Wood turtle, Pike River, QC (Photo by Claudette Dwyer)

Wood turtle, Pike River, QC (Photo by Claudette Dwyer)

Pike River reclaims rightful place within heart of village

April 11, 2022
Frelighsburg, QC


Agricultural land will be restored to grow crops using best practices

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) joins forces with Conservation de la nature Québec to announce the acquisition of 33 hectares, the equivalent of 31 soccer fields, overlooking Rivière aux Brochets in the heart of Frelighsburg. This project was made possible thanks to the collaboration of Jean-Martin Fortier, co-founder of the Institut Jardinier Maraîcher, an ecological agriculture resource, Maude-Hélène Desroches, and Julie Bellefroid, environmental project manager at Dura-Club, a non-profit organization that assists agricultural producers in their agri-environmental efforts.

This land, part of which is periodically flooded by Rivière aux Brochets, will have its native species restored, including wood turtles, endangered in Canada, as well as several at-risk birds — all while protecting continuing to be used for agricultural purposes.

The area where the river overflows its banks, known as its “freedom space,” makes up a good portion of the newly acquired property. This area is critical to the health of river health and should always be vegetated to prevent erosion.

When agricultural soils are left bare after a harvest, a significant amount of sediment is released into the river. In addition, since there are no plants to absorb atmospheric carbon and trap it in the soil as organic carbon, the soil becomes considerably depleted of this natural compound, which is essential to the land’s richness. School students from the area will plant trees and shrubs in the property’s “freedom space” to create more suitable habitats for wildlife. The remainder will be cultivated as perennial grassland, providing habitat for nesting birds.

It is important to respect the natural flow of waterways. Flood-prone areas, such as overflow plains, should retain their native vegetation. Agricultural practices can be adapted to these areas, such as avoiding the tillage required for annual crops. Perennial crops can be mowed late to allow for successful ground nesting of birds, and pastures are another alternative to native vegetation that helps prevent erosion and capture carbon. In fact, light grazing is beneficial to atmospheric carbon capture as it stimulates deeper rooting.

This project showcases how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, the conservation organization has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), 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.


“We feel privileged to be able to showcase this farmland in the heart of Frelighsburg. For NCC, it is important to show that it is possible to cultivate riverfront land in the Eastern Townships, while respecting wildlife and its habitat. This is a project where hay bales, wood turtles and bobolinks can coexist harmoniously.” – Julien Poisson, program director at the Nature Conservancy of Canada

“We would like this project to bring people together and give a sense of belonging and pride to the shoreline landowners. We also want to use this process to promote the involvement of young people and of the public in issues related to the environment in our region.” – Jean-Martin Fortier, co-founder of the Market Gardener Institute


This project was made possible by three citizens who brought this land to the attention of NCC: Jean-Martin Fortier, his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, and Julie Bellefroid. The acquisition was then realized with financial support from the Government of Canada through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as private donations.


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.

Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) is a $631 million, ten-year investment to help restore and enhance wetlands, peatlands, and grasslands in order to help tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. NSCSF will focus on three main objectives: (1) restoring degraded ecosystems; (2) improving land management practices, especially in agriculture, forestry, and urban development sectors; and (3) conserving carbon-rich ecosystems at high risk of conversion to other uses that would release their stored carbon. 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.

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) is a program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Media Contact:

Audrey Martel
Communications & marketing assistant (B.Sc. Biology)
Nature Conservancy of Canada
877-876-5444 x6222

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Funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada