The Modeste Natural Infrastructure Project (MNIP) brought together organizations involved with different aspects of environmental management to begin collaboration on natural infrastructure management at the watershed scale. Compared to other studies in Canada that evaluate natural infrastructure projects for a single purpose, the MNIP project is large-scale (approximately 4,800 km2.). MNIP encompasses several communities and considers a wide variety of landscape management practices by hundreds of landowners. Rather than a single beneficiary, this project evaluates general water quality and quantity impacts, which benefit many communities.
The partner organizations bring expertise in natural infrastructure data management and modelling, economic cost/benefit analysis, on-ground project implementation and stakeholder engagement. For example, the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA) facilitates multi-stakeholder collaboration to evaluate watershed health and develop management plans. Municipalities, such as Parkland County, play an essential role because of their ability to advance environmental regulation through statutory planning. ALUS Canada, and its community-delivery partners deliver natural infrastructure projects by incentivizing farmers and ranchers to conserve and restore natural assets on their properties. Finally, the University of Guelph plays a crucial role in their ability to model and research priority locations for projects to maximize benefits and minimize costs of implementation.
ALUS and NSWA identified the Modeste as an ideal location for the pilot project for the following reasons:
- The Modeste sub-watershed had been identified by the Government of Alberta as a high-priority area for flood and drought mitigation.
- The NSWA’s inter-municipal committee, the Headwaters Alliance, was able to offer advisory services.
- Data and knowledge was available from NSWA’s riparian studies.
- Each of the five counties participating on the Headwaters’ committee had demonstrated capacity to engage farmers and ranchers in enhancing and protecting natural infrastructure. (Four of the counties (Brazeau, Leduc, Parkland, Wetaskiwan) had started an ALUS program.)
Once the location was chosen, ALUS Canada and NSWA brought on project partners Parkland County, University of Guelph, Innotech Alberta, and ALUS community programs in the four counties.
The project partners coalesced around a set of objectives including: establishing natural infrastructure projects on agricultural lands; using the IMWEBs model to better understand the impacts of projects; and to compare the costs and benefits of different natural infrastructure projects.