The Seine Rat Roseau Watershed District (SRRWD) began a pilot program in conjunction with ALUS Canada (Alternative Land Use Services) in the summer of 2019. The start of the SRRWD-ALUS program marked the first time annual incentive payments became an option for producers in the area who enhance the ecological goods and services provided by their farm.
SRRWD-ALUS projects focus on transitioning cultivated lands in flood plains, near drains, around sloughs, and in general low-lying areas into perennial grasses. These grassed areas reduce nutrient runoff into our lakes and streams, minimize erosion, sequester carbon and foster healthier aquatic and wildlife habitat.
Three producers along the Marsh River jumped at the chance to be our first participants: Harold Janzen, Karl Enns and Jeff Friesen. Janzen has been a key player as a board member of the SRRWD and councillor for the Rural Municipality of Montcalm. His proactive vision to increase sustainability within the Marsh River Watershed has caught on quick in the area. “We are excited to demonstrate the good work farmers are accomplishing and to showcase how we can all be part of a sustainable tomorrow through participation in alternative land use programs” said Janzen.
The success of an SRRWD-ALUS project lies with the producer, who is compensated for taking low-lying land out of annual crop production. The land taken out of production is generally difficult to manage and less profitable for the producer. The SRRWD provides an annual incentive payment to essentially “rent” the land from the producer for providing the ecological goods and services that are so often taken for granted. The community benefits from the healthier farms and watersheds produced by these projects.
Requirements for the producer are simple: a photograph for self-reporting and removal of the vegetation from the grassed areas after mid-July. Vegetation is removed to extract phosphorous that enters waterways through plant decomposition and can be done by baling or limited flash grazing. Phosphorous reduction is a priority for the SRRWD and our ALUS program has been tailored accordingly.
Together, the three SRRWD-ALUS pioneering projects have restored 20 acres of flood plain along the Marsh River and created a buzz among local farmers. The commitment found along the Marsh River sets a solid foundation for the SRRWD-ALUS program to bridge partnerships with producers across the watershed district to expand ecological goods and services in southeast Manitoba.