Are you a beaver? Cause dam! – By Iris George

by | Aug 28, 2023 | News | 0 comments

Photo of Iris George

Photo of Iris George

Low-Tech Process-Based Riverscape Restoration Pilot Project

LTPBR is an emerging technique for increasing floodplain connectivity in structurally starved streams, bringing them to a self-sustaining state. These techniques have been widely utilized in the United States to address habitat loss and degradation for native trout. A major cause of structural starvation in streams in North America is the loss of beaver overtime. During the fur trade, beavers were trapped to near extinction across much of the continent, and while populations have recovered in some areas, trapping continues, and their populations continue to be much lower than they once were.

Two types of structures are utilized in LTPBR, both built entirely with natural materials: beaver dam analogues (BDAs), and post-assisted log structures (PALS). BDAs are built to mimic natural beaver dams, creating upstream pools to slow stream flow and increase available fish habitat while increasing water storage both at the surface and in groundwater. PALS mimic natural, in-stream log jams and wood accumulations, and are built to alter erosion and deposition patterns within streams to combat incision and restore water flow between the stream and riparian area.

Desired outcomes of LTPBR include attenuating flood flows, increasing water storage, recharging groundwater aquifers, increasing habitat complexity, and providing valuable overwintering habitat for native fish. LTPBR is a promising tool to accomplish these goals because of its cost-effective nature, as building materials are natural and largely sourced on-site, and structures can be built using hand tools as opposed to relying on large machinery. This creates the potential for it to be utilized at much larger scales which match the scope of stream degradation in Alberta.

Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) saw great potential for utilizing LTPBR to benefit native trout and their habitat in Alberta, but a lack of understanding and examples of these techniques in Alberta proved to be a challenge in implementing projects.

TUC proposed hosting an LTPBR Workshop in Alberta, which was spearheaded by our Adaptation and Resilience Training Project Assistant, Iris George, who help us pull of a successful workshop.  Alberta’s first Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration (LTPBR) Workshop from May 9-11, 2023 was born! With the help of partner organizations and grants, we contracted Dr. Stephen Bennett and Scott Shahverdian from Anabranch Solutions along with Idaho rancher Jay Wilde to run the workshop, and had representatives from permitting agencies, local restoration organizations, academia, and landowners present at events. The workshop took place over three consecutive days in the Chain Lakes area,

Completed BDA

AB, and included classroom presentations, stream site tours, and an in-stream LTPBR build. Across all workshop activities, 56 individuals were reached.

Partner organizations in the LTPBR Workshop along with their associated contributions included:

  • Alberta Conservation Association, Land Stewardship of Canada (Watershed Stewardship Grant), and Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (Watershed Resilience and Restoration Program): provided financial assistance for the workshop and associated stream rehabilitation activities
  • Cows and Fish, Miistakis, and Oldman Watershed Council: provided financial assistance towards the workshop and networking event, and in-kind support by way of advice, knowledge sharing, and monitoring
  • MD of Ranchland 66: Provided in-kind support by hosting the classroom session at their municipal building as well as use of their side by side and for hauling materials to the restoration sites
  • Waldron Ranch: provided permission to host the hands-on component of the workshop on their property

Over the next few years, TUC hopes to see several outcomes from the 2023 LTPBR Workshop. Internally, TUC will utilize the knowledge and experience gained from the workshop to aid in the design and installation of several more LTPBR projects. They will continue the LTPBR construction begun in Jim Creek during the workshop and have plans to begin several more projects over coming seasons. They also hope to see other organizations present at the workshop adopting LTPBR practices and installing projects of their own. They also hope to see some Alberta-specific LTPBR research undertaken by the academic researchers present at the workshop.

BDA workshop in action!

Up close look at a completed BDA

Learning the BDA technique!

Thank you to all of our partners on the LTPBR Workshop for their guidance and support of our vision, including Cows and Fish, the Miistakis Institute, the Municipal District of Ranchland 66, and the Oldman Watershed Council. Thank you to Stephen, Scott, Jay, and the rest of their team at Anabranch Solutions for their willingness to help us bring LTPBR up to Alberta, and their push to keep expanding the use of this promising technique. And finally, thank you to the Adaptation and Resilience Training Program and the University of Alberta for their creation of this incredible program and support to the interns throughout this process.

 

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