East Buffalo Lake (Photo by Brent Calver)

East Buffalo Lake (Photo by Brent Calver)

Crucial habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl protected in Alberta

September 8, 2017
Calgary, Alberta


Nature Conservancy of Canada buys land near Buffalo Lake

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced today its purchase of an important property for breeding waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife, near the town of Stettler. The purchase was done through a partnership with the Government of Canada, the business community and other groups. 

The not-for-profit conservation group has acquired 64 hectares (158 acres) of grassland, aspen forest and wetlands east of Buffalo Lake. Buffalo Lake is a provincially designated Environmentally Significant Area (ESA), which is key habitat for waterfowl and is also one of the most productive shorebird staging habitats in Alberta.

Participating in the announcement today were Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, NCC staff and project supporters. 

The property is in the Red Deer River Natural Area and features vital wetlands for waterfowl and shorebirds. The area hosts 70–80 breeding duck pairs per square mile. Waterfowl on the site include redhead, bufflehead, mallard, Northern pintail, American wigeon, lesser scaup and common goldeneye. Other species that live in this area are mule deer, coyote, moose and red-tailed hawk.

The property also features large birch trees believed to be more than 100 years old, along with some veteran spruce trees that have also surpassed the century mark.

NCC has acquired a site well cared for by conservation-minded people. It had been owned by Bob Thomson for the past 20 years. A habitat biologist, Thomson purchased it from Harry Green, whose family cared for the land for nearly a century. Additional details on Thomson and Green are attached in an information sheet. 

This project was made possible with the support of the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Other funders in this project include Repsol, American Friends of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


“My daughter and I used to skate on the big pond, we had picnics and went berry picking. When she was little, I used to put her in a pack and walk around inspecting fences and she would hold my tools. Children today desperately need to reconnect with nature, and this section of land has everything from ruffed grouse to pileated woodpeckers and thirteen-lined ground squirrels. I just hope that somehow kids can spend time out there — maybe some biology classes could experience nature first hand — and they could walk on the old trails and enjoy being outdoors.”

-Bob Thomson, former landowner

“The East Buffalo Lake property has been stewarded by conservation-minded people — first Harry Green, then Bob Thomson — for over a century. It is now NCC’s responsibility to make sure this property and wetlands are cared for in the same way, to ensure that the habitat that makes this region so critical for waterfowl and shorebirds remains. This project would not have been possible without the support of the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program and Repsol, one of NCC’s important corporate partners who has signed on for five years to help us steward and secure conservation lands in the Red Deer area.”

-Bob Demulder, Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Regional Vice-president

“On behalf of my colleague Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, I am proud to support the conservation of 64 hectares of diverse wildlife habitat at East Buffalo Lake through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. By working together, we can all make a difference for wildlife and biodiversity in Canada.”

-The Hon. Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

“Repsol Oil and Gas Canada is committed to the responsible and sustainable development of Canada’s energy resources. Our partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada is a strong example of our focus on sharing the benefits of our operations with local communities, which includes support for environmental initiatives like the conservation of the East Buffalo Lake property. We are proud to support the health of Alberta’s grasslands, forests and wetlands on the East Buffalo Lake property, along with the numerous similar properties that our partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved for future generations.”

-Jim Hand, Vice-president Canada Business Unit, Repsol Oil & Gas Canada Inc.


•    Uncommon Alberta birds, including Forster's tern, Virginia rail, yellow rail and colonies of great blue heron, frequently use Buffalo Lake.

•    Over the last few years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, together with the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), Alberta Fish and Game Association and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), have worked in partnership to protect a large block of parkland habitat in the area. Additionally, NCC, DUC and ACA own several other smaller properties near NCC’s East Buffalo Lake property.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading private, not-for-profit land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC has helped protect more than 1.1 million hectares (2.8 million acres), coast to coast. In Alberta, more than 11,300 hectares (280,000 acres) of the province’s most ecologically significant land and water have been conserved.

The Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership to accelerate the pace of land conservation across southern Canada. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) manages the program. Federal funds are matched by contributions raised by NCC and its partners. Habitat conserved under the NACP enhances natural corridors and other protected areas.

High-quality photos and video B-roll of the property is available for your use here. (Photo and video credit Brent Calver.)

Project backgrounder

•    This property purchased by the Nature Conservancy of Canada is located 20 kilometres north of the town of Stettler.

•    There are 17 provincially designated Environmentally Significant Areas within the boundaries of the Red Deer River Natural Area, including Buffalo Lake, one of the most productive shorebird staging habitats in Alberta.

•    The Red Deer River Natural Area in central Alberta is situated on the Canadian Great Plains. This region is teeming with prairie “potholes” — numerous small and large wetlands created by the retreating continental ice sheet more than 10,000 years ago.

•    As of 2013, our most recent species report from the Red Deer River Natural Area, 17 species in the region were listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, including the endangered piping plover.

Landowner information

The Nature Conservancy of Canada acquired the land from Bob Thomson, a habitat biologist and conservation specialist with Ducks Unlimited Canada. Thomson purchased the quarter-section of land from Harry Green, whose family owned the property for nearly a century. Green’s family had cared for the land and it was important to him that the next owner continue to care for the native parkland in the same manner. Thomson’s conservation background made him the perfect candidate.

The East Buffalo Lake property has thrived under caring stewardship while providing the Thomson family with a pond to skate on in the winter, open rolling fields on which to picnic and berry patches to pick in the summer.

Over the decades, the Thomson family has used rotational grazing to sustainably manage the grasslands. This consists of dividing the property into multiple smaller pastures and rotating the cattle throughout them, resulting in cattle grazing from the entire property and not just their favourite areas. This method also allows grasses time to recover between grazing periods.

This property east of Buffalo Lake is a property worth conserving, said Thomson, because the diversity of wetland habitat and steep moraines have given native flora an opportunity to thrive where the cattle will not graze.

This includes birch trees that measure more than 18 inches at the base, which Thomson believes to be more than 100 years old, and a handful of veteran spruce trees that have also surpassed the century mark.

“When you start looking at our short lives, it’s neat to know that these trees were here before anyone even lived on this land,” said Thomson.

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Media Contact:

Carys Richards
Communications Coordinator
Alberta Region
Office: (403) 515.6861 | Mobile: (403) 669.2894

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