Wetlands Get a Boost in Alberta

A new funding source for local wetland restoration has opened in Alberta.

The province has officially recognized the County of Vermilion River (CVR) as a wetland restoration agency. The designation authorizes the county to access provincial mitigation money for restoration of wetlands within municipal boundaries. It’s the first time a county in Alberta has received this distinction.

The five-year agreement will help CVR carry out wetland restoration and enhancement through Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS). The goal of ALUS is to create a healthy landscape that sustains agriculture, wildlife and natural spaces. The county’s ALUS program was developed in partnership with Delta Waterfowl Foundation.

“This is historic,” said Jonathan Scarth, Delta Waterfowl’s senior vice president of policy. “For the first time in Alberta, wetland restoration, controlled at the local level, will have the funding available to really make a difference.”

In a comprehensive business plan submitted to the province in September 2012, the county stated, “Our goal is to establish an accountable and transparent process that replaces lost wetlands in a manner that is both supported by the community and integrated with the county’s other water management activities.”

Wetlands mitigation is the replacement of natural wetlands that are lost during residential, commercial, industrial and municipal development. Provincial policy protects against loss of natural wetlands and requires disturbed or lost wetlands to be compensated for at a 3-1 ratio.

Wetlands provide a healthy and diverse landscape, which can reduce flood risk, store water on land, improve water quality, provide habitat for birds, amphibians, insects and wildlife. Options for wetland mitigation include the creation of new wetlands, or the restoration or enhancement of existing wetlands.

The business plan was developed with the financial assistance of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a long-time supporter of Alternative Land Use Services.

“We’re very excited about this development,” said Daryl Watt, County of Vermilion River councilor. “As a wetland mitigation agency, we’re now able to build our partnerships and expand our wetland efforts in our own backyard.”

The County of Vermilion River, part of an important waterfowl breeding area, was the first jurisdiction in Alberta to embrace ALUS. Similar programs are now established in Parkland County and Red Deer County.

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