Bigger IS Better: Largest single private conservation land acquisition in Canadian history

    VANCOUVER, July 24 /CNW/ - The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) today
announces a bold commitment to protect 550 square kilometres of remote
valleys, mountains and lakes in south-central British Columbia. The
acquisition of an exceptional property, known as Darkwoods, launches the
largest, single private conservation project ever undertaken by a Canadian
non-profit organization.
    "This is a unique and immediate opportunity to conserve a landscape
roughly the size of the entire Island of Montreal," says John Lounds,
President and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. "Darkwoods is a
conservation initiative of global significance. It's part of a greater vision
that will set new standards for conservation success."
    Darkwoods is situated between the towns of Nelson, Salmo and Creston in
the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. The previous owners, the Pluto
Darkwoods Forestry Corporation, had owned and operated the land since 1967.
The property connects a network of protected lands and wilderness management
areas to create a vast tract covering more than 250,000 acres
(100,000 hectares) - enough for wide-ranging animals such as caribou and
Grizzly Bear to roam freely.
    The project cost is more than $125-million, which includes not only the
purchase of the land but the endowment funds needed to ensure Darkwoods will
be cared for in generations to come. The property has been purchased with the
support of the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation
Program - a $225-million investment which is aimed at accelerating and
enhancing the efforts of conservation groups to protect precious natural
areas. NCC is allocating $25 million to the purchase of Darkwoods.
    "This is truly an incredible property both in size and value, covering an
area nearly 140 times the size of Stanley Park," said Minister Baird. "We're
proud to play a part in this moment and of the success of the Natural Areas
Conservation Program. Over the last year, our pledge of $225 million to the
Program has helped to conserve habitat for 59 species at risk in over 71
properties, and there's more to come."
    Darkwoods supports a tremendous range of biologically rich habitats: rare
old-growth forests, sub-alpine meadows, serene valley bottoms, productive
creeks and lakefront lands. These habitats are home to 29 provincially-listed
species at risk, such as Bull Trout, Red-tailed Chipmunk, Western Screech Owl
and a streamside orchid called Giant Helleborine. It offers NCC scientists and
other researchers the chance to discover and study the numerous rare species
that grow, forage, breed and raise their young in this landscape.
    "Conserving Darkwoods is essential to the recovery of the South Selkirk
caribou population," says biologist Trevor Kinley. "It could also
significantly affect the viability of the local grizzly population, and it
will definitely influence the retention of natural biodiversity."
    Because of its great scale and topographical diversity, Darkwoods offers
sensitive plants and animals a chance to adapt in the face of global climate
change. Species will be able to migrate to different latitudes or elevations
as temperatures fluctuate. The forests of Darkwoods represent an immense
carbon sink. In excess of 2 million tonnes of carbon are stored in Darkwoods -
equal to the annual carbon footprint of nearly half a million Canadians.
    NCC is now working closely with local communities to develop the
management plans that will support and sustain Darkwoods for the long term.
    "This is just the first of many announcements to come as we advance this
project," says Lounds. "In addition to our conservation work we will also
spend the next year raising the funds needed to ensure Darkwoods is secure for
future generations. We are inviting others who share our conservation vision
to help us make history."

    The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is a private, non-profit Canadian
organization dedicated to protecting our country's most ecologically
significant lands. As the leading land conservation organization in Canada,
NCC has conserved more than 2 million acres (809,000 hectares) of ecologically
significant land since 1962. Guided by a mission to conserve areas of
biological diversity for their intrinsic value and for the benefit of future
generations, NCC is creating a lasting natural legacy for Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contacts, Lesley Marian Neilson,
Communications Coordinator, BC Region, Nature Conservancy of Canada, (250)
661-2969,; Jane Gilbert, Chief Communications
Officer (National Office), Nature Conservancy of Canada, (416) 932-3202,; Website,

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