By Richard Burke
The Oldman River Chapter Trout Unlimited Canada is in a transition that I suppose all organizations go through if they want to continue to thrive. The normal routine for our group – which in a nutshell is to watch over the Southwestern Alberta fishery and help with conservation efforts where we can – has been to re-elect the same executive to take care of whatever needs to be done on the fish/fish habitat front. Well, to be more precise to do what we can, within the usual constraints of volunteer time and effort, financial realities, and size of the project.
In 2015, there’s a bit of a changing of the guard. Our long-serving secretary, Clive Schaupmeyer, has decided to move on. Paul Harper, who was serving as president has job commitments that created a conflict. Hopefully, he can continue to advise on technical matters.
We are working toward expanding the list of people who are committed to the fishery enough to want to get involved occasionally in the chapter’s efforts. There is a growing urgency to get a handle on what some see as a declining or threatened fishery.
Assuming the application to DFO for Hidden Creek restoration work is approved, we will likely be in need of volunteers in the summer to do some bio-engineering (planting to shore up eroded stream banks is part of that).
As well, we’ve been asked if we could help out some landowners on Chapman Creek, a tributary of Pincher Creek, who are trying to enhance the creek’s fish habitat degraded by a hanging culvert and blown-out splash pool.
As well, we are hoping to attract more people nearer the headwaters, at the least by meeting occasionally in Pincher Creek and/or the Crowsnest Pass – a part of the transition.
We need people who are conversant with the headwaters and rivers downstream to help us by keeping us apprised of changes to the fishery that we may be able to do something about.
Actually, you don’t even need to live in the area to help out: if you find yourself regularly on our excellent streams, you may be able to alert us to what you’re seeing out there that may be affecting the fish and habitat. We can do a lot of work online.
And the sad passing of Mike Lamb, who took the lead on Burmis conservation lease stewardship, leaves us with a need for someone to take over that role – mainly to become familiar with its needs to maintain it as a prime section of the Crowsnest River and to help organize volunteer days to get the work done.
This year as well, we’ve discussed the possibility of testing some signage to help anglers recognize redds and ways to avoid them.
If you are interested in either serving on the executive – another transition part and a minimal time commitment – or volunteering in any way you can, please let us know. It’s actually fun! And, important work if you like fish. We need a secretary and a vice-president.
Here are the highlights of the chapter’s 2104 efforts, illustrating how the chapter is involved in trying to help maintain and improve the fishery:
• Burmis and Hillcrest Leases June weed pull, Bluebird house installation, fence mending.
• Donated $5,000 to Helen Schuler Nature Centre signage on how fish relate to nature, as part of the centre’s major renovations
• Donated $2,000 to University of Lethbridge for research into fish behaviour: “to investigate how fish integrate visual landmarks, substrate patterns and egocentric body movements to learn and remember rewards in a maze. I (Andy Hurley, U of L prof.) like to relate such spatial orientation performance to ecological variation in different habitats. Thus, we predict that fish from clear waters can rely on distant landmarks whereas fish from cloudy waters would rely upon cues such as the direction of the sun or patterns in the substrate. We are about to develop some other tasks that allow us to ask how fish form internal representations (mental maps) of key features in their environments.”
• Actively participated as a member of the Oldman Watershed Council’s Headwaters Action Team dealing with many concerns in the Oldman River basin headwaters. As well, the chapter has been represented on the Oldman Watershed Council Board advocating for fish and fish habitat for 5 years.
• Developed an adopt-a-stream proposal that could be used province-wide; decided as a chapter to adopt Hidden Creek.
• Worked with four other organizations to focus a DFO Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program application on Hidden Creek riparian restoration.
• Participated in the Westslope Recovery Plan workshop in February at Chain Lakes.
• Participated in the Friends of Bull Trout Conference in October at Canal Flats, B.C.
• Advocated on behalf of the fishery by sending letters of concern to Cardston County MD over developments near Police Lake and on Lee Creek and to AltaLink over its proposed 500-kv transmission line near Crowsnest River and Todd Creek.
• Received indications through anecdotal observations that the delayed harvest on Police Lake is finally bearing fruit (well, larger fish.) TU Oldman Chapter organized public meetings on changing regulations for the lake.