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Watershed awareness

Rural Canadians in action

Wetland management and watershed protection are critical in rural and agricultural areas.

Since European settlement, it is estimated that over 20 million hectares of wetland have been converted to agriculture in Canada. All told, agriculture is responsible for 85 percent of Canada’s wetland losses, one of the most productive types of ecosystem on Earth and enormously valuable when it comes to services provided by nature.

Almost 15% of the Canada is covered in wetlands and is concentrated in the prairies — some 750, 000 square kilometres of wetlands span southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and into the United States. It is generally accepted that climate change in Canada could potentially have the greatest impact the prairies and British Columbia’s Interior. As glaciers disappear, the glacial meltwater that contributes to river flow in the region diminishes, thereby magnifying stress on aquatic ecosystems and water supply.

Relationships between agriculture and wetlands and water use and management tighten further, and the management of these resources is a chief priority in rural areas.

That is the premise behind the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, also known as Cows and Fish, which takes the concept of surf and turf to a whole new sustainable level by mobilizing farmers and landowners in the province to address issues of riparian management in their locale. Improving grazing strategies and riparian management in agricultural areas enhances overall landscape health and productivity. By seasonally resting the pastures from grazing on farms and ranches, stream banks and wetland vegetation can be renewed.

Cows and Fish is instrumental in facilitating the adoption of riparian area management practices among individual Albertan farmers and ranchers as well as supporting community groups to do the same. Among the farmers and ranchers successfully applying the Cows and Fish program in Alberta are Glen and Kelly Hall in Stavely, Tongue Creek Ranch in Hartell and OH Ranch in Longview.

Over larger areas, landowners and agricultural families have banded together with Cows and Fish across local watersheds and creeks to adopt riparian and rangeland management practices. These communities, which include the Beaver Creek Watershed Group, the City of Camrose and the Upper Little Bow Basin Water Users Association, exemplify how collective action on the ground results in sustainable water management practices.


This piece features a scrollbar of images offering a look into the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, also known as Cows and Fish, and the importance of riparian management in agricultural areas in maintaining the health of rural watersheds. These images are supported by narrated explanation.


On the next page:

Urban Canadians in action

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Quiz :

Under the Canadian Constitution Act, responsibility for water is shared between:

Municipal governments and provincial governments
the federal government and provincial or territorial governments
Landowners and the federal government