Pincher Creek Echo – A review of rare plants at Kettles Hill Windfarm has revealed that the site is home to four rare plants.
Local botanist John Russell conducted a survey of rare plants at Kettles Hill last year. During his study he found evidence of stiff yellow paintbrush, California oatgrass, one-spike oatgrass and low yellow evening primrose.
All are ranked rare, but out of the four, the evening primrose is ranked S2 according to the Alberta Natural History information Centre. This means that there are only between five and 20 recorded populations in the province.
“There was only one little population, you could almost jump across on Kettles Hill,” said Russell.
Russell studied the area that made up each of the turbine leases at the windfarm as well as the areas that would be used to construct roads and access.
He found that only 12 turbine lease sites were associated with rare plants. However the influence of cattle grazing the area could have meant that there were more plants than he actually counted, since cattle are not selective grazers.
No evening primrose plants were located at any of the turbine sites, but a couple were found to be growing on an access road, as a result Russell said that the access road was moved 10 feet to avoid them. The evening primrose population has now been fenced off and labeled with a rare plants sign.
“There’s definitely some plants of the population that are destroyed near the tower foundations,” said Russell.
He calculated that there were around 2,000 stiff yellow paintbrush plants on Kettles Hill and that with such a big population, losses were not such a worry. He said that there was even some evidence that the paintbrush numbers would recover to their original numbers after the turbines were constructed.
“They’ve been well mitigated, and (the company) responded to suggestions,” he said.
Preserving rare plants is important to maintaining a rich biodiversity said Russell.
“It isn’t as though the world’s going to end if all the plants disappear out of Alberta. But if every jurisdiction ignored their rare plants eventually they could become extinct,” he said.
By Jocelyn Mercer
Friday September 01, 2006
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