Another three properties in Alberta's Porcupine Hills region are adding to the conserved lands in the area.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has announced that three landowners in the area have agreed to have their lands conserved as working landscapes for cattle grazing.

Located west of Claresholm, Porcupine Hills stretches as far south as the Head-Smashed-In buffalo jump, and are described as a "transitional zone" between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.

The NCC has been working to conserve land in the region since the 1990s, with over 37,000 hectares now under conservation in the region.

NCC communications manager Sean Feagan says there are a few factors that make Porcupine Hills a priority for conservation.

"It's remarkably intact, meaning that there's lots of natural habitat remaining, there's not a lot of human development, not a lot so roads. So it makes for a great opportunity to conserve nature... One of the cool things about this area is that it contains a nice mix of different types of habitat. A lot of this area is grassland, specifically fescue grasslands, that are dominated by one species of grass called rough fescue. It's actually our provincial grass. There's lots of creeks running through that are often surrounded by forest."

He says part of that is due to unique geological history.

"One interesting thing about the area is that parts of it weren't glaciated, so you get some unique landforms and habitats due to that. A lot of different variation in terms of elevation and landform."

porcupine hills, credit brent calverPhoto credit, Brent Calver.

The conservation agreements between NCC and the three area landowners will see the properties remain private, but will ensure they're not disturbed, says Faegan.

"These agreements will ensure that the natural state of these lands are maintained so they won't be subdivided into smaller parcels, developed into things like housing, or converted into something like cropland. Those conservation easements, it's one fo the main ways that we work to conserve land here in Alberta. They are in perpetuity, these restrictions are added to the land titles, so should those landowners ever sell those properties, those restrictions will stay in place."

One of the new properties to be conserved features a buffalo jump, which Faegan says illustrates how cultural sites also benefit from conservation.

The NCC recently launched an initiative called the Prairie Grasslands Action Plan, with a goal of conserving 500,000 hectares of land by 2030.

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