Nature Conservancy of Canada protects 800 hectares in Alberta’s foothills
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced the protection of an 811-hectare (2,000-acre) portion of the White Moose Ranch, located just west of the Town of Turner Valley.
A conservation agreement with NCC has been placed on the property. This agreement voluntarily restricts the development rights on the property. This portion of White Moose Ranch will now be kept intact for the long term, allowing the landowner to continue operating his cattle ranch while maintaining the landscape in a natural, healthy, un-fragmented state.
The rolling foothills of southwestern Alberta are facing increasing pressure from urban developers. The location of this property is highly desirable due to its picturesque scenery and accessibility to the city of Calgary.
The southern foothills are a priority for NCC’s conservation work, as this region is one of the last pieces of relatively intact fescue grasslands in the province. It is estimated that less than five per cent of native fescue grasslands remain in Canada, making this area one of the most threatened regions in the country.
White Moose Ranch is adjacent to the Sheep River and located in the headwaters region of southern Alberta. The headwater area covers only four per cent of the province but provides fresh drinking water to 45 per cent of Albertans.
For landowner Stan Carscallen, the protection of this part of his beloved ranch is a dream come true. Carscallen grew up on his family’s ranch just south of Priddis, and as a young man he rode horseback across this conserved property and admired the natural landscape. Carscallen purchased the land in 1992 and operates a commercial beef cattle operation on the ranch. The conservation agreement will allow the cattle operation to continue while removing the pressure to ever subdivide the property or develop it.
This project was made possible thanks to the generosity of Stan Carscallen, his wife, Eva Friesen, and his sons, Brock and Gavin Carscallen. Other supporters include the Government of Alberta’s Land Stewardship Grant, and the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program.
“From the day our White Moose Ranch first acquired this breathtaking property in 1992, I knew that we needed to find a way to preserve it in its natural state. We share a three-mile boundary on our south side with the OH Ranch," explained Stan Carscallen, landowner. "Over the years, I frequently spoke with our friend, Doc Seaman, about realizing a mutual dream of working together to create a single, contiguous block of conserved land extending from the Highwood River to the Sheep River that could never be developed or subdivided. This donation completes that dream, and my family and I are proud to be part of that accomplishment.”
A portion of this project was donated to NCC under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.
This part of White Moose Ranch features a mix of native foothills fescue grasslands, montane forests and riparian (waterside) areas that provide habitat for wideranging mammals. It provides year-round habitat for elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, cougar, gray wolf, coyote, and bald and golden eagles. Grizzly bears, which are listed under the Species at Risk Act as Special Concern, are often seen on White Moose Ranch. Other species that have been sighted on the property include mountain sheep, Canada lynx, wolverine, American badger, red-tailed hawk and great horned owl.
The Sheep River, which borders the northern edge of this part of the ranch, provides important habitat for fish, including bull trout, a provincial species of special concern, and westslope cutthroat trout, both of which are listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act.
“The White Moose Ranch is a fantastic example of how working landscapes and conservation go hand in hand. Thanks to the generosity of the Carscallen family and the support of our donors and partners, the White Moose Ranch is now part of a landscape of conservation properties that have created a wildlife corridor between the Highwood and Sheep rivers. This important property will continue to provide habitat to the native plants and animals that live along Alberta’s eastern slopes," explained Bob Demulder, Regional Vice-President of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
“I’m proud of our government’s work to conserve Alberta’s incredible landscapes," added Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks. "We are preserving critical habitat and safeguarding these areas for future generations. I would like to thank the generous Alberta landowners who are working with land trust organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada to support conservation efforts on their property.”
• The eastern slopes of Alberta contain the last one per cent of the Canadian Great Plains that remain intact and still have enough space and habitat to sustain all of the species that historically roamed the grasslands, including bears, wolves, cougars and their prey.
• This ranch is directly adjacent or in close proximity to many other privately and publicly protected areas, including the OH Ranch Heritage Rangeland. Together, these areas have created a massive block of conservation lands that create a wildlife corridor approximately eight kilometres wide and 10 kilometres long, between the Highwood and Sheep rivers and adjacent to Kananaskis Country.
• Each working ranch conserved in this region benefits the ranching community, native wildlife and Alberta’s headwaters. NCC’s conservation agreement on this significant stretch of working rangeland will assist in the conservation of water quality, flood mitigation and the maintenance of an important watershed along Alberta’s southern foothills.
• To learn more about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit ec.gc.ca/pde-egp