Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada announces donation of 593-hectare conservation site on World Wetlands Day

Sylvia and John Walters on Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Sylvia and John Walters on Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced an important land donation in Alberta that features wetlands and lakes.

The not-for-profit land conservation organization has been gifted 593 hectares (1,467 acres) on the northwest shore of Gough Lake, 125 kilometres east of Red Deer, known as the Ferrier property.

The property contains a combined 104 hectares (256 acres) of wetlands and shoreline habitat that is essential for the deer, small mammals, grassland birds, shorebirds and waterfowl that live in and migrate through the region.

Wetland conservation is of great importance in the region. In the settled areas of Alberta, 64 per cent of the slough and marsh wetlands have disappeared, according to the Institute of Wetlands and Waterfowl Research.

Several species considered at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada have been observed on the property, including Baird’s sparrow (special concern) and Sprague’s pipit (threatened). Gough Lake, which borders the property, provides seasonal and year-round habitat for a wide range of species, including sharp-tailed grouse and loggerhead shrike (threatened under the Species at Risk Act).

The larger wetlands provide valuable spring shorebird basins while the shoreline provides nesting and staging habitat for waterfowl.

One third of the land consists of native grassland. Due to the high rates of land conversion for agricultural and human development, less than five per cent of native fescue grasslands remain in Canada. As a result, every opportunity to secure this habitat is vital. 

The property also has a rich human history. The project was made possible thanks to the generosity of the late Agnes Isabelle (Nancy) Ferrier and her family. Nancy left the site to NCC in her will. It had been with the same family since 1904 when John, Nancy’s father, and his brother, Tom Ferrier, sailed from Scotland to Canada, eventually settling in Alberta to make a better life. In later years, more family members arrived and established a farm and homestead on the property. Additional details on the Ferrier family are included below.

In addition to the Ferrier family, NCC wishes to acknowledge and thank the Government of Alberta’s Land Stewardship Grant, the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, Repsol and other donors who contributed to the securement and ongoing stewardship of this conservation project.


“The family is absolutely delighted. John and Nancy, the children of the John Ferrier that settled here from Scotland, never had any children of their own, so this was their wish. This property has come full circle, from being homesteaded in 1904, to going back to nature the way it was in 1904.”

-Sylvia Walters, Ferrier family member

“Thanks to the generosity of the landowners and the support of our donors and partners, NCC will now continue to care for this well-stewarded property. The Ferrier property is important to our conservation goals because it’s located in the prairie pothole region of Alberta, which features significant wetlands like Gough Lake. This is one piece of a larger-scale conservation effort in the local region and demonstrates our participation in an international commitment to care for critical wetland habitats.”

-Bob Demulder, Nature Conservancy of Canada’s regional vice-president

“This amazing act of kindness will advance our shared goal of protecting and preserving natural habitats for future generations. The Government of Alberta is excited by this ecologically significant land donation in central Alberta, and I was very pleased to see the $460,000 Alberta Land Trust Grant given to the Nature Conservancy of Canada put to such good use.”

-Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

“On World Wetlands Day, I congratulate the Nature Conservancy of Canada on the conservation of 593 hectares near Red Deer Alberta, which includes 104 hectares of important wetland and shoreline habitat, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Conserving areas such as these protects biodiversity and also improves the landscape’s resiliency to extreme weather events. Today’s announcement shows what can be accomplished by Canadians working together.”

-The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada

“Repsol Oil & Gas Canada Inc. is committed to the responsible and sustainable development of Canada’s energy resources. Thoughtful securement and stewardship are excellent examples of how Repsol’s support of the Nature Conservancy of Canada can be used to share the benefits of our operations with local communities, which includes support for environmental initiatives like the conservation of the Ferrier Property. Repsol is proud to partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canada in their conservation of Alberta’s grasslands, forests and wetlands in the areas where we work and operate.”

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


•    This is one of four new wetland conservation projects by NCC being announced on World Wetlands Day. The others are in Spring Creek, Saskatchewan, île de Grâce near Sorel, Québec, and in Lobster Bay, Nova Scotia.

•    Native grasslands provide essential ecosystem services, such as carbon fixation, water filtration, forage production and soil protection.

•    This property is in close proximity to other conservation lands, including the provincially protected 9,559-hectare (23,620-acre) Rumsey Ecological Reserve and Natural Area, three conservation agreements held by NCC and eight quarter-sections owned by Ducks Unlimited Canada.

•    Canada is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also called the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2 to mark the 1971 adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar, Iran; 88 per cent of United Nations’ member states have become contracting parties to the Convention on Wetlands.

Background on the Ferrier Family

In 1904, brothers John and Tom Ferrier sailed from Scotland to Canada to look for a homestead and to make a better life. After arriving in Alberta, they settled on the edge of Gough Lake, where they built a wood shack with a tin roof.

The rest of their family joined them in Canada in 1908. They acquired more land, and built a house and a barn with a hayloft. John and his wife, Agnes, whom he’d returned to Scotland to marry in 1913 and brought back with him to Canada in 1915, raised their children on the land through the Great Depression and two World Wars.

It was these tough times that moulded a generation of hard-working and strong people. After decades of drought, dust and hail storms, the Ferrier’s children saw the farm prosper

It was on this farm that the Ferrier family lived, stewarding the land and caring for the wildlife until John Ferrier’s last surviving child, Agnes Isabelle Ferrier, known as Nancy, passed away in 2015 and willed the land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) 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 has been conserved.

The Government of Alberta created the Alberta Land Trust Grant program in 2011 — a program designed to support land trusts such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada to assist in the purchase of conservation agreements on ecologically significant landscapes and donations of land with high conservation value.

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.)

Supporter Spotlight

Give a gift of Canadian Nature