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Monday, 17 July 2017 07:00

Outreach assistants help share OWC’s message

Written by  Demi Knight
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Outreach assistants with the Oldman Watershed Council learned to drive Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV) at Gateway Safety in Lethbridge earlier in May. Outreach assistants with the Oldman Watershed Council learned to drive Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV) at Gateway Safety in Lethbridge earlier in May. Photo contributed

The Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) has trained four new outreach assistants to help with their work over the summer months.

With camping season in full swing, the Oldman Watershed Council is expanding its reach by hiring new assistants to help provide great service to campers throughout the backcountry.
Sofie Forsström, education program manager of Oldman Watershed Council, says these new positions are imperative to good communication with members of the public.
“They go out to the backcountry and do outreach and public surveys,” she says. “We had them last year and people received them well. People really enjoyed having workers come meet them where they are while they’re enjoying their time camping and what not.”
Last year, was the first time these outreach assistant positions were made available for the entire summer to help engage members of the public in recreational events and input.
With the success of the positions last year, they were brought back this summer to hopefully continue to build on the already-forged relationships.
“They go out into the backcountry and do surveys to see what people are doing, why they’re doing it, what they love about it and also help promote and maintain the health of the water within the watershed, so they are working with many different aspects,” says Forsström of the work the assistants will be doing this summer.
However, it’s not only public outreach the assistants are working on this summer. These students are also helping to maintain the areas owned by the Oldman Watershed Council by participating in weed pulls and garbage cleanups throughout the next few months.
These new positions not only help with public communication and biological maintenance, but also provide invaluable work experience and education for these four assistants on how healthy watersheds impact everyone’s life within the area.
Rob Taylor, returning member, and now outreach assistant team lead, is one of the four members joining the Oldman Watershed Council this year.
Taylor earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the university of Saskatchewan and is now a biologist in training with the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists.
He also started his own business this spring named Oxbow Native Plants Ltd. which works to supply native plants and seed to retail markets within Lethbridge.
Joining the team also is Nata De Leeuw who hopes to contribute to the team in anyway possible, University of Lethbridge student Francisco Samayoa who hopes to help educate the public on healthy watersheds through his work with Oldman Watershed Council and Reuben Middel who is excited to help with the work of creating healthy watersheds. 
“We found they were great to have last year because having our people go to them instead of asking people to come to us for input had a way bigger impact, especially when people can remain in their relaxed setting whilst camping. It definitely helped build better relationships,” says Forsström.

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