Water quality continues to be a constant concern in the Battle River which is why even one project can make a difference.
That’s exactly what the Battle River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) took to celebrating and demonstrating a riparian project at the farming operation of Mark Stewart – who runs MSW Farms along the Battle River northwest of Ponoka. The event – which included a supper and tour along the river bank on their property – took place on Tuesday, July 12.
Stewart’s family-run operation involves a number of livestock – including longhorn cattle and elk – as well as hay and pasture land with huge focus on production of quality products while preserving the environment around them.
That’s why, when the BRWA came up with its Ponoka Riparian Restoration Project a little more than one year ago, Stewart made the decision that their operation needed to be a part of it.
“We made the decision to help make the river healthy again,” Stewart told a crowd of about 30 people that turned out.
“It was educating us about what rolls down hill and it’s much better now.”
He added the work they did included installing solar watering systems for the animals, leaving more vegetation around the river and ensuring that the people that come to their camping facilities use the area appropriately.
“This was the first spring our cattle were not drinking straight out of the river. It’s better now since they always made a mess,” he stated.
“The cattle are getting more water and we’ve learned how to improve the quality of the river. It also showed me that I can make a big difference and that’s been proven by seeing an increase in the fish that are hanging out in our section of the river.
“The work done really helps, it’s hard and you need a little knowledge, but it can be done.”
BRWA did provide some financial compensation to Stewart through their two year riparian restoration project in the region, something he said was one incentive for doing it.
“We also wanted to show our children to raise them in the right way, to raise our animals in the right way and use our land and recreation in the right way,” he said.
“But, it was also just knowing how important the river really is and that if I’m doing what I can, there is a better chance I have of convincing my neighbours to do the same. We need to share with everyone all that we can learn and work together to improve the river.”
More information on the BWRA and their Ponoka Riparian Restoration project can be found by going to www.battleriverwatershed.ca.