I’ve been volunteering with the Edmonton Area Land Trust (EALT) all summer (missing only one site management day and one farmer’s market booth day) and each time I head out with them, I end up having a great day and getting a few pictures. Not to say that it isn’t hard work, because it can be (essentially, it’s as hard as you want it to be, which for me, generally means that I end up sweaty, exhausted, and thoroughly impressed with my ability to get that much done). Earlier in August, we headed back to their Golden Ranches property. I think I mentioned before that there is a bunch of property there that’s jointly managed. EALT has the majority share of 3 lots, but there are 10 lots all together (this PDF shows the lots) and they are managed by: Strathcona County, the Beaver Hills Initiative, the Alberta Fish & Game Association, the Alberta Conservation Association, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and Ducks Unlimited.
The first time we went there, the fields were full of flowers in full bloom, which meant that the lot was buzzing with activity (butterflies, bees, and birds galore). It was a little less lively this time, as it’s later in the year and part of the lot is still hayed (something that will continue for another few years). It was much easier to get around as we didn’t have to fight through ankle deep tangles of alfalfa the whole time. Instead, we only had to fight thought plants at the sections we were working in: waist high thistle and grasses nearly 6 feet tall. For the record, walking through waist high thistle is no fun, even with thick jeans on.
This time I got to flex a few leadership muscles by helping the coordinator with the safety talk (her poor throat gave up near the end) and leading a small team to a giant patch of tansy to weed, while she managed the group dealing with the barbed wire fences. This was all because I’ve been out with them a few times, so she knew that I knew what I was doing. The one thing I neglected to do was to take pictures of the giant patch of tansy before we tackled it and after we’d fought with it for a few hours. It was huge. I’m pretty sure it was at least 300 square feet / 27 square meters (which is about half the size of my one bedroom apartment). We managed to cut the flower heads off and pull out about a third to one half of the plants. We cut the heads off to prevent seeds being distributed, and we ended up with 2 full garbage bags of just flowers. It was pretty impressive.
In the afternoon, we helped the team working on the fences. Barbed wire fences are dangerous for wildlife (and people) because they can get caught up in it: it’s hard to see and the barbs will catch. According to EALT staff, loads of animals die because of barbed wire. She mentioned that a study in the US suggested that something ridiculous like one animal (ungulates?) per every four miles of barbed wire fencing dies each year (don’t quote me on this – yesterday was a long day, so I may not be remembering what she said perfectly). Even if only half that many died each year, that’s still a hell of a lot of unnecessary deaths. The standard is that the fence should be no taller than 40 inches (so deer and such can jump over them, even when running for safety) and no shorter than 18 inches (to let fawns and other smaller critters pass under it). For some of the EALT sites, they’re trying to remove *all* of the barbed wire (the posts can stay) and at others they are focusing on removing the top and bottom strands.
Anyway, it was a good day, made better by the fact that the coordinator was nice enough to drop me off at the nearest transit center when we got back to the city.