Appreciate and Protect
“The more we learn about our environment and the better we become at asking important questions, the better equipped we will be both to respond to change and to influence positive change (Roberta Bondar, 2009. Canada’s First Women Astronaut and Environmental Photographer).”
Our City’s native grasslands, riparian areas, and waterways are the building blocks of the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat. They are an important part of our history, and provide a variety of opportunities to enjoy recreation activities. These green and open spaces offer many values as well as economic, social and environmental benefits. By learning more about our scenic views, we can better appreciate their gifts. In doing so, our next informed steps are to protect and steward them for “today and all our tomorrows”.
The natural features of scenic views are mosaics of flats, hills, slopes, crests, coulees, and riparian areas (around ponds, wetlands and along our creeks and river). These native grasslands and riparian landscapes help store and slowly release water, store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases, and filter out pollutants from getting into our river, creeks, and ponds. These are examples of ecological goods and services, and there are more including: food, clean air and water, nutrient cycling, water purification, and recreation and aesthetic benefits. Here are some specific findings from scientists and the City of Medicine Hat.
- Eric Bremer (2008) estimated that in one hectare of Alberta’s native grasslands such as those found in Medicine Hat, there are 50 to 200 tonnes of carbon stored in soil organic matter (to 0.3 m depth), 2 to 10 tonnes of carbon in plant biomass, and 1 to 2 tonnes of carbon in litter (previous years’ growth). The organic carbon stored in Alberta’s rangelands is equivalent to about three times the current annual emissions of all greenhouse gases in Canada!
- Sarah J. Wilson (2009) estimates the value of British Columbia native grasslands’ ecological goods and services to be $140.6 million to $3.85 billion per year. Within this valuation there is carbon storage at $21 million per year or about $28.38/ha, and pollination services valued at about $1,109/ha/year.
- The University of Manitoba (2015) valued their grasslands at $411.6 million/year based on 2.4 million hectares. This valuation included: carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water regulation, soil erosion, soil formation, waste treatment, and wildlife habitat. Recreation and aesthetics were valued at $40.7 million/year. Additional ecological goods and services are present when one considers grasslands being used for forage production such as grazing and haying.
- Grasslands Naturalists (Pers. Communication with the City and Tourism Medicine Hat 2020) estimate about 30,000 to 54,000 Medicine Hatters and tourists per year enjoy outdoor recreation in Medicine Hat. That is a significant amount of people walking, biking, jogging, birding, swimming, photographing, sketching, painting, fishing, water crafting (kayaks, floaters, canoes, paddle boards), relaxing and seeking space and silence, and more!
- Health Canada (Haldane 2000) estimates that for each $1 invested in physical activity alone, there is a long-term savings of $11 in health care including fewer nervous system problems, less medication usage, lower anxiety, reduced reliance on subsidized child care, less counselling and reduced usage of food banks.
- The scenic views and other green spaces, including our ponds, wetlands and water ways, provide wildlife habitat for many fish and wildlife species. Biodiversity such as insects, rodents, ungulates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish depend on these areas for their livelihoods. This includes travel corridors, food, cover, and opportunities to raise their young. Just think of the many wildlife-recreation uses we enjoy and benefit from such as painting, fishing, photography, birding, walking, attending interpretive programs, and much more. These activities generate health and wellbeing. Sarah Wilson (2009) reports that the Grassland Foundation in Nebraska estimated their state generated $130 million of wildlife viewing in 2001.
- The economic and social spin-off values from enjoying scenic views, their environment, beauty, and wildlife appear endless. This includes businesses that sell or rent recreation clothing and equipment like: hats, fishing rods and gear, bikes, water craft, binoculars and spotting scopes, art supplies, cameras, cross-country skis and snow shoes, tires/batteries we purchase for our bikes, books on nature, bird and plant identification, and let’s not forget our cell phones.
- The City of Medicine Hat’s Recreation Master Plan (Feb. 2022) describes in detail the many benefits of Recreation. They include recreation as being essential to a high quality of life, and for community health and well-being. Green spaces such as scenic views are key components of community vibrancy, engagement, health and wellbeing; and recreation can strengthen the fabric of a community. Reviewing this plan, it is evident that to provide these many recreation benefits the environment must be healthy, protected, managed, and monitored. We must recognize environmental constraints and apply stewardship practices to our recreation uses.
We can all continue to enjoy and use nature for the many economic, social, and environmental values, uses, and benefits. We have provided some examples to help illustrate these gifts and advantages. However, our recreation use must be responsible and caring. We have read in previous sections that to sustain these benefits, nature must be environmentally healthy to support a biodiversity of plants, animals, and landscapes. We can greatly help support this outcome by being stewards of the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat.
Help us protect our green spaces by:
- packing out your garbage and place it in the garbage containers provided. Or take it home and dispose of it in our city landfill carts. This includes putting your pet waste into bags and disposed of in provided garbage containers;
- controlling invasive species like Russian Olive, Downy Brome, and Baby’s Breath in your home properties so their seed does not establish and spread in our green spaces; and
- avoid creating new trails by staying on the present designated trails that have been developed for your recreation enjoyment.