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Waterton Lakes National Park

Volunteer Update 2012

Wildflower Seed Collection
Volunteers help to gather seeds from native wildflowers and grasses © John Dubbelboer

The leaves are falling, elk are rutting on the Blakiston Fan, and ducks and geese are beginning their fall migration. As the seasons turn, it is once again time to thank all the volunteers who helped care for Waterton Lakes National Park this year.

In 2012, 363 people donated a total of 2003 hours of work in support of restoration and monitoring projects that will help to protect the park for future generations. They also supported special events and campgrounds that helped visitors enjoy the park.

Individuals, family groups, church groups, scouts, college students, and students from regional schools all pitched in to make a difference.

Restoring the Foothills Parkland

Knapweed Rodeo and Adopt-a-Patch
Volunteers help to protect this landscape by removing weeds at events like Knapweed
Rodeo and Adopt-a-Patch
© Parks Canada

Waterton Lakes National Park is the only national park that protects a portion of the Foothills Parkland ecoregion - a mixed landscape of fescue grasslands and stands of aspen trees.

This special landscape is being impacted by disturbances and invasive non-native plants. Volunteers help to protect this landscape by removing weeds at events like the Knapweed Rodeo or by Adopting-a-Patch of their own to pull. They help to gather seeds from native wildflowers and grasses to re-plant disturbed areas and help keep an eye out for invasive plants and uncommon wildlife species along trails as Wildlife and Weed Watchers.

In the townsite, volunteer gardeners helped to maintain demonstration gardens to showcase some of the diverse wildflowers the park is famous for.

Rescuing Endangered Pines

Whitebark and limber pine are threatened by white pine blister rust, an introduced fungal disease that has killed over 90% of trees in many stands. Parks Canada is leading efforts to restore these important trees in Waterton by protecting the cones of the survivors and using their seeds to grow and plant healthy seedlings.

In 2012, volunteers helped to plant 490 limber pine seedlings on Lakeview Ridge and 1500 whitebark pine seedlings on Ruby Ridge. Volunteers also planted whitebark pine near Summit Lake in 2010 and 2011, and survival after two years is 69%.

Birds and Butterflies

Butterfly Count
The 13th annual Butterfly Count had one of its highest years of participation
© Parks Canada

Waterton continued its participation in the spring bird count organized by the Lethbridge Naturalist Society on June 2 and 3. Fourteen birders took part in the two-day count and recorded 115 species. This is well in excess of the long-term average of 104 species for the spring count. In total volunteers gave 53.5 hours of their time to count birds. Both the Lethbridge Naturalist Society and Waterton Lakes National Park are looking forward to the Christmas Bird Count tentatively scheduled for the 15th and 16 of December.

The Monitoring of Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program continued under the guidance of Cyndi Smith. 2012 was a positive year for MAPS as 12 volunteers contributed 242 mist-netting hours. The 13th annual Butterfly Count had one of its highest years of participation as 23 participants came out and found 27 species of butterflies. 2012 was the year of the European Skipper as 85 individuals were caught.

In October Waterton invited Lethbridge College students to come and survey waterfowl at various locations in the park. This is a pilot-project to help monitor the trends of waterfowl migrations through the park during the fall while helping college students practice their waterfowl identification skills.