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Fort Macleod adds voice to Source to Tap discussion

Fort Macleod residents added their voices Wednesday to a discussion about the headwaters of the Oldman River.
The session at the Welcome Mat was the ninth Source to Tap session organized in the region by the Oldman Watershed Council and Water Matters Society of Alberta.
“A number of these things have been talked about in the group,” Water Matters executive director Carole Stark said following the session. “A lot of them haven’t.”
The Fort Macleod group voiced concern about impact on the watershed of things such as random camping close to riverbeds, logging setbacks, illegal dumping of garbage, feedlots and motorbikes and ATVs.
People also expressed concern about the public’s lack of awareness of how things impact the watershed, and the lack of provincial enforcement.
“This will add to the information we already have,” Starke said.
Sessions like the one in Fort Macleod had already been held in Cardston, Picture Butte, Twin Butte, Lethbridge, Spring Point, Crowsnest Pass, Stavely and Pincher Creek.
The Source to Tap conversations aim to connect urban and rural residents together with people who use and steward land in the headwaters such as ranchers, resource industry and recreation groups to build common understanding of issues and stewardship practices.
“We’ve been having some really good mixed conversations,” Starke said of the variety of interests represented by people at the sessions. “It tends to be a mix of townsfolk, land owners, people from municipalities, people from various sectors. It’s been quite interesting.”
Starke said Source to Tap is the latest initiative focused on the precious resource that is water.
“The focus is about local people sharing knowledge and priorities to further stewardship,” Starke explained. “That’s the aim we’re working towards through conversations about people’s own use of water, their own perception of health and their own sense of what’s going on out there.”
The headwaters of the Oldman River in the Eastern Slopes provides about 90 per cent of the water for the river for those who live downstream.
The Source to Tap meetings coincide with the work of the Oldman Watershed Council in developing its Headwaters Action Plan, an initiative that focuses on managing and protecting headwaters health in the Oldman River Basin.
“This action plan that we want to develop is going to be a collaborative process,” Shannon Frank of the Oldman Watershed Council said. “It’s a voluntary process where we’re getting interested players in the headwaters together to hopefully agree on targets that we want to see on the eastern slopes for human footprints and linear disturbance.”
Key players include government, industry, municipalities, grazers and anyone who has the ability to make a change or has an influence in the region.
Frank said once targets are agreed upon, actions and steps would be set to reach the targets.
The community meetings like the one in Fort Macleod represent the first step in the Source to Tap project.
On Wednesday in Fort Macleod people staged a discussion based on the following questions:

  1. What factors or activities affect the health of the Oldman River headwaters?
  2. How can these be managed to protect headwaters health?

“The work we’ve done so far is really local people talking about water quality in relation to local use,” Starke said.
The second step will involve more meetings early next year to get local input on measures to protect the health of the Oldman River headwaters along the Eastern Slopes.
“The next time around based on the results we have now we’ll be zooming in on very much a stewardship conversation,” Starke said.
The questions that will be addressed in the next round of meetings are as follows:

  • What stewardship practices and actions are currently happening in the headwaters?
  • What else is required? What are the opportunities?
  • How can watershed stewardship be further fostered and supported?

An interactive Web site will be set up for Source to Tap.
For more information contact project co-ordinator Jacqueline Nelson at 403-652-7477 or jnbeeflady@gmail.com.

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