PINE CREEK HOMECOMING: BEAVER REINTRODUCTIONCategory: 2012, Completed, Grant, Major Project, Water
The Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area is 4,800 acres just outside Calgary city limits. Once boasting a healthy population of beavers, the wetlands in the headwaters of the Pine Creek are now a shadow of what they once were. Wetlands are nature’s water storage; they release water slowly, preventing drastic erosion and allowing groundwater stores to recharge. Beavers have traditionally provided an important role in ecosystem health through the provision of healthy wetlands, which serve to hold high quality water in upper watershed areas for groundwater recharge and surface run-off, and increase the diversity of riparian habitat for mammals, birds, and amphibians. .
The Cross, as it is called by its patrons, has a history of cultivation, but the overall strategy is to return the land to its natural state. This project is a unique opportunity to restore the north and south arms of the wetlands forming the headwaters of Pine Creek through the reintroduction of beavers. Pine Creek contributes significantly to the health of the Bow River downstream of the city of Calgary by providing fresh, clean water. Working in partnership with the Miistakis Institute, the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Society will reintroduce two beaver families to the Cross. Some northern states are active reintroducing beavers to manage ecosystem health, but the concept is still new to Canada.
A two-pronged monitoring program will track changes over time in both water quantity and quality: a formalized monitoring program, and public participation program. The public, in this sense, are primarily students from the Calgary Science School. Starting in their Grade 7 year, the students will collect and analyze date through to their Grade 9 studies. Involving students and others in monitoring this watershed stewardship effort will help educate and raise awareness about watershed issues, including land management practices.
The ASCCA is an important area for wildlife and other ecosystem services and provides environmental education opportunities within close proximity to the growing City of Calgary. This project will help demonstrate that beavers can be relocated to areas where they will provide natural engineering to improve water quantity and quality and provide a natural climate change adaptation strategy.
*In 2013, an important follow up grant was made to the ASCCA to continue the a citizen science program documenting the use of beavers to retain water and improve water quality. The new project will include an outreach and extension program for land owners/managers and policy makers, promoting beavers as an alternative to building publicly-funded and ecologically damaging infrastructure such as dams and reservoirs to retain water. Read more about this project.