The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced a 255-hectare conservation project just outside Waterton Lakes National Park.

The area is home to a variety of at-risk species like the American badger, bobolink and horned grebe.

The land is located in the Municipal District of Pincher Creek and Cardston County and serves as an important corridor for a variety of wildlife including the grizzly bear.

These corridors are important for animals to access different habitats throughout the year. The NCC notes that elk for example, in the summer will access high-elevation habitats within the mountains, then in the fall and winter, move down into the lower elevations to breed and access winter forage. 

Tom Lynch-Staunton, Regional Vice-President, Nature Conservancy of Canada says Waterton Lakes National Park is renowned for its incredible wildlife.

"These species rely on an area much larger than that park itself throughout the year. By conserving this property, we are ensuring it will continue to offer habitat and safe movement routes for these incredible animals, while also being available to the livestock of local ranchers for grazing."

This new project supports important habitats, including fescue grasslands, forests, wetlands and riparian (riverside) ecosystems along the Waterton River. 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada notes that fescue grasslands are a priority for conservation, as they are sensitive to disturbances, outcompeted by introduced plant species and slow to regenerate. They provide important habitats for grassland birds, sequester carbon and provide forage for grazing wildlife and livestock.

In a press release, NCC points out that the riparian habitats on the project are also significant, as they support high biodiversity, help protect water quality and have received some of the least protection throughout Alberta. Riverside areas face considerable threats, as they are coveted for residential development and other land uses.

It says cattle ranching has sustained the natural value of this project. It will remain a working landscape for local ranchers, to the benefit of both nature and the economy. A grazing management plan will be developed to ensure this is done sustainably.

This project showcases how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Banff National Park), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing Canadians and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation.

Portions of Cenovus Energy Inc's $3.7 million donation to NCC is being allocated toward this project. 

NCC was also able to access funding under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant program.

Other funding for the project was made possible by funding from the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund.