Partner Series:

Getting to Know Bryon Wolters, Conservation Specialist - Ducks Unlimited Canada

Written by Michelle A. Gordy

 

 

Born, and raised on a mixed farm in Vermilion, Bryon has a long history and familiarity with the region. After high school, he attended Olds College for Livestock Production and then went on to raise his own pure-bred Angus herd. He later had several sales jobs in livestock and auctioneering around Vermilion, until he learned of an opportunity to join Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUCs) as a Conservation Specialist.

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DUC’s Bryon Wolters (left) with Lakeland students Nathan Glassford and Kris Cavulchik. Photo Credit: Ducks Unlimited Canada

It was his familiarity with the land and the people that really set him up for success in this position, and he has now been with DUCs for the last eight and a half years. As a part of the Restoration and Retention Team at DUCs, Bryon works with landowners to implement wetland restoration through land purchase agreements (described below). This can be a challenging pursuit at times, as landowners may have a different vision for how their land should be used, and often the choice of reducing the amount of land they can use for farming can be a tough call. However, when landowners understand the benefits and goals of conserving wetlands and can also be paid for their conservation efforts, the choice to conserve becomes easier, and the result is overall positive.

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Ducks Unlimited Canada conservation specialist Bryon Wolters points out the benefits of conservation easements to provincial policy specialist Warren Robb (right) and farmer Shawn Jacula (centre) at a real estate workshop. Photo Credit: Ducks Unlimited Canada

Wetland Functions

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Information provided by Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Alberta Government.
01
Protecting Water Quality
Wetlands protect us from water pollution by cleaning our water. They protect us from flooding by reducing water sent downstream.
02
Providing Water Storage and Infiltration
They protect us from drought by holding water when conditions are dry. They protect us from climate change by reducing greenhouse gases.
03
Providing Habitat for Wildlife, Fish, and Plants
Wetlands protect wildlife. They provide hundreds of species with safe places to eat, sleep and raise young. Wetlands give us natural places to play, learn and explore. They are destinations for hiking, hunting, canoeing, photography and more.
04
Sustaining Biodiversity
Wetlands in Alberta are estimated to host some 400 species of plants, some of which are listed as rare, threatened or endangered in the province.

There are a couple ways in which landowners can work with DUCs to conserve wetlands and restore their functions through purchase agreements: Conservation Easements or the Revolving Land Conservation Program.

Conservation easements are agreements made with landowners for the purchase of a piece of private land, surrounding a wetland, through annual payments to the landowner at a percentage of fair market value. “Conservation easements are legal tools to help you protect the habitat on your land. While maintaining ownership, you make a commitment to conserve the natural integrity of the habitats agreed upon by you and DUC, by limiting the amount and type of development that can occur”(https://www.ducks.ca/resources/landowners/conservation-easements/).

 

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DUC’s Janine Paly, Lakeland instructor Peter Walsh, student Jenna Sahulka, DUC’s Bryon Wolters, and students Nathan Glassford and Kris Cavulchik. Photo Credit: Ducks Unlimited Canada

The Revolving Land Conservation Program works in the opposite direction of a Conservation Easement agreement, in which DUCs has purchased and restored (wetlands and grasslands) lands, placed a Conservation Easement on the title, and then sells on the real estate market. In this way, people can purchase land with conservation already in place, and proceeds from the land purchased goes back into funding other conservation activities.

Over the nearly nine years that Bryon has worked for DUCs, his work with landowners has resulted in the restoration of approximately 300 acres of wetlands, and 4,000 acres of lands protected by easements. When asked what his favourite part of the job is, he said “knowing we’re going to keep some lands intact…habitat for not just waterfowl, but other animals and people too.”

In addition to his work for DUCs, Bryon is also a Board Member of the Vermilion River Watershed Alliance (VRWA), which has helped connect him with others in the watershed doing wetland restoration, such as Chris Elder of ALUS -Vermilion River. In his board position, Bryon helps guide the direction and work of the VRWA. We are very thankful to have him on our team.

In his spare time, you will likely find Bryon at the Vermilion Golf and Country Club, where he has been an avid golfer for the last 30 years. He also loves to spend time with his grandchildren, two of whom are “farm kids” and will surely gain great knowledge and appreciation for the land in which they are raised by having a grandfather, such as Bryon, to pass that along.

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Connor Njaa (left) and Bryon Wolters (right) at Lakeland College's Beef Day in 2018.

Thank you for your partnership, Bryon, and all you do for the community and the watershed!

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Michelle A. Gordy, Ph.D.
Michelle A. Gordy, Ph.D.Watershed Planning Coordinator
North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance