The grasslands at NCC's Old Man on His Back site stretch across the horizon. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

The grasslands at NCC's Old Man on His Back site stretch across the horizon. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

Marjorie Cameron (Photo by Nathan Elson)

Marjorie Cameron (Photo by Nathan Elson)

Marjorie Cameron

Leave it to the birds

For Marjorie Cameron, the Prairies are a place of wonder. The views are long, the colours are subtle. The skies can be breathtaking. Unfortunately, little remains of the original, complex prairie environment. Marjorie says she has been privileged to explore some of these fragments of prairie on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) partnership projects at the Sandstone Ranch and the Waldron in Alberta, and Old Man on His Back in Saskatchewan.

“Our pasture was unbroken shortgrass prairie in the Eagle Creek valley, in Saskatchewan. It was about a mile away from our house and was a favourite place for us children to explore,” recalls Marjorie. “There was always something to see: saskatoon bushes in sheltered areas, meadowlarks and hawks, wild roses, lichen-covered rocks and cacti. Every footstep released scents of sage and dry grass. The smell of sage never fails to bring back memories of that special place.” Marjorie Cameron’s life-long passion for the Canadian Prairies is helping ensure a future for greater sage-grouse.

Greater sage-grouse (Photo by Gordon Court)

Greater sage-grouse (Photo by Gordon Court)

But the prairies Marjorie grew up on have changed and, unfortunately, have diminished. More than 70 per cent of Canada’s prairie grasslands have been converted to crops, cities and roads. As the habitat shrinks, so do populations of the wildlife that rely on it. The endangerment of grassland habitat in Canada has cascaded into the endangerment of many grassland species, including greater sage-grouse.

Marjorie has supported numerous conservation projects facilitated by NCC to protect grasslands in Canada. It is important to her that these areas are protected. “Vast areas of grassland have been lost already and climate change is affecting what remains,” she says. “Biodiversity is increasingly under threat. Future generations deserve the opportunity to experience the beauty and complexity of the areas that remain.”

“I want people to visit NCC’s projects to see that it is possible and essential to protect the lands.”

Part of Marjorie’s gift has been allotted to NCC’s greater sage-grouse recovery program. In partnership with the Calgary Zoo, this five-year program aims to restore the historic populations of the species within two protected locations, one of which is owned by NCC. “The species that adapted to the grasslands can only survive if they have access to the habitat they require,” says Marjorie as she reflects on the program.

With the help of Marjorie’s gift, NCC purchased grassland property last year to provide a suitable environment in which to release sage-grouse. By supporting habitat protection, Marjorie is doing her part to care for the Canadian landscape she has loved her entire life. “We have an opportunity to protect some fragile and beautiful areas,” she says. “Without our help, they will be lost forever.” It is her hope that as others go out and explore nature, they feel the same way she does when the long prairie grasses skim her pant legs. “I want people to visit NCC’s projects to see that it is possible and essential to protect the lands.”

Canadians like Marjorie, and their passion for our country’s natural landscapes, are building a natural legacy for today and for tomorrow.

Marjorie Cameron was one of the conservation heroes who made our work in 2018-19 possible. Click here to read our annual report >

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Funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada