Partners in conservation: The Nature Conservancy of Canada and Parks Canada
Canada’s Parks Day takes place on the third Saturday of July each year, at all national parks from coast to coast to coast. It serves as a reminder of our country’s beautiful natural landscapes.
As Canada’s leading national land conservation organization, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is proud to have worked with Parks Canada in areas across the country. By supporting the establishment of new parks, conserving land around already protected areas and creating wildlife corridors, NCC is helping to further national conservation goals and priorities.
In honour of Parks Canada’s 131st birthday, and as a former Parks Canada intern at Elk Island National Park, I'm celebrating Canada's Parks Day by looking back on a few of the outstanding collaborations NCC has accomplished with Parks Canada over the years.
In the mid-1980s, immense pressure to subdivide properties around Waterton Lakes for recreational activities, housing and condominiums was on the rise. Fragmentation of this valuable landscape worried many local ranchers and landowners. However, history was made in 1997 with what was at the time the largest private conservation initiative in the history of Canada: the Waterton Park Front Project. Working together with the The W.Garfield Weston Foundation, NCC helped protect more than 32,000 acres (13,000 hectares) around Waterton Lakes National Park.
The area protected by NCC and local landowners through conservation agreements acts as a buffer for many species roaming around and within Waterton Lakes, including grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, grey wolf, moose, elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer. With the establishment of the buffer, certain land uses that don’t align with the needs of the natural ecosystem are prevented, and the conserved areas around the national park are expanded.
This year marks the 20-year anniversary of grassland conservation at the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area (OMB) in southwestern Saskatchewan. It is NCC's flagship project on the Canadian grasslands and the largest NCC project by acreage in Saskatchewan.
In 2003, NCC worked closely with Parks Canada to bring 25 male and 25 female genetically pure plains bison from Elk Island National Park in Alberta. Plains bison were driven almost to extinction at the beginning of the twentieth century due to overhunting, loss of prairie habitats and disease.
Parks Canada staff at Grasslands National Park have been very helpful with all sorts of activities at OMB over the years. Staff from Grasslands National Park have helped with NCC's annual OMB bison roundup each winter, answered questions related to bison and grassland conservation and worked with NCC to explore the possibility of acquiring bison breeding bulls from the park for the OMB herd.
But the feelings are mutual, for NCC actually played an instrumental part in the establishment of Grasslands National Park! In early 1992, ownership of mineral rights on 10 parcels of lands within Grasslands National Park’s borders were generously donated to NCC, later transferred to the Government of Canada as an official kickoff for the establishment of Grasslands National Park. It might be said that this important milestone marked NCC’s pivotal role as Canada’s leading land trust organization.
Moving east, Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba is a magnificent landscape that encompasses three ecosystems (grasslands, upland boreal, eastern deciduous forests). It is a wonderful oasis for many species, such as grey wolves, moose, elk, black bears and hundreds of bird species. NCC is proud to have worked closely with Parks Canada staff in Riding Mountain National Park on a variety of initiatives.
In May 2016, NCC’s Manitoba Region signed an agreement with Parks Canada (Riding Mountain National Park) to share resources and expertise on prescribed fire planning, training, communications and implementation in Riding Mountain National Park and on NCC properties. This agreement seeks to help restore long-term ecosystem conditions and protect the public and the property from unplanned wildfires.
Celebrate provincial parks on Parks Day
Did you know that provincial park systems across the country also celebrate Parks Day? In British Columbia alone, NCC has helped protect dozens of properties that are now owned and managed by provincial parks agencies. As some of the most treasured natural spaces in BC, some of the most well-known parks that NCC has helped to conserve include Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, Princess Louisa Marine Provincial Park and Juan de Fuca Provincial Park's Botanical Beach.
Get your dose of Vitamin N this Parks Day
In celebration of Canada's beautiful natural landscapes, NCC launched the Nature Rx program on June 25, 2016 encouraging people of all ages to get outside and fill up on their weekly prescription of Vitamin N. The summer nature prescription activities are released every Saturday on the NCC website, so why not take an activity with you to any park on Canada's Parks Day? There's so much to explore, and many more great conservation partnership success stories to uncover.