By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Producers and conservationists are striking balance through collaboration.
The Alberta Conservation Association’s (ACA) land management program works with agricultural producers to find sustainable solutions for land management which also takes into account the producer’s bottom line. In addition the ACA’s wildlife and fisheries programs sees ACA conservationists take on everything from fisheries access sites to native trout restoration in the eastern slopes as well as habitat development across the Province, with reach up north to the Peace River/St. Paul area.
“When we are talking about habitat restoration or making things better for species at risk, we work hand-in-hand with the agriculture producer and we basically try to come up with solutions that are going to work for the producer, but also benefit the wildlife as well,” said Mike Uchikura, a riparian management biologist with the ACA.
He explained there isn’t a universal template for this collaborative process but noted the unique environmental considerations and producer’s goals are central to developing strategies which are mutually beneficial for the environment and landowner.
“It’s really a matter of understanding, of what needs that producer has to have taken care of on his side, and then we can come up with a program that will help him achieve those goals while also helping the wildlife as well,” explained Uchikura.
The ACA receives funding from provincial and federal grant money, as well as hunting and fishing license sales, which comprises around 90 per cent of the association’s annual budget, some of which is reinvested into habitat restoration.
“We work with the landowner on habitat restoration (and) the association considers things like whether adjustments need to be made to mitigate environmental (problems and) improve watering access sites for cattle.”
The ACA’s recommendations may be implemented to mitigate agricultural activity’s impact on streams and rivers and provide financing to producers to be able to implement mitigation or restoration strategies.
A central focus of the ACA’s work is centred on cattle grazing and helping farmers “manage their cattle so they are not overgrazing,” particularly in areas which may already be sensitive.
“For a long time now, the Ag sector in Alberta has played a big part in habitat conservation,” said Uchikura.
“Even though we’re wildlife biologists, we have staff that are trained in range management and riparian management. We take that expertise to the producer and come up with ideas that hopefully make sense for the operation and then actually follow through with the financial assistance and make the whole thing happen.”
More information about the work done by the ACA can be found by visiting https://www.ab-conservation.com/.