cases, prevention is our best action! It’s important to Clean, Drain, and Dry all equipment and gear before leaving a water body, and if you’re boating, don’t forget to stop at the mandatory Watercraft Inspection Stations to help keep invasive mussels out of Alberta’s waters. Help stop the spread of whirling disease by decontaminating fishing gear.
"Steer clear of water"
Riparian areas are the lands along streams, lakes, and rivers where water-loving vegetation (like willow) thrives. The riparian vegetation plays many important roles: it supports a lot of biodiversity; roots filter runoff and stabilize the streambanks; and leaves shade the water and keep it cool. By steering clear of water - by keeping wheels out of water and camping back away from shorelines - we keep these riparian areas intact and doing their jobs, thereby reducing erosion and limiting the amount of sediment that gets washed into the water.
"Don't squish baby fish"
Trout - like Alberta’s provincial fish, the bull trout, and the threatened westslope cutthroat trout - build and lay their eggs in nests, called redds. Trout prefer shallow water with gravel beds, exactly the same conditions that are favoured for fording a stream. Driving through redds squishes fish eggs and kills young fish. Not only that, but the extra fine sediments that are stirred up and washed into the stream fill in the cracks between the gravel, cementing the gravel together and making it difficult for fish to build their redds in the first place. After they hatch, young fish rely on these spaces in the gravel for cover and food. Keeping wheels out of water will help protect these vulnerable fish nurseries.
"Use the bridges, save the fishes!"
Whether on wheels, hooves, or on foot, our best strategy to keep contaminants, invasive species, and excess sediment out of water is to stay on trails and use bridges to cross streams.