Recently, the Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) received a Community Builders Award from Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder's office. The award is presented to those who have made a significant difference in their community and recognizes outstanding individuals or groups who selflessly invest in the lives of others and make their community a great place to live.
Nominations for this third year of recognition was open to deserving individuals including community volunteers, farmers, educators, artists, athletes, social workers, coaches, entrepreneurs, emergency responders and anyone who goes above and beyond to give back to the community. The OWC is a collaborative forum for all voices, working for watershed health through education, action and stewardship.
There were over 100 nominations for individuals, businesses and non-profits in the Lethbridge riding. “Those were the three categories. We were one of 13 chosen by a review committee,” said Shannon Frank, OWC executive director.
Frank noted the OWC has been involved in the community since 2004, as a registered non-profit. “And a long time before that, as an informal group. It's just nice to be recognized for all the hard work the volunteers have been doing over the years.”
According to Frank, the OWC works with between 50-100 volunteers every year. “Volunteers work on a lot of different projects. Everything from policy to planting trees and willows. There's a big diversity of people.”
A criteria to receiving the award is to bring people together, which the OWC does well. The OWC brings people to the table from a variety of sectors including agriculture, health, Indigenous folks and municipal, provincial and federal folks, farmers and city people.
“We're getting them all together to work on solutions,” Frank said. “Not creating divisions.”
Frank said the biggest focus of the OWC over the past five years has been in regards to public land and the mountains, “which is our headwaters, that's where our water comes from - all the snow pack in the mountains.”
“We've been really focusing on educating recreationists with our partners and restoring stream banks that have been damaged. Because there's just so much happening in a really small area out there – there's recreation, logging, oil and gas – there's everything happening out there. We've been working with everybody and just planting willows along the stream bank and planting trees and talking to recreationists about how they can lower their impact,” Frank explained.
Frank added the OWC also works with cattle ranchers to attract cattle away from creeks. “That's our biggest project right now and has been very critical to educating recreationists and getting everybody kind of hands-on. We've seen a lot of progress made by the government of Alberta out there with planning and figuring out where trails should be and where they should not be. All part of the recreation advisory group with Environment and Parks.”
“It impacts everybody downstream. It's doing work that impacts everybody,” Frank said. “That's the kind of work we do.”