Maskuta Creek 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. Maskuta Creek is one stream in the NES that was identified as a high priority. Results from a field assessment in the summer of 2000 will help prioritise habitat that needs to be protected, and habitat where enhancement techniques could be used.
Maskuta Creek is a stream that is currently being affected by a variety of land-use practices, including both agricultural and residential development in teh lower reaches of the stream. The close proximity of the stream to Hinton has resulted in the development of a number of acreages and hobby farms 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 banks were in good condition in the areas assessed along Maskuta Creek, however the riparian areas was very narrow in many places and there was little recruitment of new trees to stabilize the banks as older trees die or are harvested. The areas being impacted by horse grazing were not as severe as similar activity by cattle on other streams, however the result is a lack of recruitment of young trees. Improvement in grazing management practices and a reduction of other land-use activities along the creek should result in greater biodiversity in affected areas and a healthier riparian area.
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 area along Maskuta Creek are information and education initiatives aimed at promoting good stewardship practices and natural stream processes and function.