Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vandals destroy volunteer effort to restore Chipman Creek fish habitat

Before: Volunteers working to restore Chipman Creek fish habitat

After vandals destroyed the efforts of Chipman Creek fish habitat volunteers

  • If anyone has information regarding this incident, contact the Pincher Creek RCMP at 403-627-6010.
"Literally, the entire project was ruined.  Everything that we put in place was displaced, and discarded.  But we'll keep going. The objective now will be to replace what can be salvaged at that site, and then try to come up with ways to prevent it from occurring again."  - M.D. of Pincher Creek Environmental Services Technician Lindsey Davidson

Lindsey Davidson, BSc. Environmental Services Technician, M.D. of Pincher Creek - A collaborate effort to restore fish habitat in Chipman Creek (a tributary of Pincher Creek), was made on Saturday, August 19. Volunteers from multiple organizations including Trout Unlimited Canada, The Oldman Watershed Council, The Oldman River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, The Municipal District of Pincher Creek and local community members came together in a coordinated effort to restore and re-vegetate a decimated stream crossing.

Volunteers repairing Chipman Creek habitat

The project was intended to rejuvenate the creek, which is home to various species of native fishes, Northern Leopard Frogs, and other aquatic fauna. A healthy and functional vegetative cover provides a “filter” for sediment and debris, effectively increasing the clarity and quality of the water. Furthermore, woody plants provide habitat to many species of wildlife and provide shade to the stream. Our native, aquatic species depend on having cool, clean water to live, feed and reproduce in.

Volunteers worked tirelessly to place woody debris and material at the foot of the crossing to allow for the passive collection of sediment and ultimately restore functional streambanks. Beyond this, approximately 300 native plants were strategically placed in the riparian area to create an effective buffer zone. Plant species including poplars, willows, dog wood, wild rose, and even some small plugs of grass and sedges were used to fill the existing, barren void.

Volunteers had completed the restoration work by 3:00 pm, Saturday afternoon. "It was first noticed on Monday morning by, again, a public works employ that was out to place signs, and that type of thing." The work was dismantled less than 48 hours after the volunteers went home. "I'm thinking probably Saturday night is when the activity would have occurred. So, mere hours after we finished working there." - M.D. of Pincher Creek Environmental Services Technician Lindsey Davidson

There are many challenges facing our watersheds in Southern Alberta. Unfortunately, one of the major trials is educating all people on the value of functional, healthy watersheds, and the efforts being made to achieve them. With much sadness and disappointment, it has been discovered that hours of hard work and noble intentions were all for not. Sometime, between the completion of the project on Saturday afternoon and Monday morning, a group of vandals did significant damage to the commendable endeavor. The individuals facilitated their access through the forceful removal of a large concrete barricade that had been placed to prohibit the entry of motorized vehicles. When they reached the stream crossing, they proceeded to remove all of the plants and cast them into the creek, or along the road allowance where they would inevitably dry up and die. The stakes holding the bough layering together were removed or broken off and discarded in the creek. The bough layering itself was significantly damaged and flattened when the culprits proceeded to drive their vehicle over top of it.

The vandals left the scene from the same direction they accessed it. Leaving a wake of destruction and only traces of the efforts made on Saturday; the sacrifice of a group of passionate and dedicated people, demolished without regard. 

Hat found at the scene
The act is being viewed as a pretentious display of mischief and vandalism. It is incredibly unfortunate that this incident occurred, and the accomplishment of the vandals does not realize benefit to any. The RCMP have been alerted to the activity and steps are being taken to restore the efforts of the volunteers, and prevent further destruction and damage to the streambank.  MD staff and volunteers have rescued many of the plants, and repaired some of the bough layering already.

Toni Lucas, Pincher Creek Voice - Lindsey Davidson explained the time commitment the volunteers had put in to the project, "We had about a dozen volunteers, and we were there for about 6 hours." This did not include prep work done by MD staff and by an equipment operator working with a back hoe the day before. Council had previously approved the closure of the road. "There are alternate routes, to get from point A to point B."

Pincher Creek RCMP Cst. Wallace explained this is a spot that has been popular with people for secluded off-road activities such as mud bogging for a long time. "People who were not local wouldn't know about it." He said the area is less than 10 minutes from the town of Pincher Creek. Evidence and tracks were left behind at the site.

"I don't think they realized how much damage they were doing,"  said Cst. Wallace.  To make sure the work was not disturbed, concrete blocks measuring 3 feet high by 5 feet long each were placed to block the road.  These had to be moved to gain access to the site.

If anyone has information regarding this incident, please contact the Pincher Creek RCMP 403-627-6010.


  1. Thank you very much for reporting on this incident. The Oldman Watershed Council, our partners, and volunteers are heartbroken at this act of vandalism and disregard for the efforts of a few generous people to improve the watershed for everyone. We appreciate your reporting.

  2. Heart-breaking indeed. Edmonton Native Plant Group have taken the liberty of sharing this article in our Wildflower News September newsletter.
    Judith Golub, publisher.


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