Over 90 per cent of prairie Canada’s water originates on the eastern slopes of the Rockies. (Photo by Bob Hawkesworth)

Over 90 per cent of prairie Canada’s water originates on the eastern slopes of the Rockies. (Photo by Bob Hawkesworth)

New conservation area near Waterton key to wildlife and community health

March 31, 2022
Lethbridge, AB

 

Conservation group partners with local ranching family to fill in largest remaining gap in protected land near Waterton Lakes National Park

Elk and golden eagle are just two of the many species that will have a permanently conserved landscape to roam, thanks to a new conservation partnership in southwest Alberta. At nearly 700 hectares, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) latest conservation project fills in the biggest remaining gap in protected land in the Waterton Park Front.

In partnering with the Shoderee Ranch, NCC has created a new conservation agreement that protects more than four kilometres of the Waterton River’s western riverbank, 120 hectares of wetlands and riparian areas, 55 hectares of foothills parkland forest and an additional 340 hectares of native grasslands of a working cattle ranch. Together, these landscapes provide habitat to animals listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, such as western grebe (special concern) and red-sided gartersnake, which is listed as sensitive in Alberta. The newly conserved land also sits at the heart of the winter range for local ungulates, like elk, bighorn sheep, moose and mule deer.

Conservation projects like this do more than just protect biodiversity in the region; each hectare conserved has a compounded positive impact on the health of neighbouring communities too. Animals benefit from vast conservation lands because they can roam unencumbered by fragmentation and converted landscapes, while the impacts of protecting lands and water filter downstream to Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

While there are significant benefits to wildlife and biodiversity, the project also ensures the land will remain a working ranch, and the native grassland will never be converted or developed.

The intact riparian zones and wetlands on the Shoderee Ranch and other conservation lands in the Waterton Park Front act as a sponges on the landscape, slowing the flow of water downstream. In times of drought, they store water; during spring melts and heavy rains, they help soak up much of the excess. This maintains a steady release of water and keeps it from rushing downstream.   

The Shoderee Ranch showcases how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Banff National Park), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing Canadians and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation.

In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. When nature thrives, we all thrive.

This project was made possible by the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. Additionally, this project would not be possible without the Flundra family, who owns the ranch, and their generous partnership and shared stewardship vision for the Shoderee Ranch.

Quotes

“Waterton Lakes National Park and NCC’s Waterton Park front project is a very special place in Canada where NCC, ranchers, Parks Canada, the local community, NGOs and other groups have worked together to conserve this precious landscape, while providing for sustainable ranching and the well-being of all of us. This is truly a remarkable conservation partnership.”

Tom Lynch-Staunton, Regional Vice-President, Nature Conservancy of Canada

“We are very fortunate to work with NCC in conserving this beautiful and rich natural landscape, while ensuring my family can continue sustainably ranching for generations to come.”

– Kathy Flundra, owner of the Shoderee Ranch

“The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin, and we must tackle them together. By working with partners such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are helping to protect the natural environment in Alberta and across the country. Programs like the Canada Nature Fund’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program are helping us progress toward conserving a quarter of lands and oceans in Canada by 2025.”

– The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Facts

  • The Waterton Park Front Focal Area is an assembly of lands along a 45-kilometre stretch on the northeast boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park. NCC has conserved roughly 75 per cent of the area, and other land trusts and conservation organizations have protected an additional 1,000 hectares.
  • Over 90 per cent of prairie Canada’s water originates on the eastern slopes of the Rockies. Winter snowmelt and spring rain soak into the ground, recharging aquifers that feed cold, clean water to trout streams and continue in rivers like the Bow, Oldman and Waterton. These rivers are essential for the well-being of major prairie cities and also support over two-thirds of Canada’s irrigated agriculture.
  • NCC has helped protect more than 15,400 hectares of land in the area, representing one of the largest private land conservation efforts across Canada.

About

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, we have brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares.

NCC is a registered charity. With nature, we build a thriving world. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique public-private partnership to support new protected and conserved areas by securing private lands and private interests in lands. The program is managed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Federal funds invested in the program are matched with contributions raised by NCC and its partners, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community.

Find photos here.

Learn More
Follow us on Twitter:  twitter.com/NCC_CNC  |  twitter.com/NCC_CNCMedia
Find us on Facebook

- 30 -

Media Contact:

Jensen Edwards
National Media Relations Manager
Mobile: (438) 885-9157

Supporter Spotlight

Give today to save tomorrow link