Bring them your swamps, your sloughs, your willow-filled pastures. Ducks Unlimited Canada is tightening its focus on wetland restoration in two areas of Alberta — Pine Lake and Milk River.
The knob and kettle geography around Pine Lake is prime territory for ducks and other waterfowl, says conservation programs specialist Darwin Chambers.
“One of the reasons we’re focusing on the Pine Lake area is it is one of the best waterfowl areas and highest density of wetlands in Alberta,” Chambers said from his Red Deer office.
“We have a really good situation where we have all these wetlands and actually a fairly good base of perennial cover, which makes it one of the best places for waterfowl in spring.”
Wetlands come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the temporary sites that hold water for only a few weeks in the spring and summer are among the most valuable both for their contribution to filtering water and capturing runoff as well as providing cover for nesting birds, said Chambers.
Maintaining existing wetlands and restoring those that have been drained or plowed under is therefore a key strategy in creating a healthier environment for all species, he said.
“One of the benefits of wetland restoration is you slow the movement of water across the landscape.
“So, when you think of a system of wetlands, if the wetlands at the upper part of the system are drained or altered, that water doesn’t have time to filter through.
“It kind of rushes through and ends up in the pond, maybe sooner than it would naturally. So, restoring wetlands actually recharges ground water. That leads to improving ground water quality.”
All projects are done in co-operation with local landowners and other conservation groups.
While Ducks Unlimited has run ongoing conservation and restoration programs throughout the province since 1938, the organization wants to entice more landowners into the program, offering them a variety of incentives, said Chambers.
“We’re looking for wetland restoration opportunities out on the landscape, where we can restore the function back to either previously drained or altered wetlands.”