Expanding Conservation Efforts in Alberta’s Porcupine Hills
Three grassland properties now conserved in partnership with local landowners
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing the conservation of three properties in the picturesque Porcupine Hills region of southwestern Alberta.
Spanning over 2,500 hectares, equivalent to double the size of Nose Hill Park in Calgary or over 4,000 Canadian Football League-sized football fields, these projects build upon NCC's longstanding efforts to create a network of conserved lands in the Porcupine Hills. This work, which started in the 1990s, has resulted in the conservation of over 37,000 hectares in the region, helping to protect its ecological and economic significance.
Each of these three properties have been conserved through a conservation agreement between NCC and a respective anonymous landowner. These agreements will ensure each property will continue to operate as a working landscape for cattle grazing while maintaining natural values for generations. In each case, the landowner donated a portion of the conservation agreement value to NCC.
Private landowners are central to how NCC conserves important habitats across Canada. The dedication to sustainable land management by these landowners has maintained large and high-quality tracts of natural land cover in the Porcupine Hills, which today are a priority for conservation.
Representing a transitional zone between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, the Porcupine Hills features a unique combination of rolling grasslands, meandering creeks, and forests supporting many different plants and animals. Grasslands in the region play a vital role in filtering water, sequestering carbon, protecting soil and providing habitat for wildlife.
Despite their ecological significance, natural lands in the region are threatened by changing land use and development. These changes risk the region's biodiversity and contribute to landscape fragmentation. NCC's efforts in the Porcupine Hills play a key role in mitigating these threats and maintaining the area's ecological integrity.
These newly conserved lands also serve as important movement corridors for wildlife, including grizzly bear and elk. By conserving these corridors, NCC is helping to maintain healthy ecosystems and diverse wildlife populations.
These conservation projects were made possible by the landowners along with private donors and supporters. Contributions were also made by the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, and the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, and by the Government of Alberta, through the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program, and by private contributors, including the Weston Family Foundation, through the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative. One of the projects was supported by the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides significant tax benefits for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically sensitive land.
These conservation projects exemplify a dedicated commitment to safeguarding grasslands under NCC’s Prairie Grasslands Action Plan — a comprehensive strategy aimed to conserve more than 500,000 hectares by 2030. This is an area six times the size of Calgary and equivalent to what we will lose if we don’t act now to protect the grasslands that remain. Learn more about how you can take action to care for Canada’s iconic Prairie grasslands at prairiegrasslands.ca.
“Conserving private land in the Porcupine Hills underscores our shared responsibility of safeguarding our natural heritage before it’s too late. By working hand in hand with ranchers, we are not only conserving the breathtaking landscapes that define Alberta, but also helping to continue a legacy of stewardship dating back generations.” – Tom Lynch-Staunton, Regional Vice-President, Nature Conservancy of Canada
“The Porcupine Hills of Alberta, known for their picturesque grasslands and forests, will have three further properties protected. By working with partners such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, areas between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains will be conserved while continuing to operate as working landscapes, providing protection for carbon-rich ecosystems. Through Government of Canada programs like the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund, and the Ecological Gifts Program, we are making progress toward the goal of conserving a quarter of land and water in Canada by 2025, working toward 30 percent of each by 2030, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions through nature-based climate solutions.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- Species at risk found in the Porcupine Hills include limber pine (endangered), grizzly bear (threatened), Sprague’s pipit (threatened), bull trout (threatened) and American badger (special concern).
- Prairie grasslands are disappearing at a rapid rate. We need to act now, to protect what’s left. Grasslands store carbon, filter our water and mitigate flooding and drought impacts. Habitat loss is the leading threat to iconic Prairie wildlife, including at-risk species such as burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk and swift fox. Conserving Prairie grasslands provides effective solutions to counter the challenges of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner, NCC works with people, communities, businesses and government to protect and care for our country’s most important natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.
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 Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique partnership that supports the creation and recognition of protected and conserved areas through the acquisition of private land and private interest in land. To date, the Government of Canada has invested more than $440 million in the Program, which has been matched with more than $870 million in contributions raised by Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community leading to the protection and conservation of more than 700,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive lands.
Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) is a $1.4 billion, ten-year fund (2021–2031) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada to help conserve, restore, and enhance the management of ecosystems such as wetlands, forests, and grasslands, in order to help tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The NSCSF will focus on three main objectives: (1) conserving carbon-rich ecosystems at high risk of conversion to other uses that would release their stored carbon; (2) improving land management practices to reduce their greenhouse gas emission-causing impacts on Canada’s ecosystems; and (3) restoring degraded ecosystems. Overall, these projects will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration, while also providing benefits for biodiversity and human well-being.
To learn more about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit: https://www.canada.ca/ecological-gifts
The Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative is a multi-year collaboration to celebrate, steward and protect one of Canada’s most ecologically valuable and threatened ecosystems: native prairie grasslands. Through this initiative, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will bring together a diverse group of individuals and organizations to accelerate the adoption of sustainable approaches to help conserve grasslands and improve on farm sustainability and viability.
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