Conservation Volunteers tackle fencing project in Cypress Hills
On Friday, May 20, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)’s Conservation Volunteers spent the day removing three quarters of a mile of old barbed wire fencing that was limiting the movement of local wildlife on NCC’s Witt property.
Fences on the prairies serve many important functions, such as defining property boundaries, controlling domestic livestock, and preventing collisions between vehicles and animals.
Wildlife-friendly fences are designed to allow animals to cross the landscape more easily, and to limit the number of incidents.
By lowering the top wires and raising the bottom wires, using smooth wire where appropriate, and including additional wildlife support mechanisms in areas of high traffic, wildlife-friendly fencing can continue to fulfil the needs of containing cattle and allow easier movement for wildlife across a heavily fragmented landscape.
“A new, more wildlife-friendly fence has recently been installed parallel to the old fence,” said NCC’s conservation engagement program manager Kailey Setter. “Together, these fences form a double barrier to wildlife movement, so we needed our volunteer’s help to remove the old one before it causes problems for animals like deer, moose and pronghorn.”
Between NCC staff and volunteers, the group took on the challenge. Experience ranged from first-time volunteers to six-year veterans. The group met up at the entrance to the property and spent the morning tackling the fencing project before breaking for lunch.
After the project was complete, Leta Pezderic, NCC’s natural area manager for southeast Alberta, educated the volunteers about the Nature Conservancy of Canada's work in the region.
“One of NCC’s targets in this area is to secure native, intact grassland. We want to protect it and work with landowners who are good land stewards,” said Pezderic.
“We try not to target specific species, instead we target their habitats. For example, if we want to provide habitat for sage grouse, we can protect the sage brush and that will also help pronghorn and burrowing owls. “
NCC’s Conservation Volunteers program engages Canadians of all ages in protection of Canada’s species and natural habitats. The program provides meaningful, hands-on educational experiences in natural areas and is designed to make sure the volunteers’ time is directed to important conservation activities.
“By volunteering with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Errol and I get to travel across Alberta and see so many wonderful places and meet so many wonderful people. Six years ago I saw an ad in the newspaper for NCC’s Conservation Volunteers program and I thought it looked interesting, and now here we are,” said veteran volunteer Pat Smith.
“We love the outdoors and we want to make sure it’s here for future generations. We want to help however we can.”
The Witt property, located on the northern edge of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, was once a part of the historic Reesor Ranch. It was purchased in partnership by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada in 2003. This 169-acre property provides habitat for passing wildlife and acts as an additional buffer for development along the park. Today, it is still part of a working landscape where cattle ranching and conservation go hand-in-hand.
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 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres), coast to coast. In Alberta, we have conserved over 234,000 acres (94,700 hectares) of this province’s most ecologically significant land and water.
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