Sean Allen’s idea to help conserve prairie habitat in Medicine Hat this spring has grown, well, like a weed.
Following a presentation by the City of Medicine Hat about noxious weeds last December, Allen, who is entering his second year of environmental reclamation program this fall, came up with a plan to tackle the invasive growth of baby’s breath (Gypsophila paniculata) in the city’s northeast while engaging community partners.
In early May, Allen organized a team of volunteers from Calfrac Well Services to remove as much baby’s breath as possible in the Ranchlands area. The area is home to a rare and endangered species called tiny cryptantha (Cryptantha minima), a plant that is very sensitive to changes in the environment. Due to the delicate nature of the plant and other species in the area, mowing or chemical use were not options so Allen’s team of volunteers spent two weeks digging out baby’s breath plants by hand.
Allen approached Calfrac with his idea because he had worked with the company in the past and knew they were interested in giving back to the community. He also recognized his instructor, Cathy Linowski, and dean of science, Peter Wallis, as well as the Grasslands Naturalists for their support of the project.
Members of the Grasslands Naturalists helped to identify and flag plants for removal by the volunteer team that included approximately 150 Calfrac employees. Calfrac donated their time during spring break to support this environmental initiative.
“We were expecting to pull 5,000 to 8,000 plants based on last year’s renewal numbers,” said Allen, who was more than surprised when the Calfrac team removed nearly 30,000 plants in just 10 days of work.
“It was a really successful project. Everyone has been super happy about it.”
Allen spent 12 years fracking in the oil and gas industry until a back injury forced him to consider a different line of work.
“A year and half ago, I was lost but now the future is wide open. I’m excited about where this will take me,” said Allen, who sees future opportunities for businesses to give back through community projects.
“I took a blind leap of faith. It’s surprising where I stand now.”
For Linowski, watching one of her students take on a project of this size was very rewarding.
“It has been very inspiring to see how Sean has evolved from when I first met him. He is passionate about his school studies and doing the very best that he can and this influences others in the program,” said Linowski.
“[The project] was a steep learning curve, but he took the task on and ran with it to completion. I greatly appreciate his teamwork skills which is probably one of the reasons that the baby's breath project was the great success that it was. The project was an amazing example of what can be accomplished when the right people, with similar goals and objectives, come together.”
with files from the City of Medicine Hat
Top: Sean Allen is all smiles following the success of the baby's breath project.
Bottom: Calfrac volunteers work with Allen to remove a baby's breath plant.
Photos courtesy of Jenna MacDonald, Medicine Hat Parks Department.
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