By Gordon Kerr
The SPFGA has two conservation projects on the lands which we own or manage.
The first one got underway three years ago when the Alberta F&GA asked for volunteer stewards to look after the ¼ section of land that they (and others) acquired. Seven members of our Association signed up for the job. Our task is to occasionally walk through the property to ensure that motor vehicles (including ATV’s, snowmobiles, etc) are not being used, and that grazing or other damage is avoided. The results have been good with no evidence of motor vehicle use since the first year. One reportable inspection is requested each year. With grass up to your waist or higher it is no joy to be walking around with all the rain we have been having. Each time since the middle of May when it started to look favourable, it rained again. The inspection was finally completed in August. All aspects of the property seemed in fine shape.
The second project is the Woodlot Management Plan (or habitat plan). General tours of the property have been made and a rough plan drafted. Our objective is proposed to develop a diverse vegetation complex which will tend to ensure biological diversity throughout the area. By diversifying the forest age and makeup it will maintain a natural diversity of life forms. Such action should also reduce fire hazard and the personal and property risk from falling dead trees.
Some clear-cuts were undertaken with the NAIT Forestry students some years ago. These are now nicely regenerating in a young robust aspen forest. Plans are to remove over mature and dying trees in more blocks in the ¼ section east of the gun range as well as around the camp ground. A number of large trees are presenting a hazard in this latter location. Some were removed this year but more remain. Campers on a couple of occasions were lucky the trees missed their trailers. Harvest will also be done around the Black Powder Trail as old and dead trees are a problem with trail maintenance and hazel bush is strongly invading the area. It is hoped some of this cutting can occur this winter of 2010-11.
The Association is now a corporate member of the Woodlot Association of Alberta. We vested $1,000 to have 4,000 spruce seedlings planted under that Associations program. We were the approved as a member who would have the seedlings planted at no cost to us other than buying the seedlings. To have 4,000 trees planted in the ground for $0.25 each is a magnificent bargain. They were planted in the last week of July in the quarter section area east of the actual range. In this case the rain has been a boon to survival of the trees.
In an effort to monitor biodiversity before, during and after habitat/woodlot harvesting and regeneration we arranged for bird surveys to be conducted this spring. Again rain and wind interfered with progress but the three planned surveys were completed. The Wildbird General Store (on 99 St just north of the Whitemud Freeway) agreed to supply expert observers and cost share expenses with us. We both let it be known that members and others could join in but were disappointed that so few members responded. Only four of our members participated. We will try to advertise better in 2011.
A lot of birds were recorded, with 38 species on our first orientation trip on May 20, then 43 species, 32 species and 23 species on May 22, June 13 and June 19 respectively. The declining number as spring progressed reflects poor weather and wind but also the fact that as birds nested they reduce their movements and singing declines. By the last survey, many waterfowl had moved off the dry wetlands and also left for the summer molting areas elsewhere. We will be earlier in 2011. I will be submitting a more detailed report to our web site in the near future.
The progress of our woodlot plans has moved along well, but slowly. We had hoped to have some inquiries from members but have received very little. We will now move into the next draft of our plan for review and get down to details on winter harvest. While rain was a problem for us it is great to see the break in the drought pattern.