Riparian habitat hard to come by

It’s not that easy to spend $157,800 conserving wetlands in the Red Deer River watershed, says an Alberta Conservation Association spokesman. The difficulty in spending the money — a share of the fine money following an oil spill on the Red Deer River — is twofold, said Ken Kranrod, vice-president of the Alberta Conservation Association. Riparian habitat in Alberta is relatively scarce and because of the province’s economy, land is expensive.

It’s not that easy to spend $157,800 conserving wetlands in the Red Deer River watershed, says an Alberta Conservation Association spokesman.

The difficulty in spending the money — a share of the fine money following an oil spill on the Red Deer River — is twofold, said Ken Kranrod, vice-president of the Alberta Conservation Association.

Riparian habitat in Alberta is relatively scarce and because of the province’s economy, land is expensive.

But Kranrod is confident the money from the fine will be spent protecting that habitat, and the conservation association’s mandate is to do that within the next three years.

It must be spent on habitat protection in the Red Deer River watershed.

“We don’t have anything on the radar screen right now,” he said, but they are constantly looking at lands, as well as receiving offers from people interested in selling land into protection. More than 700 conservation sites in Alberta fall under the association’s umbrella.

Plains Midstream Canada was fined a total of $1.3 million four months ago after pleading guilty to two major oil spills — one into the Red Deer River and wetlands, and the other into marshlands near Little Buffalo in Northern Alberta.

The Red Deer River spill, which occurred near Sundre in June 2012, amounted to about 450,000 litres of crude oil, and occurred when a 48-year-old pipeline under the river failed. Gleniffer Lake, a reservoir downstream, was closed for three weeks.

Alberta is a relatively dry province, said Kranrod, especially in Southern and Central Alberta.

“Compare us to B.C. or Ontario or Manitoba … the amount of water resources we have in Alberta is not a lot,” Kranrod said.

“We’re always looking at preserving or restoring or enhancing riparian habitat whenever we can, but riparian habitat is hard to come by.”

“We are actively looking for projects.”

Riparian habitat — areas that include places such as wetlands, marshes, ponds, and land alongside rivers — is quite important to wildlife.

Some species only exists in marshes, for example, and larger species such as moose, that live in uplands habit (forest) need the water and vegetation in riparian areas, Kranrod points out.

“A lot of riparian habitat has been converted over the years, whether it’s been by agriculture or forestry or oil and gas, or just simply the growth of cities. Human progress has diminished the amount of naturally occurring riparian habitat there is (in Alberta),” said Kranrod.

“We look at and buy a lot of land every year … we function as a land trust.”

“Will we find a nice huge piece of beautiful riparian habitat that we can purchase for $157,800? No. That would be very hard to do. But what we will most likely do is we will find something that comes up that will be really nice but it will be more money. So these dollars here will help us leverage other monies,” whether it’s other ACA money, a partner’s money or a grant.

The non-profit conservation association wants to secure fish and or wildlife habitat but their lands are also for humans to maintain a connection with nature, Kranrod said.

For more information about the Alberta Conservation Association, go to www.ab-conservation.com.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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