On September 21, 2012 three University of Alberta, Augustana Campus students entered a $1Million (estimated) 104 acre (42-hectares) outdoor ‘classroom-for-a-day’ along Pipestone Creek, just west of Coal Lake. The students, Samatha Matters from Mannville, Sean Robbins from Edmonton and Jennifer Stonechild from Vegreville are studying Environmental Sciences at the University. On this day they were guests of the owners of the property, Edmonton and Area Land Trust (EALT) and hosted by Project Coordinator Rebecca Ellis, outdoor enthusiasts, environmental experts and EALT Board members, Raquel (Rocky) Deroe and Margaret Reine.
Rebecca soon equipped the students with clipboards, forms specific to their data collection assignment, cameras, binoculars, GPS and plant, animal and bird identification books and they headed into the environmental classroom.
The Pipestone Creek property they were about to enter had been designated to become a country residential subdivision. However, the property was saved from earth moving equipment that would change the landscape, removal of trees and other vegetation and generally destroying the wildlife habitat for countless species of birds, mammals, plants and insects.
The $1million property was acquired by EALT through the generosity of an anonymous donor, via the federal Ecological Gifts program. The land was certified as ecologically valuable making the donor eligible for various financial benefits and made the ownership transfer financially feasible.
Early improvements being made to the property
As they entered the pristine wooded 104 acres they soon observed an early improvement project that had taken place. Rebecca Ellis explained, “We have undertaken a major tree planting project. The soil is quite gravely and as you can see, the forest in this area has degraded. This fall a group of volunteers and a contractor, The Carbon Farmer who specializes in tree planting and reclamation of properties like this, planted 11,000 white spruce. It is typical that we will lose about 15% of those. Next spring and summer we will come back and plant other trees such as birch and poplar. By filling in with these other trees, this area of the forest that has been degraded will return to a healthy forest.”
Soon the walk along a low impact pathway (minimal damage to the habitat) led to one of the many panoramic views of Pipestone Creek and the surrounding valley from the top of steep and high slopes leading down to the floodplain. A sea of golden aspen and red willows were highlighted with the dark green of the spruce trees.
Rebecca informed the students, “This first stop is a location for a photo reference point. You will record the GPS co-ordinates and conduct and record wildlife observations. While here, we will record all the wildlife, mammals, birds, insects and reptiles that we see. This isn’t to specifically record all wildlife on the property but an incidental observation and will be an ongoing reference location where we can continue the monitor the property.” She explained that EALT will use the data in the baseline report data. “It is a snapshot of this property as it is, what it has and serves as a reference point on how we monitor it from now on and make sure it retains all those qualities.”
As stated on the EALT website – The property is dominated by conifers such as jackpine, white spruce, balsam fir, black spruce and tamarack and broad leaved trees such as aspen, balsam poplar and paper birch. Willows and alders are two hardy shrub species that are distributed throughout the area. Ground cover includes blueberry, bearberry, wintergreen, bunchberry, Canada anemone, bedstraw etc., as well as lichens, mosses and fungi. The forest is home to bears, deer, coyotes, wolves, lynx, squirrels, numerous bird species as well as frogs, toads, garter snakes and countless invertebrate species such as insects.
The property is abound with wildlife; coyotes, pelicans, deer, muskrat, beaver, hairy woodpeckers, and many waterfowl. There are also several types of vegetation community: – aspen parkland, spruce forest, and grassland species on the south slopes.
Who can visit the property
Rebecca noted, “There is no public access at this time. It will eventually be open to the public but federal regulations for land trusts require the organization to conduct baseline ecological studies and develop a management plan. We have to get our baseline data reports completed. Then we will install signs this fall that will make sure people know this land is owned by a Land Trust.” EALT is currently working on acquiring an access road to the property and have begun mapping and restoration work. “We will be taking lots of volunteers out (to the property) and encourage other people to join the volunteer efforts on the property.”
“The property will be open to the public next year. The signs we are installing this fall will identify the property and will become better known to the public next year. Our intention (with each of the 5 properties owned by the Trust) is to have our land open to the public for their enjoyment.”
Volunteers from the Wetaskiwin region very interested and involved. “We greatly appreciate the work they do. The former co-owners camp nearby and keep a watchful eye and with their presence. It will prevent vandalism and particularly trespassing by quads and snowmobiles. Acting as stewards of the property, they will help us keep it as a habitat for wildlife.”
You will be able to access the property but please observe the rules
The Edmonton and Area Land Trust lands are open to the public. Please help us protect the natural communities of plants and animals when you visit our Conservation Lands.
• Please enjoy our conservation lands through low impact activities such as hiking, bird watching, nature study and photography.
• Please stay on designated trail systems.
• Remember that wildlife may be watching you. Travel safe with a friend, and keep your distance from wildlife.
The following activities are prohibited:
• the use of all-terrain vehicles, motorbikes, and other motorized vehicles
• mountain biking
• the removal or destruction of any plants, animals, minerals, fossils, or other natural objects
• hunting (except with special permission)
• camping and campfires
Encourage people to use the property in a low impact way to maintain it for wildlife.
About the Edmonton and Area Land Trust
Edmonton & Area Land Trust is a non-profit, regional land trust, established in 2007. They are committed to acquiring and conserving natural environments in Edmonton and the surrounding areas. To date, the Trust owns five properties, some of which are held in partnership with other conservation organizations. They are continually working on acquiring additional lands.
The City of Edmonton provided part of their operational funding with an endowment of $2.5 million. This money is designated by the City to assist with operational expenses in perpetuity. The Trust has also secured a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation for $40,000 to help fund educational and outreach activities. The Trust is very appreciative of individuals and organizations that have stepped forward with donations of time, money, expertise and whenever needed, grunt labor rolling barbed wire of picking noxious weeds.
It is dedication such as this that enables EALT’s Board, employees and volunteers to provide permanent protection to the Edmonton region’s unique and ecologically significant natural areas and heritage assets.
EALT works to protect land permanently in three ways:
Unfortunately, it is usually much easier and more financially viable to transform properties into cropland and even housing projects than to protect it in the natural state for future generations. EALT is committed to ensuring our children and grandchildren and even their children and grandchildren have the opportunity to visit and witness properties that have been protected and enjoy the property in a low impact natural state.
EALT gratefully accepts donations of property and funds, purchases land, and helps landowners establish permanent legal restrictions to protect natural habitats. For more information about your role with protecting properties for future generations got to www.ealt.ca or contact Pamela Wight at 780 483 7578.