More on Stewardship
Stewardship is the mindful act of caring for the environment. Acts of kindness include not releasing your pet Goldfish in water bodies and pet rabbits in the City’s green spaces. Also it is important to dispose of all our waste in appropriate garbage containers; avoiding disturbance of vegetation and soils; and help to reduce the establishment and spread of invasive species. Stewardship acts go hand in hand with enjoying our recreation use and helping to keep the environment healthy and functioning. Examples include: the storing and slow release of water, protecting the soil from wind and water erosion, and maintaining biodiversity.
Alternatively, recreation users that choose not to practice stewardship can risk creating an unhealthy environment. In time such cumulative effects can lead to undesirable outcomes such as: water pollution, loss of wildlife habitat and species, and increased costs to our city and taxpayers. Let’s invest in stewardship whenever we are out enjoying our recreation uses. In this caring and responsible way our health and wellness, economic, and environmental benefits can be sustained for present and future generations, as well as helping to keep our costs down.
Learn and Do and Check. The following are recommended stewardship actions for citizens and tourists who plan to enjoy the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat and other green spaces in our city.
1. Environmental Awareness and Education
Discover and learn more about nature and its many benefits while enjoying our recreation uses in the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat:
- What are the social, economic, and environmental benefits of recreation use and a healthy environment?
- What are nature’s key living and non-living parts that must be present and work harmoniously together to perform a long list of environmental functions that help produce healthy water, land, air, and biodiversity?
- What are the signs of an unhealthy environment in nature so that we can individually and collectively “nip such problems in the bud” before they fester and become challenging and costly to overcome for wildlife, and our enjoyment.
- We learn by doing. Continue to expand your awareness, understanding and appreciation of our city’s native grasslands, riparian areas, river, creeks, and ponds. In particular, we recommend you look at the websites of the
2. Help Control the Establishment and Spread of Invasive Species
This is an area of stewardship that we can all chip in at home and when we are enjoying the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat. Invasive species are non-native animals, diseases, and noxious and aggressive plants. Invasive species have the ability to establish and spread quickly in our home properties and green spaces. Most are difficult to control. When invasive species get out of hand, this is problematic for the environment and negative outcomes can occur such as the loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity (native plants and animal species). In addition, this can reduce our recreation enjoyment and economic, environmental and social benefits.
The following are some of the present invasive species that are present in the City of Medicine Hat. Please learn more about them, how to control them and prevent their further spread.
A. Goldfish. Goldfish are a serious invasive pest in Alberta and have been found in Medicine Hat’s Leinweber, Connaught and College Ponds. Please do not flush goldfish down toilets or dispose of goldfish in the City’s water ways including ponds (golf courses, campground, natural, reservoirs, and waterways); and slow moving waters like ditches, dugouts, lakes, river, and creeks. Alberta reports that goldfish can negatively impact native fish, their habitat and food. Goldfish risk water quality issues due to increased algae blooms as such bacteria live in the intestines of goldfish, and they can be carriers of viral, bacterial, and parasitic fish pathogens of concern. Goldfish can travel using connecting drainages so once released in one pond they can establish and spread into other water bodies. For more information see the Aquatic Invasive Species Guide.
B. Pet Rabbits. Have you recently observed a number of different sized and coloured rabbits (black, brown, white, patches) in our city? These rabbits are not our native Cottontail Rabbits. They are pet rabbits that have been released into our neighbourhood and green spaces, and allowed to multiply. These pet rabbits will compete with native Cottontails for food and habitat, and can reduce their population. In 2011, Canmore, Alberta had an estimated 2,000 released pet rabbits and in 4 years they doubled in population. Feral rabbits increase the attractiveness of predators like coyotes, and can risk our public safety. They are very costly and difficult to control. If you are not able to care for your pet rabbit, please do not release and instead contact the Bunny Rabbit Rescue in Medicine Hat at 403- 928-0170 or firstname.lastname@example.org
C. Invasive Plants. These plants are not native to Alberta. Many of the invasive plant species are regulated under the Alberta Weed Control Act and go by the names Prohibited Noxious and Noxious weeds. This includes their seed. Invasive species also include other non-regulated invasive species. In native grasslands and riparian areas they can include agricultural species that have escaped and spread; for example, Crested Wheatgrass and Cicer Milkvetch.
It is estimated that about 1/3 of the 75 regulated invasive species in Alberta are found in Medicine Hat. You may have heard of some of these such as: Leafy Spurge, Baby’s Breath, Downy and Japanese Brome Grass, Common Buckthorn, Purple Loosestrife, Pale Yellow Iris, Flowering Wood Rush, Creeping Bellflower, Dalmatian and Yellow Toadflax, Dame’s Rocket, Lesser Burdock, and Yellow Clematis. They can establish in many different environments including alongside our river and creeks, such as those found in riparian areas (green strips between the water’s edge and the drier grasslands), forests, and native grasslands. In our city, we also have additional invasive species that are not native or regulated. Examples include Russian Olive and Absinthe (also known as Wormwood).
So what can home owners, individuals, families, and businesses do to assist the city and conservation organizations to help prevent and control invasive species from establishing and spreading throughout our city and in our green spaces (like Parks and the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat)?
i) Learn more about Invasive Species.
Find out what invasive plant species look like and how to identify them. Inspect your property and if you have invasive species learn how best to control them using the recommended biological, mechanical, and registered herbicide methods.
- Alberta Invasive Species Council
- Alberta Environment and Parks
- Identification Guide for Alberta Invasive Plants
- Please call the Grasslands Naturalists Medicine Hat Interpretive Program 403-529-6225. They may be able to help you identify these species.
ii) Other tips that help to control the establishment and spread of invasive species include:
- Garden stores and nurseries do not sell plants that are known to be invasive in our city such as Russian Olive.
- Property owners. Know that you are not buying and planting an invasive species (live plants and seed packets). Do background checks and ask questions about the plants aggressiveness, rooting behaviour, and seed capabilities. Many invasive species have creeping rootstocks and can produce thousands of viable seeds per plant. Choose “Grow-Me-Instead” plants which are alternative and non-invasive horticultural and native species. See the PlantWise brochure.
iii) Invasive species seed can have many different ways to “hitch a ride” from one’s home property to establish itself in a green space.
Before you leave to enjoy your selected green space, please complete the following “Plan-Do-Check”: Periodically inspect and clean your motorized and non-motorized recreation vehicles (including bikes), footwear, clothing, and pets for plant seed. Dispose of seed in a closed bag and at city’s land fill site via your black garbage cart.
3. Dispose of Personal Garbage and Waste into Provided Containers
Unfortunately, an increasing number of citizens and tourists continue to leave their garbage and waste behind in our Scenic Views of Medicine Hat, and other green spaces. It takes very little effort to place our garbage and waste in the nearest container. We want our children to know that this behaviour is unacceptable. Children will learn by examples we set for them.
Leaving our garbage and waste is irresponsible and risks an unhealthy environment including: soil and water pollution, spread of diseases, and potential injury or death to wildlife species.
Additionally, we all know that we aesthetically enjoy a green space where we don’t have unsightly paper, plastics, food, masks, and other wastes such as dog waste or their pooper scooper bags left lying around the ground or tied to posts and trees. Or in some cases garbage and waste ends up trapped in bushes and trees, and gets into our precious river, creeks, and ponds. Leaving our garbage and waste behind increases our city’s maintenance costs and tax payers’ dollars.
4. Please Keep to the Existing Trails
Going “off-trail”, especially during wet or muddy conditions, can lead to an unhealthy environment including bare soil, loss of native cover, and the establishment and spread of invasive species. When the results are cumulative and occur on a larger scale the effects can be more severe including the loss of biodiversity, wildlife habitat and species. The network of off-trails can be unattractive, and can reduce the enjoyment of some of our recreation uses.
What are the stewardship actions that we can take to prevent off-trails in our green spaces including the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat?
i) Make a stewardship decision to stay on designated pavement, gravel, asphalt, and dirt trails (city constructed mountain bike/multi-purpose trails at Mr. Burnside, Gas City
Campground, Echo Dale to Campground, and Echo Dale Regional Park scenic views). Avoid creating new trails. We do not need them.
ii) Know the area that you are recreating in and become familiar with all the present trails. Your experience and in combination with a good trail map can perhaps provide an existing trail alternative vs creating a new off-trail.
iii) Off-Highway-Vehicle Use. You have likely observed the many old OHV erosion trail scars that are present on the hills west of the Gas City Campground. Also, you may see recent ATV tracks above the breaks on the native grasslands. OHV’ers, please use designated trails that are approved by the City of Medicine Hat. Please avoid creating new trails resulting in the loss of wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and total benefits.
5. Citizen Participation in Protecting City Green Spaces
The City Council and various departments are involved in the protection, planning, managing, maintenance, pest and weed control, as well as monitoring Parks, Sensitive Environmental Areas and other open spaces. This includes the Scenic Views of Medicine Hat. To get a better understanding of where these Parks and Open Spaces are located, see Fig. 12, page 53 of the City’s Municipal Development Plan (2020-2050).
Present recreation use is very popular in these green spaces and our population is expected to increase to about 80,000 people by 2050. This will likely result in an increased demand for recreation use in our parks and open spaces. At the same time, we need to ensure that these areas are protected and kept environmentally healthy. This includes our air, land, water, and biodiversity. To assist the city with their environmental stewardship responsibilities, the Grasslands Naturalists recommend the following citizen stewardship actions:
i) Stay informed and provide protection and stewardship input into all city plans such as the Municipal Development and the Recreation Master Plans.
ii) Support and recommend to the city that we need an Environmental Master Plan.
iii) Stay connected with the city’s Shape Your City Medicine Hat. They ask for your input to attend meetings and provide input to many different kinds of draft plans that deal with parks, recreation, facilities, and development.
iv) Get involved with a local, regional, or provincial conservation organization to learn more about a healthy nature, and participate in group stewardship actions.