By Lethbridge Herald on January 6, 2024.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has announced the conservation of important grasslands in southwestern Alberta, near Police Outpost Provincial Park.
This 323-hectare property, conserved through a partnership between NCC and the property’s owners, the Bectell family, marks a significant step in conserving both the region’s natural heritage and its ranching traditions, says the NCC.
The Bectell family are known for their cow-calf ranching operation and sustainable rotational grazing practices dating to 1917. This new conservation agreement ensures the Bectell’s property will continue to operate as a working landscape for cattle production while maintaining its remarkable ecological integrity.
Cattle are important to grassland health. When properly managed, their grazing behaviour approximates the historic actions of bison. Many species need shorter grass to survive, while others need longer grass. This disturbance, along with fire, helps maintain the health of grasslands and creates diverse habitats for many plants and animals.
This project further expands NCC’s efforts in the area, which now form a contiguous block of almost 2,900 hectares of conserved lands west of the St. Mary River near the Canada-US border.
A key feature of this newly conserved property is its extensive Prairie grasslands, which make up nearly 80 per cent of its area. These grasslands provide vital functions, such as water filtration, carbon storage and soil protection.
The Bectell’s property also provides habitat to many different species of wildlife, including several listed under Canada’s Species At Risk Act, including ferruginous hawk, grizzly bear, horned grebe and American badger. The property also features populations of western blue iris, an at-risk plant species.
This conservation project was made possible by the Bectell family, 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, by the Government of Alberta, through the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and by private contributors, including the Weston Family Foundation, through the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative.
It was also supported by the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides significant tax benefits for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically sensitive land.
NCC’s Prairie Grasslands Action Plan is an unprecedented effort to rally
“This partnership is a testament to the power of collaborative conservation efforts. The Bectell family’s commitment to protecting their land and its environmental values will undoubtedly leave a legacy. Yet again, stewardship-minded ranchers in Alberta are helping lead us toward our nation’s ambitious conservation goals,” says Tom Lynch-Staunton, Regional Vice-President, Nature Conservancy of Canada.
“These grasslands have been here for thousands of years, and if we take care of them, they will continue to benefit wildlife and people. Our family would never want to see this property subdivided and turned into acreages. We’re pleased to know our land will remain intact and continue to be managed in the way we have done for generations,” adds landowner Jeff Bectell.