A Township of Langley Ecological Systems Initiative pilot project rewards agricultural farmers for maintaining eco-friendly areas on their lands to help farmers bear the cost of keeping waterways, forests and other sensitive areas healthy.
Bertrand Creek is in the center of a significant Langley watershed. Originating in Aldergrove, the creek is 11 kilometres long and flows south into Washington State in the United States.
Bertrand Creek runs through Jim Dales’ property, Kensington Prairie Farm in Langley where he raises alpacas and cattle. “It’s in pristine condition and we essentially want to keep it that way and that’s why we’ve gotten ourselves associated with the Ecological Services Initiative,” he said.
Measuring Ecological Benefits
The Ecological Services Initiative (ESI) is a $120,000 pilot project funded by the Township of Langley. The Township is partnering with the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation to run the pilot project. Dave Melnychuck is Chair of the Foundation and explains this relatively new concept. “Ecological services are those provided by the environment such as clean air, clean water, biodiversity, wildlife and fish habitat,” he said. “Those are values that are often not traded on the marketplaces but have value to the public.”
In protecting Bertrand Creek, the Township of Langley has shown that the creek’s natural services have value. Jack Froese is the Mayor of the Township of Langley. “We’ve seen in the past how poor practices whether through industry or agriculture has damaged our creeks and our rivers and really been a detriment to salmon spawning grounds and the species that live in those creeks,” he said. “So it’s very important for the government to get involved and help those farmers because it’s a benefit not just for the farmer that lives next to the creek, it’s a benefit for everybody.”
The creek was chosen for the pilot project because it has two fish that are identified under the Species At Risk Act; the Nooksack Dace and the Salish Sucker. Jim Dale says one of the ways to protect the stream and its species is to prevent cow manure from entering it. “We are looking at a manure management plan and doing something different with where we house the cows,” he said. “And we are looking at some maintenance of the stream bed itself because there is getting to be quite a bit of erosion.”
Farmers as Stewards
The pilot project expects to see ten farms adjacent to Bertrand Creek participate by the end of 2016. Mayor Froese understands how farmers are being asked to undertake a significant stewardship role. “While the creeks are really owned by everyone in a way, they are important to the whole ecological system,” he said. “So without us protecting it and working with the farmers it may be that the farmers just can’t afford to do it on their own.
Dave Melnychuck supports sustainable agricultural and land stewardship practices. “These social benefits extend beyond this area, throughout Metro Vancouver, and even throughout the province, I think all people are interested in these ecological values being maintained in the future.”
To learn more about the Ecological Services Initiative, visit the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation.
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