What We Learned at Holding the Reins and Watershed Legacy Program 2016 Recipients Announced!

On Thursday, March 10th, the OWC held its 9th annual Watershed Summit in Fort Macleod. What a successful event - with over 100 people in attendance, including 40 students from the Lethbridge College’s Ag Science program! It was made possible thanks to our sponsors, Alberta Beef Producers, Meyers Norris Penny, Kasko Cattle Company, and the Government of Alberta.

We learned about the future of land use in our Eastern slopes headwaters, with Heather Sinton describing to us the changes that the Government of Alberta plans to make regarding the controversial off- highway vehicle use on public lands. This is a topic that almost everybody has a stance on, and we will be hearing more about it in months to come. OWC’s Engaging Recreationists program works to forge relationships with all users of the backcountry, helping create a land use plan that works for all users.

Justin Thompson, the riveting Executive Director from the Southern Alberta Land Trust Society (SALTS), engaged the crowd about what they are doing to conserve southern Alberta’s incredibly important rangelands. Looking forward, SALTS will be working with many other groups, including OWC, to prioritize and protect lands that will best conserve our delicate water resources.

Shannon Frank and I (Cody Spencer) from OWC, will be in High River on March 30th for the SALTS Annual General Meeting, to engage in a panel discussion about private land conservation initiatives in southern Alberta. It will surely be another productive day for advancing stewardship in our watershed.

A crowd favorite at Holding the Reins was Gerald Vandervalk of VXV Farms, on Lyndon Creek in the Porcupine Hills, west of Claresholm. As a result of the progressive management of their ranch, the Vandervalks were awarded the 2016 Alberta Beef Producers' Environmental Stewardship Award.  

   Gerald Vandervalk speaking at Holding The Reins 2016


Gerald Vandervalk speaking at Holding The Reins 2016

 The true purpose of Holding the Reins is to promote stewardship initiatives, specifically OWC’s Watershed Legacy Program. The WLP is proud to support the Vandervalks on a riparian fencing project on their ranch in 2016, which will further improve the grazing management on the VXV, keeping cattle out of Lyndon Creek and improving water quality for the Oldman.

 Here is our official list of the 2016 Watershed Legacy Program recipients, including the sub-basin in which they are located:

 -         Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, Castle River basin: invasive species removal field days

-         Clancy Holthe, Little Bow River Basin: off-stream watering system

-         Erin McIlwraith, City of Lethbridge: invasive species removal field days

-         Gerald Vandervalk, Willow Creek basin: riparian fencing of Lyndon Creek

-         Glen & Kelly Hall, Mosquito Creek basin: spring development, wetland fencing

-         John Cross, Mosquito Creek basin: off-stream watering system

-         Julia Palmer, Waterton River basin: riparian fencing of the Waterton River

-         Leta Pezderic, lower Oldman River: creation of watershed stewardship group on lower Oldman River to control invasive Leafy Spurge

-         Reid Moynihan, Willow Creek basin: spring development

-         Reno Welsch, Upper Oldman River basin: spring development

-         Stafford Bezak, Willow Creek basin: off-stream watering system

Here’s the map of all the 2016 projects: 

 What Exactly is the Watershed Legacy Program?

-         It is an Oldman Watershed Council program that provides funding and communication resources to landowners and watershed stewardship groups to assist with beneficial watershed projects throughout the Oldman watershed.

- We utilize the help of a wonderful WLP team, comprised of experts in rural extension, riparian biology and water quality among many other assets. The WLP team helps assess each application to select the projects which provide the most value for OWC and the watershed as a whole. 

 -         The seven categories of projects funded are:

Riparian and creek restoration

Invasive species management

Wetland restoration

Nutrient management

Land use issues

Water quality

Outreach, communication and education

 Who can apply for Watershed Legacy Program funding?

 -         Any landowner or watershed stewardship group within the Oldman basin who is undertaking a project that is beneficial to our watershed.

 -         If you are interested in applying for WLP, keep an eye out for next years' applications - to open in November 2016!