Local farmer honours parents with donation to Nature Conservancy of Canada
Sprague's pipit, Shoe Lake West, SK (Photo by Stephen Davis)
Sharon Downs is paying tribute to her parents and her childhood in Saskatchewan with a donation to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Downs has donated her family’s farmland with the commitment that NCC will sell the land and use the proceeds to conserve natural habitats and wild spaces across Saskatchewan. The land being sold will continue to be productively farmed by the new owners, free of encumbrances and conservation agreements. This is a remarkable agreement where the land remains as farmland, important to the local agriculture community and keeping the farm heritage, while proceeds will help other conservation efforts.
Downs’s father Gilbert Rudd began farming on his own in the mid-1930s, starting out by renting a quarter-section of land from a local farmer in the Sanctuary area, north of Swift Current, between Kyle and Elrose, Saskatchewan. Rudd married Myrtle in 1937 and they continued to live on the farm, where they grew wheat, durum, oats and barley. They raised cattle, primarily Herefords, pigs, a few horses and chickens.
Downs was born in Elrose, Saskatchewan, the youngest of two children, and was raised on the family farm, where her passion for nature developed. She appreciates that NCC’s programs and conservation projects follow a consistent, science-based process that includes both research and priority setting, as well as ongoing evaluation. Grasslands are considered the world’s most endangered ecosystem and are a critical part of Saskatchewan’s environment. They stop erosion, help sustain and purify our water, sequester carbon and are a habitat with some of the world’s greatest biological diversity. Being able to protect them is one of the most important things we can do for the future.
“I want to not only conserve and preserve a piece of our prairie, but more importantly I want future generations to have the opportunity to experience the sheer joy that I experienced as a child,” says Downs. “I want them to be able to walk through grasslands and be able to actually experience a range of species, not just see them in museums, books, documentaries or online.”
After losing both her parents to cancer, Downs researched her donation options. She felt that NCC was best positioned, both strategically and as a conservation leader at the national level, to help achieve her three primary goals: “Making a difference during my lifetime while investing in important conservation projects; ensuring valuable farmland would remain in production; and, honouring the hard work of my parents, Myrtle and Gilbert Rudd, who cared about the farm and all that it entailed, but who also valued and respected nature.”
Thanks to Downs’s generous gift, her family’s farmland will be maintained as farmland and NCC will continue to work on conserving priority landscapes so that future generations can walk among grasslands and the species they sustain.