How the Nature Conservancy is preserving Saskatchew’s prairies

Written by By Tara Warner, Special to CNN

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is acquiring 5,000 acres of native grassland in southwestern Saskatchewan. This part of the province borders Alberta and Manitoba and is home to several species at risk from increased development and climate change.

This is the second land purchase the organization has made this summer. In July, they acquired 2,200 acres in northern Alberta. They purchased this Saskatchewan land during a workshop on conserving Saskatchewan’s remaining grasslands and wetlands. The event was hosted by Phil Gold, the executive director of the International Association of Nature Conservancy.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has been working on this issue for nearly 40 years. In total, it protects an area more than twice the size of Manhattan, says Tim Burkett, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

“I think it is fair to say that Saskatchewan has the world’s second largest remaining land area of woodland, woodlands and grasslands,” Burkett said.

“Saskatchewan is home to a lot of wild places, but there’s not a lot of room for people to settle in Saskatchewan,” said Gold.

Wildland is an official province of Canada designation that encompasses the vast majority of Saskatchewan. It is included in Saskatchewan’s natural areas and reserves.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada also developed conservation strategies for both the native grasslands and wetlands they are acquiring.

The organization will continue its current management of the land, and will also undertake a conservation transformation plan, making these places more accessible to the public and more important to industry, said Burkett.

Saskatchewan’s former conservation officer, Bill Trudell. “His work both with the conservation police and in restoring his own native homeland led to his appointment as a prairie ombudsman in 1967. He survived cancer in 1991, and passed away in 2000.”

Gold says the Nature Conservancy of Canada will not be totally disappearing. It will continue to acquire conservation lands. “In terms of scale, the amounts of land we acquired this year (approximately 19,500 acres) are nothing compared to the original Wildlife Property Act and how much our expansion has been in the last 10 years,” said Gold.

He adds, “It doesn’t mean that this is the end of us. We always have to be looking for new land, where we can bring new parcels of land under our protection, to be able to conserve and help to conserve and support the wildlife that call these areas home.”

Learn more about Saskatchewan’s wild lands and how they’re preserved on this interactive map and here.

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