Lac La Biche is the seventh largest lake in Alberta, with importance to the local economy and culture. In recent years, Lac La Biche has experienced declines in water quality and fish populations, leading to widespread blue-green algal blooms and fishery closures. The Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping (SHIM) project for Lac La Biche was initiated in 2016 to respond to community concerns over the health of the lake. This project characterizes the physical and biological features of the lake’s foreshore so that sensitive areas can be identified and subsequently protected during shoreline development. While this method has been applied to several lakes in British Columbia, and successfully incorporated into land use planning there, the Lac La Biche SHIM project, once completed, will be the first example of its use elsewhere in Canada.
Living Lakes Canada supported the creation of the Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed, a group of community stakeholders committed to implementing the monitoring, outreach and stewardship recommendations of the 2009 Lac La Biche Watershed Management Plan. In partnership with Lac La Biche County, Athabasca Watershed Council and the Stewards of Lac La Biche Watershed, Living Lakes Canada led a Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping project for Lac la Biche, supporting recommendations identified under water quality, water quantity, riparian areas and wetlands, and fisheries, waterfowl and wildlife. The Lac La Biche Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping Project engaged the community to better understand the health of the lake through active stewardship activities. Land use, riparian habitat changes, and existing sensitive fish and wildlife habitats were identified through the collection of sound scientific data, and provided an opportunity to improve land use and lake management decisions through the creation of Shoreline Management Guidelines that better protect, stabilize and enhance important fish and wildlife habitats and the water they depend on.
The Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed continue to work on grassroots stewardship activities including public awareness and education; the installation of updated signage at public access points regarding the lake’s Provincial Waterfowl Sanctuary and Important Bird Area status, and the importance of the riparian zone to watershed health.
Members of the Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed Steering Committee include:
- Brian Deheer, Board Chair, Athabasca Watershed Council
- Michael Schulz, Portage College Natural Resource Technician Program
- Jillian Flett, retired
- Aaron Davies, teacher, Ecole Plamondon School
- Ashley Tkachyk, Alberta Parks, Lac La Biche office
- Brad Peter, Executive Director Alberta Lake Management Society
- Kellie Nichiporik, Beaver River Watershed Alliance, Lakeland Agriculture Research Association, Moose Lake Watershed Society
- Heather Leschied, Living Lakes Canada
This project was made possible by the support of Alberta EcoTrust, Environment Canada EcoAction, Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Land Stewardship Centre, Alberta Conservation Association, and Lac La Biche County.