A plot of land near Claresholm will be used as a conservation site.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced a 643-hectare parcel of land will be added to an existing plot, amounting to about 19,000 hectares total.

All in all, close to 7,700 acres of land is protected along the eastern slopes of the Porcupine Hills.

According to NCC spokesperson Sean Feagan, this new land is protected via conservation easements with private land owners.

"This is done by precluding such land uses as land clearing, wetland draining, and building new buildings. These restrictions are placed on the land title, so if that land owner ever chooses to sell the property, they will remain in place. So these are robust mechanisms to ensure the land will be protected in perpetuity."

Most of this new plot consists of grasslands, which are considered one of the most at-risk ecosystems in the world.

Feagan says the protection of this kind of land has numerous benefits.

"Any time we conserve grasslands is a big victory for nature, especially in this case where we are conserving hundreds of hectares. The grasses present are unique foothills varieties. They feature mainly foothills rough fescue, which is a large species of perennial grass. It's very sensitive to disturbance, which means conserving high-quality sites is important. It's also highly-coveted as a winter food source for ungulates but also ranchers. So it's important not just from an ecological standpoint, but from an economic standpoint."

This same parcel of land features 96 hectares of riverbank habitat.

At-risk species native to the area include elk, grizzly bears, the limber pine, and several species of grassland birds including the Sprague's pipit, the ferruginous hawk, and the sharp-tailed grouse.

The NCC has influenced the protection of over one million hectares of land in Canada over the last two years.