By Jaxon McGinn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sunny South News
Picture Butte’s recent meeting had Shannon Frank, executive director of the Oldman Watershed Council as a guest speaker. They discussed what the OWC does within the community and surrounding areas of Lethbridge County.
The OWC’s Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) aims to engage and empower watershed residents and decision-makers. Together, they determine environmental outcomes and develop implementation strategies to improve the health and integrity of the Oldman watershed.
“For the past ten years, we have had another project: the Watershed Legacy Program. This one is a small grant program for landowners, producers, and acreage owners, so we make sure that we’re protecting stream banks primarily for fencing and off-site water systems to attack cattle away from our water bodies. We also fund weed removal, garbage pickup, willow planting, things like that through this project to make sure the group has some support,” said Frank.
The IWMP process recognizes that watershed management and health is a long-term shared responsibility, addressing cumulative effects and offering solutions for maintaining and improving watershed health.
The OWC’s role in the IWMP process is to facilitate discussion and build partnerships, provide recommendations to decision-makers and lead in areas where OWC members, and staff can provide guidance and initiate action. An IWMP sets specific environmental targets and outlines how they will be achieved by developing action plans. For these action plans to be successfully implemented, they will require the participation of the multi-stakeholder base within the watershed. An IWMP also makes recommendations to governments based on community input to encourage positive changes to law and policy that will benefit current residents and future generations.
“It’s all about building trust between rural producers and urban consumers and helping people understand how their food is grown where it comes from, how the land is being managed in the Oldman Watershed, so that people can see that if everyone does their part, we all work together then we will be able to come up with good solutions that work for our community,” added Frank.
Deputy Mayor Henry Dekok made the motion to support the Oldman Watershed Council for the next four years, and all councillors voted in favour.