Engaging Recreationists is a collaborative, on-the-ground project designed to reduce threats to the headwaters (Goal 3) - threats which include the cumulative effects of linear features, such as roads and recreational trails. Through stakeholder engagement, education, community-based social marketing, streambank restoration, and stewardship activities, we are encouraging motorized recreationists to keep wheels out of water and thereby protect our headwaters, water quality, and critical habitat for endangered species (such as westslope cutthroat trout). The ultimate goal of this project is to engage Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) users in restoring places where they recreate, changing behaviour to reduce their impacts, and becoming environmental stewards. This project supports important government efforts, and demonstrates how local, multi-stakeholder action can work to effectively restore damaged areas and reduce threats in the watershed.
WHAT'S BEING DONE
OWC has been hiring seasonal Outreach Assistants to talk to OHV users in the backcountry, conduct surveys, and provide public education about watershed health. They are testing the effectiveness of signs at encouraging OHV riders to use bridges, and recording observations throughout the headwaters using a customized app called Epicollect. We support local stewardship initiatives such as weed pulls and garbage cleanups. Together with partner organizations and volunteers, we have been working to restore illegal fords (next to bridges) in the Dutch Creek watershed and provide signage to educate backcountry users about the importance of restoration and native fish. Our social media and communications strategies support Government of Alberta messaging (e.g. Know B4 U Go, PlayCleanGo, etc) and ensure that all stakeholders have a voice. The results of this project have proven very positive; people enjoy seeing our staff on the ground and have come to regard the OWC as a credible source of information. Through our efforts, we have noticed a shift in the conversations with more of a focus on the need for responsible recreation and stewardship in order to ensure sustainable use.
Recreation Advisory Committee
The OWC has engaged representatives from local OHV organizations, retailers, and individual riders to form the Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) - a group that is helping inform the OWC on how to educate backcountry users on safe, appropriate, and sustainable motorized recreation. These folks are leaders in the OHV community and help demonstrate what experienced, responsible riding looks like. They've invited OWC to speak at their events, build and deck OHV bridges over creeks, and in August 2016, folks from the RAC got together to do a nature cleanup of Atlas Staging Area. In addition, the RAC has been working with the OWC to provide collaborative recommendations to the Government of Alberta on the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan's Land Footprint Management Plans and the Recreation Management Plans currently underway for the Porcupine Hills and the Livingstone areas.
The OWC and Cows and Fish have been organizing willow harvesting and riparian restoration events along Dutch Creek in the fall. Together with volunteers, we plant willow and install fencing and signage to stabilize areas near the streambank and protect important habitat. We are pleased to report that 94% of the willows planted at the 2015 Restoration Event survived and were growing in 2016.
Our outreach, stewardship, and restoration work continues in 2017, so stay tuned!
Media and Presentations
Beauvais Lake Provincial Park Speaker Series (August 2016) - photos here.
OWC Calls for "a collaborative approach when it comes to managing public lands" Shannon Frank talks to Let's Go Outdoors - listen here.
SACPA Talk: "Recreation or Wreckreation? The Challenges of Protecting Fragile Ecosystems" (November 2015)
Anna Garleff, Communications Specialist, Oldman Watershed Council:
Becky Cousins, Lethbridge Naturalists Society:
Thank you to our volunteers, partners, and funders for making this project a success!
Know B4 U Go Checklist (Alberta Environment and Parks)
Motorized Recreation on Public Lands (Alberta Environment and Parks)
Managing recreation on public land: How does Alberta compare? (Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, 2015)
Headwaters Action Plan (2014)