Inaugural forum brings together representatives from organizations interested in monitoring Elk River health

Last Friday, December 3rd, a diverse group of parties united by their interested in Elk River watershed health convened to discuss the implementation of an Elk River Watershed Collaborative Monitoring Program.

The effort, initiated by the Elk River Alliance (ERA)— a not-for-profit that engages communities in the Elk Valley— is an extension of their ongoing watershed stewardship work. Maintaining Elk River watershed health is vital to all who live in the Elk Valley, said George Greene, Chair of the ERA. Many groups are monitoring components of watershed health or hold knowledge about this watershed, but bringing that knowledge together for a full picture is a complicated venture, he said.

The 27 participants included representatives from the Tobacco Plains Band, fly-fishing outfitters, conservation groups, the coal industry, scientists, provincial and local government representatives. Greene said the main goals of the forum were threefold: to initiate a discussion on values associated with Elk River watershed health, to inform monitoring efforts that address cumulative effects on watershed health, and to discuss a governance approach to guide the Collaborative Monitoring Program.

The forum began with opening remarks by Nasukin (Chief) Heidi Gravelle and prayer by Councillor Kyle Shottanana of the Tobacco Plains Band.

“We can be stewards of not just the land, but the water,” opened Nasukin Gravelle, and continued “I feel very confident that this relationship [...] will benefit the water.”

Councillor Shottanana emphasized the importance of monitoring the pulse of the river, to see if it is angry.  George Greene, Chair on ERA’s board of directors, said the comments by Councillor Shottanana were especially impactful and beautifully captured the goal of the new monitoring effort.

“Our valley has citizens that use the Elk river in diverse ways, and we all rely on the watershed as a source of life,” said Greene, “and to monitor the watershed, we need to keep track of its vital signs and ensure its health is maintained.”