Save the Edges is bringing awareness of the issues of trespass farming and the values of intact roadside ditches and undeveloped public right-of-ways to southern Alberta’s landowners. View Factsheet.
Roadside ditches and undeveloped county right-of-ways provide sanctuary for a broad array of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.
An agricultural practice known as “trespass farming” is threatening these last vestiges of intact wildlife habitat.
Save the Edges will help inform, educate and spark change in the attitude towards keeping these edges natural.
Ditches and right-of-ways have been broken and farmed at an elevated rate in recent years. It’s not uncommon to see ditches farmed to within inches of the road grade. Further, corporate farming has led to larger fields, and many right-of-ways that at one time supported critical edge habitat on each side of the trail have disappeared. When undisturbed, these strips of land provide a wide range of benefits to all Albertans.
Our job is to help make the public, including the agricultural community, aware of the societal benefits of these edges.
Naturally-vegetated public roadside ditches and right-of-ways:
- Filter excess nutrients including phosphorous and nitrogen, preventing them from entering our rivers, lakes and groundwater systems.
- Minimize overland flooding by storing, slowing and absorbing excess water, helping to protect roads, culverts and agricultural fields.
- Store thousands of tons of carbon, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.
- Provide homes for pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths and beetles.
- Sustain species that prey on agricultural pests.
- Provide thousands of acres of habitat for grassland-dependent mammals and birds, including pheasants and grey partridge.
Vegetation Management and Haying
While advocating for the elimination of trespass cultivation, we acknowledge that vegetation management of roadside ditches is necessary. Periodic grazing or haying of roadside ditches is important for vegetation management and in times of extreme drought. When this management is necessary, producers should wait until after July 15 to ensure birds have finished nesting.
Trespass farming through a publicly-owned right-of-way.
Trespass farming in a publicly-owned roadside ditch.