Tall-grass Prairie (Photo by NCC)

Tall-grass Prairie (Photo by NCC)

Celebrating 55 years of nature conservation in Canada

Prairie grassland, Manitoba (Photo by NCC)

Prairie grassland, Manitoba (Photo by NCC)

The tall, verdant brush sways gently as a soft breeze makes its way across the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) tall grass prairie property in Manitoba. First acquired by the organization for protection in 1990, the property boasts over 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) of pristine and rare grasslands that have been protected by NCC.

The tall grass prairie is just one of many vulnerable and important ecosystems across Canada that NCC has worked to protect since 1962.

This year, NCC is celebrating 55 years of nature conservation in Canada. As the country’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, NCC has helped to protect 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares) across the nation since its humble beginnings. Originated by a group of naturalists, NCC was born from the idea that nature and natural spaces should and need to be protected for species and for future generations of Canadians to enjoy.

Minesing Wetlands (Photo by Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority)

Minesing Wetlands (Photo by Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority)

Over the last five decades, NCC has worked to protect habitat for more than 200 species at risk in Canada. In New Brunswick, our Johnson’s Mills property has sustained vulnerable habitat for nesting piping plovers. On our properties in BC’s Rockies and Quebec’s Green Mountains, we are protecting and restoring some of North America’s most important wildlife corridors. Each day, NCC is working hard to protect even more land for even more species.

Along the way, NCC has forged strong bonds with other conservation leaders in Canada.

Some of the places that NCC and our partners have worked to protect have taken many months and years to secure, and their conservation and restoration is not yet finished. NCC first starting protecting land in the Minesing Wetlands, near Barrie, Ontario, in 1971. Today, more than 9,800 acres (4,000 hectares) have been conserved here, in partnership with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, creating one of the largest protected areas in southern Ontario; an accumulation of success that makes a difference today and will ripple through generations to come.

Working together, with organizations and nature supporters alike, is critical to winning the race to protect as much land as possible — as quickly as possible.

Sprague's pipit (Photo by Dr. Steve Zack)

Sprague's pipit (Photo by Dr. Steve Zack)

Despite the many conservation successes we have achieved in the last 55 years, nature is still losing ground. We are continuing to add wildlife to our list of endangered species and to witness the loss and fragmentation of important habitats. Since 1962, populations of Sprague’s pipit, chestnut–collared longspur and other grassland birds in the prairies have declined by more than 80 per cent. In addition, more than 187,000 acres (76,000 hectares) of wetlands were lost from southern Ontario, and the footprint of industrial development has continued to expand into our northlands. Our natural spaces are also facing new threats, such as invasive species and climate change.

So what does the future of NCC and land conservation in Canada look like?

As we lose more nature, its value often becomes clearer, sharpening the image of the world that must be. The future of conservation needs to be founded on three main pillars: protected areas, sustainable land and water use and connecting people to nature.

The tall grass region is a true testament of NCC’s long-term commitment to conservation. To this day, NCC has continued to work with partners and local landowners to protect this area., These conservation lands are now home to more than half of Canada’s population of western prairie white-fringed orchid a species that is endangered in Canada and throughout its global range.

The tall grass prairie is just one of many of NCC’s conservation success stories we’ve acquired over the last 55 years. With the support of Canadians across the country, all banding together for conservation, NCC will continue to protect diverse habitats and the species that live on them for now and for the long term.

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