CALGARY, Sept. 29, 2014 /CNW/ - The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Alberta has announced the completion of the largest conservation easement in the province's history and the largest in Canadian history.
The iconic Waldron Ranch project is 30,535 acres of privately owned property located along the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22), south of Longview and northwest of Lethbridge. It is a conservation agreement involving the largest intact native fescue grassland remaining on the eastern slopes of the Alberta Rocky Mountains.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada led a major fundraising campaign to do this project. The funds were required to complete the purchase of a conservation easement between the shareholders of the Waldron Grazing Co-operative Ltd. and NCC. This agreement ensures the land will continue to be utilized as a working landscape and preserves habitat for numerous wildlife that depend on this corridor.
The Waldron connects the 70,000 acre environmentally significant Bob Creek Wildland Park (Whaleback), to the 97,000 acre Porcupine Hills Forest Reserve. A truly breathtaking place to see, it is now protected into perpetuity for all to admire as they drive through the foothills of Southwest Alberta.
Thanks to the support of Albertans and other Canadians, hundreds of donations poured in to create this natural legacy. The total project cost more than $37.5 million.
The 72 ranchers behind the Waldron Grazing Co-operative were the largest donor and by far the driving force behind this conservation effort. The Nature Conservancy of Canada wishes to acknowledge other major donors who helped make this project a reality. They include:
- The Government of Alberta who contributed $12.2 million through the Alberta Land Stewardship Grant Program;
- The Government of Canada who contributed $4 million through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and;
- The Calgary Foundation provided the remaining $1 million to bring this project across the finish line.
The Waldron Grazing Co-operative will continue to own the property and the landscape will remain a working ranch where cattle and wildlife co-exist. The Conservation Easement ensures Waldron's critical lands and waters remain intact and the area is protected forever against development, subdivision, cultivation or drainage. NCC will work in partnership with the shareholders of the Waldron Co-operative to ensure the overall health of the land is maintained.
"This is a great day for conservation in Alberta and in Canada. We would like to thank the Waldron shareholders, our government partners, the Calgary Foundation, corporations, organizations and the hundreds of individuals who came together. Their vision and support for this project will help conserve a way of life and inspire people for generations to come," said Larry Simpson, Associate Regional Vice President in Alberta for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
"The Waldron Grazing Co-op and the Nature Conservancy of Canada have created an alliance that will ensure that the Waldron Ranch will remain intact, healthy, and agriculturally productive for ever. We are proud of this accomplishment." -Tim Nelson, Board Chair, Waldron Grazing Co-operative Ltd.
"This is one of the largest grants The Calgary Foundation has ever made towards a conservation project," says Dan Thorburn, Vice President Grants and Community Initiatives at The Calgary Foundation. "We are proud to be part of an effort that will not only protect critical wildlife habitat, but also the headwaters of streams and rivers for the Canadian prairies. We will not get a second chance."
- Species at risk observed on the Waldron Ranch include golden eagle, ferruginous hawk and limber pine
- The Waldron was prime habitat for millions of bison that once roamed the Great Plains, and dinosaur footprints reveal a history dating back millions of years.
- This is the first time the Nature Conservancy of Canada has purchased a conservation agreement from a rancher-owned co-operative.
- The Waldron Grazing Cooperative received a 2014 Emerald Award in the small business category for their initiative to work with a land trust.
- Other generous donors for the project include; Werklund Foundation, TransCanada Corporation, Dale Huntingford and Virgina Dobson, Gerald A. Cooper-Key Foundation, Soderglen Ranch, Ron and Jan Brennenman, Harold Kvisle and The Riddell Family.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.7 million acres (over 1 million hectares), coast to coast. In Alberta, we have conserved over 234,000 acres.
The Government of Alberta created the Alberta Land Trust Grant program in 2011 – a program designed to support land trusts such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada to assist in the purchase or partial purchase of conservation easements on ecologically significant landscapes.
The Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership launched by the Government of Canada in 2007. Led and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), the program supports the accelerated pace of conservation of ecologically important private lands across southern Canada. To date, $245 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada, with more than $400 million in matching contributions raised by NCC and its partners to secure our natural heritage. An additional $100 million was announced in May 2014 under the National Conservation Plan for the NCC to continue this program.
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SOURCE: Nature Conservancy of Canada
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