June 14th, 2024

NCC project seeks to protect The Yarrow

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on October 26, 2022.

NCC photo by Brent Calver The Nature Conservancy of Canada has launched a $6.9 million campaign to conserve The Yarrow Ranch, and with it, a complex array of habitats.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

A major campaign has been launched by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to save a unique landscape, home to abundant wildlife located near Waterton Lakes National Park. 

Near the hamlet of Twin Butte in southwestern Alberta is a property called The Yarrow, which features a complex array of pristine habitats including grasslands, wetlands, creeks and mixed forests in a 1,650-hectare piece of land.

Due to its many different habitats, relatively unaltered state and southerly location, The Yarrow supports one of the highest number of species recorded at a potential NCC conservation property in Alberta. This includes 27 wildlife species of provincial or national significance, such as grizzly bear which is considered threatened in Alberta, bobolink (considered threatened) and the little brown bat (considered endangered).

“It started with the vision of the Fischer-Cuthbertson family – people who care deeply about the land,” Catherine Grenier, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada said during an online news conference Tuesday.

“They’ve shown how ranching and conservation can work together to support communities, livelihood and nature at the same time.”

The family said in a statement that their late father, Charlie Fischer, bought the property after he retired from the oil and gas industry in 2008.

“He never stopped being awed of what a beautiful place in Alberta it is,” said the statement. “He took great interest in sustainable grazing and ensuring that his ranch was thoughtfully managed for nature.”

“Knowing how special Charlie felt this location was, it is meaningful to our family to see our ranch being conserved by NCC in a way that sustains the land’s natural beauty.”

In order to conserve the Yarrow Ranch NCC is launching a campaign to raise $6.9 million.

NCC argues that conserving private land in this area in partnership and collaboration with local ranchers will ensure the natural rangeland there stays intact, to the benefit of this ecosystem. Maintaining a sustainable, working landscape for raising cattle and other livestock will help keep this land healthy into the future. 

“We are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to conserve this precious landscape, and work with the Fischer family to fulfill their vision to keep its stunning beauty and habitat intact. These extremely important projects would not be possible without the generosity of donors, support from our provincial and federal governments, and of course, the landowners who share our conservation values and vision,” said Tom Lynch-Staunton, NCC regional vice-president in a release.

The Yarrow’s importance also extends beyond providing wildlife habitat. Its many wetlands hold vast amounts of water, helping to both reduce the severity of drought and buffer the impact of flooding in the area and downstream. They also store carbon, filter nutrients and prevent erosion.

Two important Eastern Slopes streams are found on the property: Yarrow Creek and Drywood Creek. Besides providing fish habitat, these creeks transport water from Alberta’s southern headwaters to the Waterton Reservoir, supporting the people and economy of southwestern Alberta.

This reservoir outflows into the Waterton River, a tributary of the Oldman River, itself part of the South Saskatchewan River Watershed, which flows across the Canadian Prairies to Lake Winnipeg, and eventually to Hudson’s Bay.  

The NCC states in a release that by conserving The Yarrow, NCC is building on decades of collaboration with landowners, partners and donors in the region, through which over 100 square kilometres of natural landscapes and biodiversity will remain intact. This area, known as the Waterton Park Front, provides a critical buffer to public protected lands nearby, including Waterton Lakes National Park, Castle Wildland and Castle Provincial Park .

This project has been initiated by funding from the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, and the Government of Alberta’s Land Trust Grant Program. A portion of the project was donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. This program provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.

The project was also funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. 

The land conservation project in Alberta comes a few weeks before the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, where world leaders are gathering to determine a new set of goals to protect and restore nature.

It includes the conservation of at least 30 per cent of land and sea areas globally.

“NCC will be there,” said Grenier. “We will be proud to show the world that we know how to deliver impact for nature. We will show them results like The Yarrow as an example of what we can do when we work together.”

– with files from Colette Derworiz of The Canadian Press

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