The Red Deer River Watershed Alliance (RDRWA), along with our partners, the Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society (AWES) and Kneehill County, teamed up to host a riparian eco-buffer planting day along Three Hills Creek on October 5, 2022. 

Improving the management of riparian areas is a key strategy for improving water quality and mitigating floods and droughts in the Red Deer River watershed. This project was directly supported by the Government of Alberta’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program and builds on recent riparian mapping work in Kneehill County undertaken by the RDRWA. Using recent technical mapping results, the RDRWA was able to identify two high priority sites for riparian restoration along Kneehill and Three Hills Creeks in 2022-2023. 

Close to 20 volunteers showed up at the Larocque property for this family friendly event to roll up their sleeves and help plant over 2,000 trees, shrubs and flowers along the streambank of Three Hills Creek with the goal of improving both riparian habitat and pollinator habitat. The naturalization of the low hayfield on the property will restore important habitat for wildlife and naturalize the landscape within the riparian area. Species chosen for the project are either native to the area or very close to their native range. 

AWES staff giving an overview of riparian planting species.

Landowner Steve Larocque worked closely with the RDRWA and partners to develop a restoration plan for the site and a vision for additional riparian restoration efforts in the future. Steve says that he was initially attracted to the project because he is working towards creating a pilot biodiversity and pollinator project on his land along Three Hills Creek.

Steve notes that “Working as an agrologist since the late 90’s I know how important riparian plants, native pollinator species and beneficial insects are to our crop production and to our environment. I wanted to find a way to showcase to other farmers what could be done if we simply set aside lands for riparian restoration, biodiversity and pollinator habitat. It’s not new news, but I’ve just seen so many caragana hedge rows ripped up (which served a purpose for soil erosion) as well as pasture land the last few years, I am concerned we have little left for native habitats.” 

Steve owns 55 acres of land along Three Hills Creek, and says “45 acres of it is hayland which is old, tired and ready to be replaced. Instead of breaking it up and farming it I wanted to get creative. I also have 10 acres that I did break up three years ago that I would like to put back to forages specifically for pollinators and beneficial insects. It’s a nice small piece of land to try something new on. My end goal is to create new habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects as a means of encouraging other farms across Alberta and beyond to do the same.”

This hayfield will be planted with riparian shrubs and trees to support biodiversity.

When asked how working with the RDRWA has helped support Steve’s vision for healthy riparian and biodiversity habitat, he stated “My experience has been wonderful working with the RDRWA team and partners Agroforestry Woodlot Extension Society and Kneehill County. The planting day was excellent, we had so many people involved and I look forward to helping others do the same in the future.”

The RDRWA would like to extend a massive thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to volunteer for our riparian planting day on October 5th. Thanks to your tremendous efforts, we were able to successfully plant over 2,000 seedlings in support of riparian conservation and restoration at Steve Larocque’s property! A huge thank you to the team at the Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society and Kneehill County for sharing their expertise and for providing ongoing support throughout this process.

Lastly, thank you to Steve Larocque and his family for welcoming us to his property, and for his enthusiasm and support of this project throughout. We are thrilled that the riparian planting day was such a success and look forward to seeing how the site is doing next spring/summer and as it continues to evolve into excellent riparian and pollinator habitat.