Living Laboratories Wetlands project kicks off in Rocky View County

When it comes to determining the true cost of restoring wetlands in Alberta, you need to talk to land owners. That premise forms part of the foundation of the Alberta’s Living Laboratory Wetlands Project, and was the central theme of the research program’s public kickoff last night in Rocky View County.

Bringing a group of land owners together with representatives from of some of ALI’s partners, Principal Investigators Dr. Peter Boxall and Dr. Shari Clare explained the nature of their research, and started conversations that will continue throughout the year ahead. For information about their research, take a look at the project backgrounder.

The evening was both fun and informative, with land owners offering feedback that has already helped inform the research and communications processes that the team will pursue over the coming year. For instance: when considering the true cost of restoring a wetland, it’s obvious to account for the potential revenue lost when productive land is turned back into a slough. However, one land owner cited a personal example demonstrating that certain types of land use (if not specifically wetland restoration) could have major implications for a property’s later resale value.

What impact wetland restoration would have on resale value remains to be seen, but what’s important is that such questions are raised in the year before the auction, so that the research team and land owners can examine them together. Indeed, the reason this project is using a market-based instrument (a reverse auction) to select sites for restoration is because it will allow land owners to price these sorts of considerations into their bids. Those bids will then help inform the true cost of wetlands restoration — a cost reflecting on-the-ground realities which might not be immediately clear to people who don’t live and work on that land.

Last night’s event was just the first of many. The research team will be spending a great deal of time in Rocky View County during the coming year, talking with land owners and encouraging involvement in 2016’s reverse auction. Many of these conversations will be about the costs of restoration, but others will emphasize the science – the benefits of wetlands, and the methods our team is using to better understand how wetlands contribute to their watersheds.

The Alberta’s Living Laboratory Wetlands Project is just getting started. Stay tuned to this site for more information about the research team’s engagements in Rocky View County, and their work to improve our understanding of wetland functions and restoration in Alberta.

For in-depth information on all of the aspects of this project, check out this backgrounder.

Our partner, Alberta Innovates – Bio Solutions, has also produced a news release about the project, which can be found here.