This Wednesday (April 26), Red Deer County will be sharing the results of an eight-year project: measuring environmental health on farms and ranches involved in Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS). 

Kelsey Spicer-Rawe, a Riparian Specialist with Cows and Fish, will be speaking about the results of their work on behalf of ALUS Red Deer County. In 2015, the County contracted Cows and Fish to do Riparian Health Assessments (RHAs) on farms and ranches that were adopting environmentally beneficial agriculture practices. Riparian areas are the ecologically important zones immediately beside lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.  

Examples of environmentally beneficial agriculture practices that have been part of this study include riparian management livestock fencing, alternative livestock watering systems, and rotational grazing practices. Healthy riparian areas benefit everyone by providing valuable ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water quality enhancement, flood protection and habitat for pollinators and wildlife.  

Initial RHAs measured baseline environmental health on these farms, where these practices were adopted with ALUS support. Four years later, Cows and Fish returned to the same sites, and did “Re-Visit Riparian Health Assessments” after the environmentally beneficial practices had been in place for a number of years. Results of the Re-Visit RHAs were compared to the initial baseline RHAs, to determine how riparian health has changed over time, as a result of County farmers’ and ranchers’ actions. Having Cows and Fish do these objective third-party measurements is key to the future of initiates like ALUS. \ 

Baseline riparian health measurements were measured at 51 ALUS sites all over Red Deer County, from 2015 through to 2018. These same sites were re-measured again from 2019 through to 2022. This is one of the highest concentrations of “before and after” assessments of the impacts of environmentally beneficial agriculture practices in Alberta.  

Presentation and discussion will be at Crossroads Church (located next to the Red Deer County Office) on Wednesday April 26 at 1:00 PM, following a lunch provided to those who pre-register. Red Deer County farmers and ranchers, along with various stakeholders and agencies will be in attendance to hear the results.