Nature conservancy grows in Saskatchewan

Nature Conservancy Canada has added to its Saskatchewan holdings with the acquisition of the Wideview Complex near Grasslands National Park.

The 3,000-acre parcel lies between the west and east blocks of the park and was bought from a landowner in the Milk River Basin with funding from the federal and provincial governments.

That brings the organization’s holdings in the province to more than 150,000 acres.

Jennifer McKillop, the NCC’s director of conservation in Sask­atchewan, said temperate grasslands are the world’s most endangered ecosystem, with more than half lost worldwide and 80 percent lost in Saskatchewan.

“The Nature Conservancy of Canada is conserving the best of what’s left,” she told those gathered for the announcement.

Wideview’s rolling hills and native grass will continue to be used by ranchers for grazing while providing habitat for the many species at risk in the region. McKillop said large contiguous tracts of grassland offer the best protection.

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“Grazing is one of our most important management tools,” she said. “We need to have cattle graze that land in order to replicate the historic bison grazing.”

The $2 million project includes money for land costs and ongoing management, she said.

NCC commits to managing projects in perpetuity and endowment funds are set aside for that.

The organization also undertakes annual inspections, wildlife and plant surveys and looks after fences and other infrastructure costs.

Wideview will be accessible to the public, on foot.

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Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, on behalf of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, said this is an example to the world.

“Canada’s leadership on conservation and environmental action has recently been recognized by the United Nations, which named Canada as the host country for World Environment Day,” he said.

The theme for the June 5 event is Connecting People With Nature and Goodale said Wideview does just that.

The federal funds of $1.1 million were provided through the Habitat Stewardship Program and Natural Areas Conservation Program.

The provincial government also contributed through the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund.

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