Astotin property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Astotin property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Nature Conservancy of Canada secures three new sites in campaign to Keep the Beaver Hills Wild

July 15, 2020
Edmonton, Alberta


The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is showing major progress in its campaign to expand and connect the Beaver Hills, an internationally recognized natural area located just 20 minutes from Edmonton.

The Beaver Hills Biosphere encompasses an area of 1,400 square kilometres, twice the size of Toronto. Thousands of people living in the municipalities of Strathcona, Leduc, Beaver, Lamont and Camrose call this area home.

NCC is announcing the securement of three new conservation properties totalling 128 hectares (326 acres) in the Beaver Hills. One of NCC’s new sites, the Astotin project, is located directly west of Elk Island National Park, and the second, Illerbrun, is on the southern shore of Gambling Lake. The third site, called the Ball Berg property, was generously donated by the landowners and is southeast of Sherwood Park.

These land conservation projects were made possible by the generosity of landowners, private donors and funding from the Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. A portion of the Ball Berg property was donated to NCC under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.

The Beaver Hills is home to hundreds of different species of wildlife and is globally important for a variety of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. The biosphere is home to moose, elk, lynx, wolf and black bear. Waterfowl in this area include black-crowned night-heron, American white pelican and great grey owl. Species at risk that have been identified in the Beaver Hills include barn swallow (threatened), piping plover (endangered) and horned grebe (special concern).

This area is also home to two endangered bats: little brown myotis and northern long-eared myotis.

The Beaver Hills area contains numerous provincially and federally protected areas, including Elk Island National Park, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park and the Beaverhill Lake Heritage Rangeland Natural Area.

Working together, NCC and other partner land trusts have already conserved 5,300 hectares (13,000 acres) around these protected spaces. 

By working with landowners and the local communities, NCC aims to help conserve the natural corridor between protected areas in the northern and southern portions of the Beaver Hills.

The Beaver Hills has a rich conservation history that began when the area was designated as a forest reserve in 1892. The Beaver Hills initiative was founded in 2002 as a platform to engage and educate the community on how to balance development and environmental conservation. Because of their efforts, the Beaver Hills became a Biosphere Reserve in 2016, a UNESCO designation that recognizes the harmonious integration of people and nature on the land.

All three of these new conservation sites are located within the buffer zone of the Beaver Hills Biosphere and will provide important native habitat to the many species of birds and animals that live in and migrate through the area.

The community has always played a large role in keeping the Beaver Hills intact. But the greater area surrounding the protected spaces are now being rapidly converted and modified for acreage development.

NCC is asking for Albertans help in creating a conservation legacy that will be a place of pride for everyone who lives and recreates in the Beaver Hills.

To learn more or get involved, visit


“Albertans are lucky to have access to amazing natural spaces, and this globally-significant landscape is right in our own backyard. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, our conservation partners and local communities have a chance to conserve this incredible natural treasure for the future. We‘ve already done important work in this area and are excited by what we will achieve thanks to the help of all of our supporters.”

-Bob Demulder, Regional Vice President, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“The Government of Canada is proud to support the Nature Conservancy of Canada in protecting important habitat in the Beaver Hills Biosphere. Through the Canada Nature Fund’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program, we are ensuring that wildlife can thrive for generations to come and making progress toward our goal of conserving a quarter of Canada’s land by 2025.”

– The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


  • NCC has been active in this region since 2002.
  • This is not the first time that NCC has worked to create a larger landscape of conserved properties bordering a protected area. By working with ranchers, community members and partner organizations in the Waterton Park Front, NCC has helped create a buffer zone of intact landscape one-third the size of the actual park. NCC is hoping to replicate these efforts in the Beaver Hills area.
  • The Keep the Beaver Hills Wild conservation campaign will be a long-term effort that recognizes not just the work NCC is doing in the area, but also the decades of conservation that took place previously and the many more conservation sites that will be secured through partner land trust organizations that also operate in the region.
  • To learn more about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit

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Media Contact:

Carys Richards
Communications Manager
Alberta Region
Mobile: (403) 669.2894

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