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Protecting wetlands with cattle

Protecting wetlands with cattle

World Wetlands Day is Feb. 2

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Wetland conservation is on the mind of many this week.

World Wetlands Day, which raises awareness about wetlands, what they do and their overall importance, has been celebrated every Feb. 2 since 1971. The day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, which took place on Feb. 2, 1971, in Ramsar, Iran.

Canadian cattle are positioned well to help protect wetlands, said Kristine Tapley, a beef producer from Langruth, Man., and agrologist with Ducks Unlimited.

“Lots of wetlands are embedded in grasslands, and that’s where the cattle are,” she told “Supporting the beef industry to keep those farmers on the landscape and keep those grasslands intact rather than being converted into cropland, can be beneficial.”

Tapley and her husband raise about 150 cows and have included wetlands conservation into their operation.

The pair have designed a grazing system to help create habitat for local bird species and have experienced benefits on the land, too.

“They keep the water clean for my cows to drink, they have all sorts of biodiversity and really punch above their weight when you talk about healthy soil and ecosystems,” she said.

And with the Prairies recovering from drought, wetland conservation is especially important, she added.

“Especially given the extreme drought we saw last year, wetlands are a great tool in that they act like a sponge,” she said. “When there’s lots of water, they suck it up and help buffer the impacts of flood. During drought, they allow that water to slowly release to minimize the impacts of drought. The wetlands help keep that equilibrium and buffer the effects of climate change.”

If wetland protection isn’t made an integral part of agriculture, farmers could experience the effects of climate change even further, she added.

“If we don’t protect these natural areas in agriculture, the risk is we’ll see more and more (climate) swings,” she said. “Anything we can do to mitigate those risks, even if it’s taking land that doesn’t produce as well and making it a wetland, helps.”

Producers who are interested in adding wetland conservation to their farm have multiple resources they can consult.

“Obviously I’m going to say to visit Ducks Unlimited Canada, but there’s lots of resources out there,” Tapley said. “It’s about finding the resources that are in your area and contacting the right people to get the ball rolling.”

Dean Pearson/Ducks Unlimited photo

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