Celebrating another year of conservation successes, coast to coast
Winter at Bunchberry Meadows (Photo by Brent Calver)
This year, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) had much to celebrate. Coast to coast, we helped conserve more than 20,000 acres (8,208 hectares) from the beginning of the year to November 2017 alone, adding to the 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares) we have helped conserve since 1962.
But that's not all! Read below for a regional breakdown of NCC’s top successes of 2017.
Conserving wetlands along the Okanagan River
The bobolink has one of the longest migrations of any North American songbird. Each year, it travels 20,000 kilometres to and from South America (which can add up to the equivalent of four or five times around the Earth’s circumference in a lifetime).
Restauration du méandre de Bobolink Meadows, C.-B. (Photo de Bruce Harrison)
While walking along the Okanagan River, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a bobolink. Located along the Okanagan River, the Osoyoos Oxbows area — designated as an Important Bird Area — provides important habitat for many species.
In March, NCC announced the conservation of a 90-acre (36-hectare) property in the heart of the Osoyoos Oxbows. Once an agricultural property, the Ted Pendergraft and Sons Conservation Area now joins other nearby conservation lands. Together, these lands create an important conservation corridor along the Okanagan River.
Historic 135-year-old Oxley Ranch conserved
When Jennifer Barr was four years old, she and her family moved to the Oxley Ranch in southern Alberta. Her mother, Willa, married Jim Gordon, who gave Jennifer an old horse and a saddle. Jennifer grew up riding that faithful horse, exploring the land and establishing a deep appreciation for the ranch she and her family called home.
Oxley Ranch (Photo by NCC)
With the future of their beloved ranch anything but certain, Jennifer and her family looked for a solution to ensure the long-term survival of the Oxley Ranch.
On March 28, 2017, the conservation of the Oxley Ranch was announced. The conservation agreement Jennifer’s mother put on the land with NCC guarantees that the Barr family can stay and continue earning a living on the ranch that has supported their ancestors since 1919. Meanwhile, the natural area can be conserved for the long term.
Bioblitz identifies the presence of 10 at-risk species
This past summer, NCC staff and volunteers conducted a bioblitz (an intensive survey of all living things in a given area within a set time) on NCC’s Wideview property. Together, they identified the presence of 10 at-risk species on the property. NCC staff were pleased to record the presence of threatened bird species, such as Sprague’s pipit and loggerhead shrike, during the bioblitz.
Temperate grasslands, such as those found on Wideview, are considered to be the world’s most endangered ecosystem. Grassland birds in Canada have shown major declines in the past four decades.
Loggerhead shrike (Photo by Bill Hubick)
As grasslands continue to disappear, iconic Canadian bird species populations are dwindling. Discovering 10 species at risk on this property is evidence of conservation in action. Their presence is an indication of the health of the grasslands on the property.
Partnership and prescribed fire: Working together for healthier prairies
Fire is a natural part of ecosystem dynamics and plays an important role in the development, maintenance and restoration of fire-dependent ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
Prescribed burn (Photo by NCC)
In the first agreement of its kind, NCC and Parks Canada have partnered to carry out prescribed fires in Manitoba, with the goal of restoring long-term ecosystem health. The agreement aims to share resources and expertise on prescribed fire planning, training, communications and implementation in Riding Mountain National Park and on NCC properties.
A prescribed burn in early May 2017 provided an excellent opportunity for fire crews from both organizations to improve operations for future burns. The goal of the fire was to reduce fuels and maintain the size of rare fescue prairie grasslands by thinning encroaching woody species, such as trembling aspen and willow, and to improve the overall condition of the prairie.
Cross-border partnership leads to conservation success
Approaching the shores of Big Trout Bay, one of NCC’s newly protected areas in Ontario, you are immediately transported into a place of rugged natural beauty. This 2,517-acre (1,018-hectare) property is located just minutes from the southern Canada-U.S. border and 45 minutes from Thunder Bay. Its densely forested land and towering cliffs are crucial to many native species, including bald eagle and peregrine falcon. Both species are assessed as special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Looking down over Big Trout Bay, Lake Superior, ON (Photo by NCC)
This project was made possible after more than 10 years of cross-border efforts and through the support of many individuals and organizations, including the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the J.A. Woollam Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Bobolink Foundation, the Rogers Foundation, The Nature Conservancy’s Wisconsin and Minnesota programs, The Conservation Fund, Green Leaf Advisors and many individual donors in both the United States and Canada.
Conserving land for turtles at risk
On World Turtle Day 2017, NCC announced the protection of two new properties, île Hébert on the Lake of Two Mountains, at the western tip of Montreal Island, and île Reid on the Ottawa River, east of Isle-aux-Allumettes.
Common map turtles (Photo by Ryan M. Bolton)
Thanks to donations and contributions from generous partners, these places will remain in their natural state as safe havens for many species at risk, including map turtles.
In anticipation of the turtle egg-laying period beginning in June, NCC launched the website carapace.ca, asking people to report turtle sightings throughout Quebec. Information collected will help identify sites in need of conservation action.
Protecting important Bay of Fundy bird habitat
The island of Grand Manan, near the New Brunswick/Maine border, is located in a globally significant Important Bird Area in the Bay of Fundy, home of the world’s highest tides.
Black-capped chickadee at small wetland adjacent to NCC beach in Grand Manan (Photo by Nick Hawkins)
More than 350 species of birds have been identified on Grand Manan, including several species designated as endangered or threatened.
In July, NCC conserved 319 acres (129 hectares) of wetland and forested habitat inside the federally designated Grand Manan Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the island’s south coast. The land inside the sanctuary had been privately owned and may have been prone to development, but it is now fully protected thanks to NCC and donations from two New Brunswick families. NCC is currently working to protect the final piece of privately owned land remaining inside the sanctuary.
Conserving karst in Cape Breton
Famous for its dramatic highlands, scenic coastline and “inland sea” of the Bras d’Or Lakes, Cape Breton Island’s unique ecosystems are a hot spot for biodiversity and species at risk. In fact, 18 federally listed species at risk and 20 provincially listed species at risk are found in the central Cape Breton region.
Onlookers cliffside in Cape Breton (Photo by NCC)
NCC’s first conservation project in Atlantic Canada was in Cape Breton in 1971, with the conservation of Sight Point, in the Mabou Highlands. To kick off 2017, NCC completed its first large-scale conservation plan for Cape Breton. NCC aims to protect 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) of ecologically significant land in the central part of the island over the next 10 years. In October, NCC announced the protection of 676 acres (274 hectares) of mature forest, wetlands and dramatic karst (gypsum-based) landscapes, featuring white cliffs, sinkholes and caves.
Cape Breton has some of the best remaining intact karst landscapes in North America. Now hundreds of acres of this rare habitat are protected by NCC.
Prince Edward Island
Protecting land for endangered piping plovers
The Cascumpec Sandhills are among Prince Edward Island’s most fragile and vital habitats — fragile because the grass-covered dunes are continually shifting as they bear the brunt of severe storms, and vital because they support rare plant species and provide valuable habitat for endangered birds. Located on the northwest shore of the island, the Cascumpec Sandhills are part of a chain of near-shore islands that are considered PEI’s last true wilderness.
Piping plover (Photo by Gordon Prince)
Thanks to the generosity of a donor with PEI roots, NCC has conserved 150 acres (60 hectares) of exceptional shorebird habitat on the Cascumpec Sandhills. This is a critical nesting site for endangered piping plovers. Through the conservation of this property and the nearby Conway Sandhills property, NCC now protects some of the most secluded nesting areas in Atlantic Canada for this globally rare species.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Expanding conservation in the Codroy Valley
NCC celebrated 20 years of conservation in the beautiful Codroy Valley by protecting an additional 150 acres (61 hectares) of forests and wetlands along the Grand Codroy Estuary, including one of the area’s largest bogs.
Beautiful sunset at Codroy Valley (Photo by Mike Dembeck)
NCC has now conserved a total of 600 acres (243 hectares) in the Codroy Valley, about 40 kilometres north of Channel-Port aux Basques. The Codroy Valley not only supports one of the most diverse bird populations in Atlantic Canada, it is the location for Newfoundland and Labrador’s only Ramsar site. It is also a key annual stopover site for thousands of migratory birds. With a walking trail that passes through the property, it has become a popular nature destination for birders and hikers.