EFP Advisors Learn New Techniques for Conducting an RHA

Published On: October 6, 2022Categories: Environmental Farm Plan Program, IAF News

Last month. IAF’s Environmental Farm Plan advisors were provided the opportunity to take a training workshop, organized by IAF and the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food (AF), on Riparian Health Assessments (RHA). Over two days, the training group visited river and wetland sites in Grand Forks, BC including a site along Granby River. While there the group learned best practices and new techniques for conducting an RHA.

About the Program:

The Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) program provides eligible agri-food sector producers with access to consultants (known as EFP Planning Advisors) to assist in the completion of Environmental Farm Plans and support the application process to Beneficial Management Practices (BMP) funding. The EFP and BMP programs enhance the capacity of producers to maintain competitiveness by adapting and responding to emerging environmental, regenerative agriculture, and climate challenges and changing environmental conditions.

More details: www.iafbc.ca/efp

Why is the training important?

RHA provide landowners with a snapshot of the health of their riparian areas and point out potential areas to focus management on. Due to evolving knowledge surrounding beneficial practices, several updates have been made by AF to the RHA plan requirements. The changes provided an opportunity for IAF to coordinate the first in-person EFP advisor training session in over three years.

In total, seventeen planning advisors attended the training— five of those advisors were attending RHA training for the first time. Five MAF representatives also attended, as well as three IAF Team members. The RHA training was led by Noreen Ambrose, Executive Director, and Kerri O’Shaughnessy, Riparian Specialist, from Cows and Fish (Alberta), along with Andrea Shaw, Agroecologist from AF.

“In-person training really builds the planning advisor community” says Michelle Redekopp, who works as a Project Manager with IAF. “Coming together really allows us to build relationships, create deeper networks, and hear about what other advisors are seeing and doing across BC.”

The RHA training covered the recent updates to RHA plan requirements, shared updated information about invasive, noxious, and disturbance plant species, how to visually calibrate plant density and cover, what health indicators to look for in a riparian area, and how to measure visual and walking distances to calculate assessment areas more accurately.

The advisors were given updated resources, including workbooks and assessment plan templates. In addition, training was provided on scoring Riparian areas to determine the level of healthiness. These scores are used to create Riparian Management Plans, which show the current situation and detail possible changes that can be done to improve the overall health of the assessed area.

In addition to the riparian training provided by Cows & Fish, Lee Hesketh, who started the Farmland-Riparian Interface Stewardship Program (FRISP), also attended. FRISP is an innovative program of the BC Cattlemen’s Association. The program’s goal is to address watershed resource concerns by encouraging sustainable land management practices in the agricultural sector. Lee led a session on riparian restoration without the use of riprap, and shared knowledge about various techniques such as using replanting structures and old growth wood to hold banks in place while plants establish themselves.

If you’re a producer with a completed EFP or plan to complete an EFP, you may be eligible to apply for BMP funding. To learn more about these two programs, visit www.iafbc.ca/efpbmp.

Funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, the Environmental Farm Plan program’s objective is to provide farm and ranch operators with the support required to identify agri-environmental risks and opportunities. The goal of the EFP Program is to improve on-farm awareness of agri-environmental risks.

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