Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Nature Conservancy of Canada looks to protect more than 1,600 hectares near Waterton park

More than 100 square km of grasslands and forest between Waterton Lakes National Park and Castle provincial park could soon be protected from future development. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has launched a campaign to raise $6.9 million to conserve what is known as The Yarrow near Twin Butte, about 80 km southeast of Lethbridge.

NCC says it is building on decades of collaboration with the landowners, the Fischer-Cuthbertson family, along with partners and donors in the region with a goal to purchase the land, which supports one of the highest number of species recorded at a potential NCC conservation property in the province. It is home to 27 wildlife species that are either at risk  either provincially or nationally. 

“Our challenge right now is we have got tremendous amounts of pressure on the landscape for many different uses, we across the Canadian prairies only have about 24 per cent of our intact native grasslands left. We would like to try to conserve those remaining 24 per cent of grasslands and those pressure comes from development, they come from subdivision, they come from conversion typically from cultivation,” says Tom Lynch-Staunton, NCC regional vice president. “We really truly believe that there is a way to continue to conserve these lands but provide at the same time an economic model, especially for those raising livestock or other sustainable use of that landscape.”

The project is an investment of $20 million and NCC says it has already raised two thirds of the costs. It has launched this fundraising campaign to raise the last $6.9 million needed. The federal government contributed $8.2 million for the project through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

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“Conserving nature has always been an important part of our plan for Canada, for our climate, for our culture, for the many species that call our natural spaces home but of course it is more than a plan — it is an important part of our identity as Canadians and yet nature itself in Canada and around the world is under threat,” said Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and climate change Canada. “That’s why our government is taking action. We understand that protecting and conserving nature is one of the most important steps we can take to curb the biodiversity loss, while also fighting climate change and advancing reconciliation.”

Cenovus Energy Inc. also donated about $3.7 million to NCC and a portion of it will go to the Yarrow Creek project. The project also received some funding from the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service. NCC says an anonymous supporter pledged to match donations larger than $10,000, up to a total of $1 million.

The landowner says it is a pleasure to work with the NCC to conserve the property, which has been in the family since it was purchased by Charlie Fischer in 2008. 

“Charlie purchased this land on his retirement and never stopped being awed by what a beautiful piece of Alberta it is. He took great interest in sustainable grazing and ensuring that this ranch was thoughtfully managed for nature to thrive there. Knowing how special Charlie felt this location was, it is meaningful to our family to see our ranch being conserved by the NCC in a way that sustains the land’s natural beauty as well as its ranching history,” reads a statement from the Charlie Fischer family

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