Pheasants Forever Canada (PFC) has four issues of particular importance to the health and well being of upland gamebird populations in Southern Alberta
Ditches and Right-of-ways. The UCP government penned a 13-point strategy document that included a critical component that would ensure natural capital remains intact in the province for the benefit of wildlife and all Albertans. Specifically, Item No. 13 in the document states, “Enforce actions against “trespass farming” i.e. protect 66-foot-wide public right of ways against conversion to crops or draining of ditches next to rural roads.”
PFC commends the UCP leadership for recognizing the value this public infrastructure provides to the landscape. To this end, we are currently sourcing funds that will help underwrite the research required to quantify the economic value of our public ditches and right of ways.
We know that ditches function much like a wetland, providing flood attenuation that saves municipalities from having to repair and replace culverts, bridges and roads. As importantly, healthy ditches provide a necessary buffer that filters nutrients applied to agricultural fields that would otherwise run off into our rivers and lakes, contributing to deteriorated water quality. Other benefits of these ditches include their contribution to biodiversity and the provision of critical habitat for pollinators and other insects, songbirds and upland gamebirds.
Other initiatives identified in this program is the need to quantify the loss of ditches and right of ways, in order to help inform policy moving forward; and to invest in a public awareness campaign that encourages best practises on the landscape.
PFC is an organization that puts grassland conservation on the forefront and, as such, we did not support the recent sale of a native quarter-section of public land in the Taber area. We did not take our position to the media, however, as we prefer to deal with these issues outside of the public arena. That said, grassland ecotypes support 75% of Alberta’s species at risk. While we understand that some public land will be sold, we strongly advise against the selling of our rarest habitat, our native grasslands.
It is important that the health of our native grasslands be maintained as we move forward with the expansion of green infrastructure. Specifically, wind turbines and solar panels placed on native grasslands negatively impact the functionality of our landscapes. Biodiversity and species abundance are at risk wherever these developments are established. Given that grassland habitats are critical tothe majority of our species at risk, the placement of green developments should be restricted to cultivated lands.
A developing concern in rural Alberta is the reduction in abundance and diversity of insects and songbirds. Recent literature cites the use of neonicotinoids as a probable cause of reductions in insect populations across the prairies. Further, research conducted by the University of Saskatchewan has shown that grassland bird reproduction is compromised by neonicotinoids and that the resultant population declines are a cause for concern. Most recently, studies from South Dakota reveal that these insecticides are also accumulating in the organs of white-tailed deer and are having negative reproductive effects on deer populations. There is little doubt that further research will demonstrate that pheasants and other upland gamebirds are, in fact, also being harmed.
At PFC we view ourselves as pragmatic solution specialists, developing and supporting habitat programs and policy that protect the most critical and sensitive of our native grasslands and the species that depend upon their health, while concurrently understanding and accepting the importance of development.
In the coming months PF Calgary will be developing an awareness strategy targeted at producers in Southern Alberta focusing on the societal benefits of intact and healthy ditches and right of ways.
Why does the Producer on the right get to farm the ditch?
Sauder Reservoir Habitat Enhancement Project
As part of the St. Mary’s Irrigation District’ s (SMRID) water quality enhancement initiative Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) along with , Pheasants Forever Chinook and Pheasants Forever Calgary have embarked on enhancing habitat on a peninsula at Rattlesnake Reservoir (aka Sauder Reservoir) located southwest of Medicine Hat, one of the most downstream reservoirs within the SMRID.
The “Connectivity Project” is an excellent example of a comprehensive conservation project that not only enhances biodiversity and species abundance while contributing natural capital for all of society to benefit from – as well as upland gamebirds and wildlife.
Mike Uchikura of ACA working the dirt at Rattlesnake
Ready for the June rains which came and came in droves