Wetlands are unassuming, considering the important role they play. These areas are typically about two metres deep and some hold water for only one-to-two weeks after a heavy rainfall or snowmelt. All wetland classes are important for different reasons, and all are protected under the Alberta Wetland Policy.
Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife, fish and a variety of plants. They slow and limit the spread of wildfires and can filter out pollutants by slowing runoff water and allowing plant roots and vegetation to absorb the pollutants. This sponge-like quality also helps lessen the impacts of drought.
Sturgeon County is committed to environmental stewardship. In 2022, the County partnered with the University of Alberta (U of A) to build wetland basins at the university’s St. Albert Research Station, located just north of St. Albert. Sturgeon County identified these lands as being a potential site for wetland replacement, which involves restoring drained or filled-in wetlands, whether they have water-related functions or not.
The wetlands are thriving today. A recent site visit found that the area is now home to roughly 20 waterfowl. Native wetland species including wild mint, tall manna grass, water smartweed, and various sedges and rushes were added in September 2023.
The university provided the land, Sturgeon County provided the expertise, and the provincial government provided the funding. Alberta Environment and Protected Areas provides the funding for wetland replacement projects and focuses on fostering partnerships with municipalities and non-profit organizations that have a vested interest in wetland replacement.
It is hoped that with help from the provincial program, landowners will partner with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas to protect or restore wetlands and not drain them. Without written approval, draining wetlands is a violation of the Water Act.