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Posted: December 29, 2017

Restoration project creates habitat for species-at-risk

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has completed the first phase of a project to restore over nine hectares of wetlands near the community of Ta Ta Creek.

The goal of this habitat restoration project is to transform former hay fields, which were once part of network of productive wetlands, into habitat for waterfowl, including mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese.

Tom Biebighauser photo

The fields are located on the Cherry Meadows Conservation Area, a 70-hectare property that was donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2014 by Carol and Walter Latter (pictured above).

The Cherry Meadows hay fields had been established in an area that was traditionally dominated by wetlands. The historical wetlands were drained by installing deep and long ditches, which were often dug with the help of explosives. But nature has a way of reasserting itself, and the old fields have been too wet to farm for over 26 years. They are now dominated by reed canary grass, a non-native, invasive species, and dense thickets of willow.

The new wetlands will help to counter the spread of invasive plants, providing the necessary conditions for native sedges and aquatic grasses to out-compete the invasive agricultural grasses and willows.

“What is truly exciting about habitat restoration projects like this one at Cherry Meadows is that they help to reverse some of the wetland habitat loss that has happened throughout the the Rocky Mountain Trench over the past several decades,” said Richard Klafki, Canadian Rockies Program Director with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “These wetlands will have the potential to support species at risk, such as northern leopard frog.”

Shaping an inlet.

This project will provide habitat for rare and at-risk animals, including grizzly bear, long-billed curlew, little brown myotis, short-eared owl, western toad and western painted turtle. More common but also notable visitors to the new wetlands will be bald eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter Swans, tundra swans, elk and other wildlife. It is hoped that someday that the critically endangered northern leopard frog will be reintroduced and expand their range into the wetlands.

In addition to recreating habitat, the project has been designed to be both functional and beautiful to look at, containing islands and peninsulas, and will provide clean water that will support a diversity of aquatic plants. Native species of plants are being sown in and around the new wetlands to improve habitat for wildlife, and pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

The shallow waters will support a diversity of invertebrates, including dragonflies, damselflies, aquatic diving beetles and whirligig beetles, all of which consume mosquito eggs and larvae.

The Cherry Meadows Wetland Restoration Project was designed by Thomas R. Biebighauser (Wetland Restoration and Training LLC), Richard Klafki (Nature Conservancy Canada), and Robin Annschild (Wetland Restoration Consulting). This first phase saw the creation of over three hectares of wetlands and over nine-hectares of wetlands will be restored by 2019.

The project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change. Funding was also provided by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

Early morning in the Cherry Meadows wetland.

All photos by Tom Biebighauser

Nature Conservancy of Canada

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