Edson River Riparian Health Assessment Report 2000
Sheldon Kowalchuk and D'Arcy Campbell
A problem faced by conservation organizations wishing to conduct conservation, enhancement and protection programs in a geographical area is to determine the current state of habitat in the study area. The development of a riparian protection and enhancement program in the Alberta Conservation Association's Northern East Slopes (NES) region has resulted in the need to conduct assessments on priority streams. The Edson River is one stream in the NES that was identified as a high priority. Results from a field assessment in May, 2000 will help prioritise habitat that needs to be protected, and habitat where enhancement techniques could be used.
The Edson River watershed is currently being affected by a variety of land-use practices ranging from forestry and oil and gas activity in the headwaters, to agricultural and residential development in the mid to lower reaches of the watershed. The close proximity of the stream to Edson has resulted in the development of a number of acreages overlooking the river. The demand for rural residential areas will likely continue into the future as more people seek out their own piece of nature.
Overall the riparian areas that were assessed along the Edson River were in good condition, with the exception of some isolated areas. The areas being impacted by agricultural activities resulted in bank destabilization and a reduction in the amount of woody debris in the riparian area. Improved grazing management practices would likely result in improved bank stabilization, increased plant vigour and improved water quality in the Edson River.
Results from the riparian health assessment identified some relatively intact habitat that should be protected and also degraded habitat that needs to be enhanced. The first step that needs to occur in order to improve the health of the riparian areas along the Edson River are information and education initiatives aimed at promoting good stewardship practices. A public workshop held on March 1, 2001 was a good start, however the public needs to become more informed regarding natural stream processes and function.