Highway 2 Conservation
A sustainable agricultural partnership between Athabasca County, the County of Barrhead, and Westlock County
Riparian Improvement Program
Riparian zones are the vegetated areas adjacent to bodies of water such as streams, lakes, and rivers and they are a very important part of the ecosystem. They provide the free ecoservice of being a buffer between water bodies and the land and they function as a filtering system. They trap sediment and uptake nutrients from run-off and buffer water bodies from the impact of pollution. These zones of vegetation also function as bank stabilizers and are important for mitigating floods and storing groundwater. Riparian zones are able to provide solutions to many concerns producers have in regards to their land such as erosion of land, protection of water quality, and increasing available groundwater.
The Riparian Improvement Program was established in 2013 to create, improve and protect healthy riparian areas adjacent to cultivated land in our representative counties. We assist producers by providing habitat assessment, health assessment, replanting vegetation and trees for bank stabilization and assisting with weed control along sensitive areas beside water ways. New to 2017 is the Riparian Fencing arm of the program, aiming to help cattle producers protect their riparian areas. All of these services are done with the understanding that they leave the habitat in place for the benefit of future generations.
To date we have six completed project sites. A further six sites have reclamation underway. Throughout the years of this program we have reclaimed approximately 37 acres of riparian areas and have protected approximately 100 acres of intact riparian land. The program grows every year and we are very proud of the success we have had.
Highway Two Conservation has been very fortunate to have developed partnerships with Alberta Conservation Association, Cows and Fish and the Land Stewardship Centre for deliver of the Riparian Improvement Program. Thank you for helping us in what we do and supporting H2C's vision for healthier waterways!
Save a Barn, Save a Bat Program
New to 2016 the Save a Barn, Save a Bat program works with producers to encourage them to use one of nature's best insect control: bats! Bats save the agriculture industry billions of dollars world wide by providing free pest control and by working with rural land owners to leave old out buildings and barns standing we keep the bats' habitat intact. Also as part of this program we collect data on roosting sites which we then report back to the Alberta Community Bat Program.
To date we have visited 34 roosting sites and collected over 50 guano samples to be sent away for analysis. We engage with community groups and schools for educational talks about bats and built almost 200 bat houses at workshops.
If you are interested in reporting a roost and having us come and do a survey please give us a call.
The Alberta Conservation Association and the Government of Canada have been instrumental in the success of this program and we (and the bats) thank them for the support they have provided.
Biological Control of Canada Thistle
Since 2012, Highway Two Conservation has been exploring the effectiveness of Stem Mining Weevils and Thistle Gall flies for control of Canada Thistle. This biological control could be a valuable tool for area producers in the fight against Canada Thistle infestations. Each municipality has participated and effectiveness studies are ongoing. For 2018 we are adding one new project site in each municipality for ongoing monitoring of the control of thistle.
This program would not be possible without West Central Forage Association supplying these beneficial biological control agents to H2C.
Since 2012, Highway Two Conservation has conducted "Pond Days". This event takes local grade five students out to a lake to give them hands-on experience with water quality testing, aquatic invertebrates, upland vegetation, riparian animals and wilderness safety. It has grown from 22 children in its first year to almost 450 students in 2018. Pond Days 2018 has been generously sponsored by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and we would like to sincerely thank them for the generous support they have given us.
Did you know that seedlings planted into plastic mulch can grow 45% faster than trees planted in soil alone? Plastic mulch decreases watering requirements of newly planted shelterbelts and reduces competition from grasses and weeds. H2C can help you locate mulch for your planting project and we will assist in application as well.
Planting for Pollinators
Started in 2018 Highway 2 Conservation's newest program focuses on creating habitat for our insect pollinators, the heroes of the agriculture industry. We provide free native flower seeds to be planted in a variety of spaces from marginal agricultural land, to vegetable gardens, to landscaped yards. The different flower species were selected for their beauty, as well as providing a wide range of flowering seasons, to be able to provide food for our native pollinators from the time they emerge in the early spring to when they go dormant in the fall. The flowers are all native to Alberta and selected not to turn "weedy". The seeds come in individual packages, not as a mix, so you are free to get creative and plant according to different soil conditions and landscaping choices. If you would like to request some free seeds please contact us and we would be happy to provide you with with them, as well as a planting guide!