Announcing our Collective Action Grantees!

It was a day of firsts for our Grant Review Committee on November 19th. Our first time issuing Collective Action Grants, the first time we had applicants present directly to our review committee and answer their questions, and the first time Alberta Ecotrust will provide ongoing support to our grantees as they undertake their projects

To recap, our Collective Action Grants asked applicants to our grant program to apply for funding together in groups of three or more. The hope being that intentional collaboration and increased amounts of funding would allow for ENGOs to create greater impact in addressing a complex challenge. Applying together, environmental nonprofits seeking a Collective Action Grant were asked to demonstrate how they could achieve more by working together than they could alone. After a day of exciting presentations from applicants, and intense deliberations from committee members, the decision was made to invest $200,000 in two collective initiatives in Alberta.

The first project, Access Management in Our Headwaters and Beyond, addresses environmental concerns in the Oldman watershed as a result of intensive land use, lack of access management planning, and lack of recreational user education. The second initiative, Putting Beavers to Work, will increase ecosystem resiliency through the reintroduction of beavers across Alberta. Both projects bring different players together and use diverse strategies to create change at multiple scales.

We would like to thank all of the nonprofits who applied for a Collective Action Grant this year. In all, we received 18 proposals from collaboratives representing 60 different ENGOs in Alberta. We were inspired by the collective energy demonstrated and the quality of work being proposed by applicants.

Now, meet our 2014 Collective Action Grantees and their projects!

 

Access Management in Our Headwaters and BeyondOldman Watershed Council, Environmental Law Centre, Miistakis Institute, Cows & Fish

Access management is rapidly becoming one of Alberta’s biggest challenges. As our population grows, and more people seek recreational opportunities in the outdoors, the environmental health in our watersheds declines and is put at risk because of intensive land use, lack of access management planning, and lack of user education. This project will focus on the headwaters of the Oldman watershed along the Eastern Slopes and the high density of linear features that is contributing to fish and wildlife population declines, sedimentation of streams, and weed invasions.

Bringing the diverse skill sets of four organizations can create impact at  local and provincial levels. Starting with a demonstration site in the Dutch Creek watershed, the project will engage local recreational users in conversations about recreation management and undertake environmental restoration activities in the watershed. This pilot project will take place concurrently with continued legal and policy research and the creation of four stakeholder engagement workshops and a provincial framework for access management. Access management is a wicked problem and both site-specific and provincial approaches are needed to tackle it. Although the focus is on environmental health, management of the headwaters has also become a divisive social issue. One of the project goals is to help people see how our economic, social, cultural, and environmental needs, are connected.

Working together on this initiative allows the grantees to address the diversity of needs through their collective skills and complementary mandates: policy, awareness, education, planning, stakeholder engagement, ecological and social monitoring and action on the ground. Overall, this work will benefit the local watershed and more broadly, will inform and create momentum in the eastern slopes of Alberta to improve use of these areas, and potentially inform access management planning across the province.

 

Putting Beavers to WorkMiistakis Institute, Cows & Fish, Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Society

One of the most profound impacts of climate change is greater variability in weather. For many landscapes, the trend is towards warmer and drier conditions and it may mean more violent storms that dump massive amounts of rain in a short time as was seen during the 2013 catastrophic southern Alberta floods. Natural tools can be used to improve ecosystem resiliency and help mitigate the impact of the increased variability in weather.

What natural tool are we talking about? Beavers! Many natural and services and benefits are provided by these original engineers. Beaver dams store water, increasing the amount of stored water in a watershed by nearly 10% and the amount of groundwater recharge by significantly more. Downstream flows are increased from two to 10 times as compared to streams without beavers. Stored groundwater is delivered throughout the season, helping fish survive, maintaining wildlife habitat, and providing essential drinking water. Beaver dams function as speed bumps for streams, slowing down fast moving water. An array of beaver dams and ponds can delay and reduce the flood peak by dissipating energy, damping the flood and reducing the negative downstream impacts. More beaver dams and ponds increase the landscape’s ability to capture and tame flood flows, mitigate droughts and better manage risk to our landscapes. Integrating beavers into our future flood, drought, and landscape management planning can reduce costs and impacts and add substantially to benefit downstream water resources.

The challenge is current beaver populations are a fraction of historical numbers and beavers are not widely accepted or appreciated by landowners and land managers. Population recovery is slow, partly because we have not fully understood and appreciated the many services provided by beavers and the benefits for us. Reintroducing beavers would start to bolster the beaver population and realize the resiliency benefits afforded by our national treasure.

Using a multifaceted approach, the three organizations involved in this project – and the ALCES group – will determine suitable habitats for beaver reintroduction, match nuisance beavers with landowners who want them, work to remove policy and regulatory barriers to beaver management, and monitor the impacts and improvements in environmental health as a result of their work. Increased beaver tolerance, including more awareness and population recovery, will improve watershed resiliency and benefit us all in floods, droughts, and climatic extremes.

 

 

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