April 25, 2017

2017 TU Oldman River Chapter projects

• Chipman Creek, a tributary of Pincher Creek southeast of Beauvais Lake: the chapter will assist with the rehabilitation of Chipman Creek in partnership with area landowners, Pincher

Chipman Creek tributary splash pool below culvert

Creek MD, Trout Unlimited Canada, Oldman Watershed Council and Cows and Fish. Plans for this year: MD will evaluate needs for a new culvert across Range Road 12A with a view to installation this year. This may require fund-raising. As well, the MD has closed a trail across the creek. A bio-engineering project on the riparian area around the trail is planned for the fall. Volunteers will be needed then. The chapter has budgeted $2,000 for the project.

• Little Crooked Creek, at Highway 5 just east of Waterton Lakes National Parks. In partnership with Nature Conservancy of Canada, Alberta Conservation Association. Cows and Fish Lethbridge College and a leaseholder, install cattle fencing around the creek’s source to allow for bank stabilization and potential rehabilitation. Volunteers may be needed this summer. The chapter has budgeted $3,000.

• Weed control and general clean-up of the chapter’s conservation leases at Burmis and Hillcrest. The chapter has budgeted $6,000  for lease stewardship. Shane Olson is leading this effort.

• Hidden Creek – ongoing monitoring with potential for other bank stabilization projects. Murray Dueck.


Hidden Creek redd counts are down from a high of about 120 before logging and flood disturbance to 15 in 2014.

• Angler’s Diaries:  Our new Angler Diary Program is off to a modestly successful start. We signed about 30 people up with diaries at the recent Lethbridge Fly Fest. Each diarist was given a diary, a postmarked envelope for returning the diary in the fall/winter, and a letter explaining the program. The goal is to collect data on the watershed from an angler’s perspective. We hope these data can inform decision-making in the watershed and provide further opportunities for stewardship, education, and engagement.

If you or someone you know would like one, send an email to

• The executive is hoping to initiate an introductory fly-fishing program, with an emphasis on the conservation ethic. It is hoped to have a program together this summer.

• The Casino in Lethbridge, the chapter’s main fund-raiser for conservation, is scheduled for Sept. 14-15. Volunteers are needed.

• The chapter will be inviting University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College students to submit proposals for area fisheries related research over the next year. Available are up to $1,500 for scholarships.

Walk and Wade above Lundbreck Falls (November 2016)

This is the start of a project the Chapter discussed this summer with other conservation-oriented groups to assess conditions and consider how the stretch might be improved.. Read it here: walkandwade.

Latest Initiatives (August 2015)

• TUC National, along with the Oldman Chapter, Oldman Watershed Council, Alberta Conservation Association and Cows and Fish have committed $21,000 in kind or cash, to be matched by FIsheries and Oceans Canada. The project is to restore fishery habitat on Hidden Creek, a tributary of the Upper Oldman RIver. The project will involve rehabilitation of parts of a vital Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat spawning stream.


ATVers have no option but to go through Hidden Creek trail bog. Who maintains trails?

A workshop and workdays are planned for Oct. 2-4 in the Crowsnest Pass. The chapter is also planning to harvest willows for the bioengineering effort on Hidden Creek in mid-to-late September.

Chapter members and TUC biologists walked Hidden Creek to the falls and a bit beyond  Aug. 11.


Hanging culvert above splash pool

Hanging culvert above splash pool


• Chapter members met with landowners on the Chipman Creek tributary of Pincher Creek, southwest of the town, Aug. 20 to discuss a possible project to fix a hanging culvert that hinders upstream movement of bull trout. Also involved in the assessment of what might be done was a Pincher Creek MD staff member.

Area landowners Ron and Max Goodfellows have seen a degradation of the creek’s ability to provide trout habitat, partly because of the hanging culvert, since the ’80s. A project to start habitat restoration on the creek would involve landowners, Cows and Fish, the MD and TUC, including the Oldman Chapter.

Lesley Peterson and Elliot of TUC record Chipman creek depths below culvert

Lesley Peterson and Elliot of TUC record Chipman creek depths below culvert

Oldman Watershed Council will be asked if it can help the landowners create a watershed group such as the Drywood/Yarrow Creek Association which has been working with TUC for about seven years to restore cutthroat habitat on those creeks.





A proposal to start an Adopt-a-Stream program in the Oldman River Watershed


Streams in the Oldman River Watershed have for years shown varying signs of degradation, from eroded banks and riparian habitat to diminishing numbers of native fish such as Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat (to the point where they are threatened species) and generally deteriorating water quality. According to some, no stream in the system is free of problems that relate to the habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Although the 2010 Oldman Watershed Council State of the Watershed Report rated the Oldman headwaters section as good, the assessment was elevated by the inclusion in the assessment of streams originating in U.S. and Canadian National Parks, which have greater legislated protection than those not in the parks. A group of area stakeholders participating in the headwaters Partnership Advisory Network saw the need for urgent attention to stop the degradation.
Also,  the State of the Watershed report rated downstream main stem and tributaries as only fair to poor.

As part of the work leading to the  OWC’s Integrated Management Plan Headwaters Action Plan, meetings with stakeholders unearthed various potential remedial actions, among them to establish an adopt-a-stream program. Since those discussions about two years ago, little has been done to advance the notion. However, reference to an adopt-a-stream system is contained in the Headwaters Action Plan for Goal 3: Manage and Protect the integrity of headwaters and source waters.

As well, at a meeting in February 2014 of Cows and Fish related to the Westlope Cutthroat Recovery Plan, the Oldman River Chapter Society of Trout Unlimited Canada offered to adopt Hidden Creek. No frame of reference was attached to the offer, and none has been discussed since. Until now.

The following is meant as a starting point for establishing an adopt-a-stream program in the Oldman watershed that could be used as a template to include other streams in the province.

Since the Oldman Watershed Council has as its mission to maintain and improve the watershed by, among other things, “promoting and facilitating community and institutional actions and stewardship” it is proposed the Oldman Watershed Council spearhead an adopt-a-stream program for streams in the Oldman Watershed.  One of the OWC teams could get it started. Or, OWC could find a partner that could start and administer a program, such as Trout Unlimited Canada (National) Cows and Fish or Alberta Conservation Association.

What could an adopt-a-stream program accomplish?
An adopt-a-stream program encourages participation in maintaining the health of the watershed.
Adopting a watershed can involve the following:
• communicating to stream users and others the importance of maintaining healthy streams and to encourage appreciation and care for our rivers;
• monitoring the stream or part of a stream to help maintain or improve
– water quality
– riparian habitat
– viable fish and other aquatic wildlife populations
– habitat for other wildlife dependent on watercourses
– land uses adjacent to the stream that impact stream health;
• Monitoring over time can signal when a stream health is declining or improving. It may also help         determine the cause of a declining or improving stream and develop remediation or maintenance projects;
• facilitating habitat restoration projects
• helping to generate funds for project work.

Who could adopt a stream?
Examples of who can be involved:
Conservation groups
Students from school-aged to college/university
Service groups
Landowners (e.g. Drywood/Yarrow Creek landowners association.)
Recreation organizations (e.g. Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad or Alberta Fish and Game Association)
Outfitter Associations
4-H or other agriculture associations
Irrigation associations
Industry (e.g. Shell Canada, Spray Lakes Sawmills)

Trout Unlimited Canada Oldman River Chapter could start a pilot project using Hidden Creek. The chapter could
• work with either Cows and Fish and/or Alberta Conservation Association to assess the state of             Hidden Creek’s fishery and riparian condition (or use an existing formal assessment if it has been done.)
• erect signage to indicate
– the chapter has adopted the stream
– the habitat and fishery are _______ (whatever assessment determines)
– the creek contains at least two threatened species and suggesting care be taken not to disturb the         fish or their habitat (something like that, anyway.)
• determine whether it would be feasible to consider mitigation projects. (For example, this could mean approaching Spray Lake Sawmills and/or ESRD Forestry officials to participate since they have played a significant role in the area.)
• attempt to engage users of the Upper Oldman about ways to improve and protect the area.

This effort can involve chapter (and other TU) members. The chapter could also seek to include others who might be interested in seeing how an adopt-a-stream project might work, with a view to helping with the pilot and starting other projects with other streams in the watershed.

Trout Unlimited Oldman Chapter would establish a committee of TU members and others in the community to deal specifically with adopting Hidden Creek. For starters, the Chapter should establish a modest budget (perhaps from its casino account) for doing the ground work that would lead to an assessment and signage.)

It is proposed the pilot project be up and running by April, 2105 and be evaluated by October 2015 to determine the extent of progress and recommendations for proceeding.

Bluebird houses installed during weed pull
Summer 2013

Visitors to the Oldman Chapter’s two conservation leases can’t help but notice a lot of new bluebird houses lining paths and fence lines near the Crowsnest River.

That’s due to efforts of chapter volunteers who hung the houses, and Dean Stetson and Clive Schaupmeyer who took the time to build the structures. About two dozen volunteers turned out for the 2013 summer weedpull and birdhouse-raising effort at Hillcrest and Burmis. Picnic tables at Hillcrest were also painted and a top coat of pea gravel was added to the Hillcrest parking lot. New information signs will be installed later this fall or early spring.

Overall “health” of both leases has improved dramatically since the chapter assumed noxious weed control, reclaimed unsightly atv roads and converted nearly six kilometres of river to non-motorized access. Noxious weeds, especially blueweed and toadflax, are now limited to relatively small patches. Tansy, which grows right to the waterline, still remains a major environmental problem — choking out native riverside vegetation.

The annual weedpull helps eliminate the need for herbicide control along sensitive riparian habitat. A date for next year’s event will be posted early next spring.

$5,000 for Coulee Centre signs

The Oldman River TU Chapter has donated $5,000 this year to the Lethbridge River Valley Helen Schuler Nature Centre renovation project for sign development in the new building and along the nature trail near the river. The signage will incorprate messages that relate to TU’s mission to preserve and protect cold water habitat. Signs will provide information on the aquatic and riparian habitat that will be seen by at least 30,000 people per year for the next 20 years or so. (May 2013)

Oldman River TUC Chapter and TUC national projects in the Oldman River Headwaters, prepared for the Oldman Watershed Council Itegrated Watershed Management Plan, Headwaters Action initiative. (May 2013)

Drywood/Yarrow Creek Project Education field day (Oct. 2010)

Crowsnest River rechanneling (Update pending)

Special Regulations Lake (update Jan. 7/08)

Burmis Lease, since 2002

  • Weed control
  • Fencing
  • Education
  • Stewardship

Ron Beck Endowment Fund

Hillcrest Lease (update January/08)

Kid’s trout pond proposal

Anti-poaching signage

Pincher Creek Watershed Council project

One thought on “Projects

  1. The term wild trout refers to trout sawpned in the stream, whether they are the progeny of true indigenous native adults, or the progeny of stocked hatchery adults, or a mixture. Using the term native invites a debate over the genetic origin of the fish. For our wild native brook trout populations, expensive genetic tests would be needed to determine whether the fish are true native stock or whether they are progeny of introduced fish. It could be different for different streams. Although academically interesting, this debate is a diversion from our immediate conservation focus. Regardless of genetic origin, the Chapter’s limited resources should be directed toward conserving these valuable populations.My blog post referenced the meeting with DFW about Millers River brook trout, so use of the term wild trout in this context referred to brookies. However, wild brown trout populations also exist in the watershed. These fish are not true natives because brown trout are not indigenous to North America. They may inhabit some of the same waters inhabited by wild brookies, and they may also inhabit some of the warmer streams that do not support brookies. These populations are also unique valuable resources that deserve the Chapter’s attention.

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