There is so much to do in our wonderful watershed! Our wild backyard is one of the best places for recreation! But did you know that all the activities that happen across the watershed pose risks to our water, biodiversity and environment? That is why it is critical to follow best management practices and to do our recreation activities responsibly! And protecting our natural systems is easier than you think! Here's some risks from recreations and how we can mitigate those risks!
Wheels Out of Water
Did you know that it is against the law to disturb the bed and shore of a waterbody? First, we should start with some definitions. The bed and shore of a waterbody is the bottom of that waterbody (bed) and the immediate surrounding area (shoreline) of that waterbody. Waterbodies are described as any area where a significant amount of water collects or pools at any point during the year, including creeks, ponds and wetlands. One of the most common ways that these sensitive aquatic systems are disturbed is from off-highway vehicles driving through waterbodies like rivers and creeks. Damaging the system in this way adds sediment to the water, making it challenging for critters living in the water to breathe in oxygen and find food, however temporary the disturbance may be. Roughing up the terrain also affects habitat for many aquatic species, from fish to benthic macro-invertebrates. Driving through can lead to pollution of the waterbody by adding hydrocarbons ad other man-made pollution that negatively impact the system and all downstream life. The tires can also add soils, seeds (particularly invasive species seed) and sediment to the waterbody which will impact all life downstream too.
It is important that anyone headed out onto a frozen lake surface follows all ice safety precautions! Frozen lake conditions can be unpredictable and it is vital that everyone be prepared for every scenario. Be sure to wait until the ice is thick enough for your activity, whether it be snowmobiling across the lake, ice fishing, hauling an ice fishing shack onto the ice and what limits exist for every type of vehicle. Personal protective equipment like ice picks should be worn and be at the ready in case of a break in the ice. Always tell someone on land where you're going and when to expect you back. Check out more ice safety tips before you head out. And remember, always check the condition of your equipment and make sure it isn't leaking. Just because the water's surface is frozen now doesn't mean that it's land. Protecting the ice surface from spills, leaks, and leftover garbage will keep all this unwanted pollution from melting right into the lake in the Spring!
Proper fish handling is more important than ever with the latest Fishing Regulations on lakes in our 'shed. Because of poor fish handling practices, did you know that 80% of catch and release fish won't survive? That's why it is imperative to protect our fish friends by handling them in the best way to assure they survive the catch and release process. Not sure if you're handling fish properly? The Government of Alberta has this helpful video, so check it out and show your friends!
Clean, Drain, Dry
Another really important way to help protect our aquatic systems is by following the slogan "Clean, Drain, Dry"! It's that easy. When you use a boat or any type of equipment in a waterbody, it is vital to make sure everything that hit the water is cleaned after each use, drained and dried before it sees a different waterbody (and ideally between uses in the same waterbody). This helps protect lakes from invasive species that might hitchhike on anything that you took in the lake. It is important to note that in most cases, the invaders are not visible to the naked eye and require a microscope to be detected or one of the province's 3 Invasive Species Monitoring K-9s and these invaders often latch on in the least obvious locations. By actively cleaning, draining and drying your equipment, we can limit the spread and protect our lakes and rivers from the harmful effects of invasive species.
Preventing Terrestrial Invasive Species
There are lots of different kinds of invasive species between aquatic species, terrestrial (land) species and invasive diseases, which are most commonly transmitted through aquatic systems. Terrestrial species' seeds are easily transported, which makes them difficult to control. They can hitchhike on the fur of animals, in the treads of tires and boots, when people pick or transplant 'pretty flowers' and move them around, to name a few. It's important that people are aware of what species are invasive and to report them on the EDDMaps app so they can be controlled and removed by the proper authorities. Other ways you can support controlling invasive species in the 'shed is to keep to trails wherever possible! This will limit where invasive species can establish! Plan your route before you head out! Sticking to trails also helps meet he leave no trace initiative for using Crown Land!
As mentioned above, it is a very good idea to properly maintain all your toys and equipment to prevent it breaking or breaking down and polluting our wonderful watershed. Pack out what you pack in! Keeping spills at bay and cleaning up after yourself is another one oft he easiest ways that a person could support safe, responsible recreation and protect the environment.