Friday, March 31, 2023

Southwest Alberta rancher protects provincially rare habitat

Lethbridge, AB – The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing a new conservation site in southwest Alberta. This 303-hectare property, dubbed Chapel Rock, has coniferous forests, grasslands, vital riparian zones and is one of the rarest habitats in Alberta.

Chapel Rock is in the Castle-Crowsnest Watershed Natural Area and was first homesteaded by Joseph Pisony in 1912. The land has since been passed down through five generations, each one acquiring more land around the original homestead to grow the ranch. Now, the Pisony family has decided to place a conservation easement on a portion of the land.

This new agreement between NCC and the Pisony family voluntarily restricts development rights on the land. The legal contract will ensure that the property can continue operating as a working cattle ranch, while maintaining the landscape in a natural, healthy, unfragmented state.

Current landowner Berwyn Pisony says he couldn’t be more pleased with the land designation. “We’re going on five generations. Time goes on and things keep changing and I just hope that whoever else runs the land in the future, we want to see them honour the use of the land and take care of it.”

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Each working ranch conserved in this region benefits the ranching community and native wildlife, and the waters flowing into the Oldman River. NCC’s conservation of this significant stretch of working rangeland will assist in conserving water quality, flood mitigation and the maintenance of an important watershed along Alberta’s southern foothills.

Emilie Brien is the National Area Manager for the Castle-Crowsnest Watershed, and she says ranching is the perfect use for this conservation land. “This way it is a working landscape. I think ranching and environmental protection as they can be done together. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Wetlands like those found at Chapel Rock are directly linked to the survival of many species, as they provide nesting, breeding, and feeding opportunities while also playing an important role in maintaining water quality for people and species.

The Chapel Rock property is also part of a natural corridor where mammals move through the foothills along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. It offers critical habitat for mammals such as elk, bighorn sheep, moose, and mule deer. Grizzly bears, listed as a species of special concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, have also been spotted ambling across this property.

This conservation project was made possible with funding from the Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, and the Government of Alberta’s Land Trust Grant Program.

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