Volunteers getting rid of a “creep” of nature

Stony Plain Reporter
July 21st, 2014
By Caitlin Kehoe
Friday, July 18, 2014 9:57:10 MDT AM
 
If you love nature and want to prove it, Clifford E. Lee Sanctuary is the place to be on July 19 during Nature Conservancy of Canada’s ninth community volunteer event in the area.
 
Volunteers will help fight against creeping thistle — an invasive weed species that, when left unchecked, can impact wildlife in the area by reducing food supply or access to nesting cover.
 
Kailey Setter, Alberta conservation volunteer co-ordinator, said that many people know what creeping thistle is and how difficult it can be to get rid of.
 
“It’s one of the ones you see in the garden, so people are pretty familiar with how hard it is to dig out once you let it establish,” she said.
 
Setter explained that, during the first weed pull at Clifford E. Lee in 2006, the creeping thistle was extremely dense and overgrown.
 
“It was that nasty thistle with deep roots, so (it was) hard to imagine that we could get a handle on it,” she explained.
 
“But what’s really fantastic is that, through continued repetition over the years and coming back and persevering, (we have) made a really big impact.”
 
Because of the determination of conservationists and volunteers, last year’s group only had seedling weeds to contend with, which were very easy to pluck out of the ground.
 
Setter said that the difference the lack of creeping thistle has made in the sanctuary is obvious.
 
“When you get rid of an invasive species, you open up more room for the native plants. This site … is home to a lot of waterfowl and birds, and they rely on the native plants,” she explained.
 
“By keeping the invasives at bay we’re allowing all the grasses and flowers to thrive and it helps with the birds and wildlife as well.”
 
Twenty volunteers have signed up for this year’s event so far. All ages are welcome to join, and only need to bring a pair of closed-toe shoes with good grip and a bag lunch. Tools, gloves, safety gear and water will be provided by the Nature Conservancy.
 
“All they have to do is show up,” Setter said.
 
“Since it’s so accessible, we’ve had people that are eight years old, all the way up to 83.”
 
As a special treat for all of the volunteers’ hard work, invasive species appetizers, such as dandelion chips and dandelion pesto, will be served, and recipes will be provided for volunteers to take home.
 
“We say it’s ‘biting back’ against invasive species,” Setter said, with a laugh.
 
Located on 348 acres north of Devon, Clifford E. Lee is a mixture of parkland and wetland habitats, and is frequented by more than 100 species of birds and waterfowl, including the red-necked grebe, tundra swan, ruffed grouse and broad-winged hawk.
 
Beavers, coyotes, snowshoe hares, mule deer and red foxes can be observed year-round on the property, which is home to wildflowers such as twinberry honeysuckle, Canada anemone and mealy primrose.
 
“It’s a really beautiful site. You’ve got wetland, you’ve got parkland with poplars, and some really amazing spruce groves, so you get to go through all of these different habitats,” Setter said.
 
The volunteer event will take place from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. To register, head over to www.conservationvolunteers.ca. After signing up, you’ll receive an information package including facts about the property, its history and suggestions of what clothing to wear.

 

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