National Conservancy of Canada staff stand in the new protected area east of Buffalo Lake. (Contributed photo by Brent Calver)

Nature Conservancy of Canada announces new protected area near Stettler

Nearly 160 acres of land, home to rare birds and 100-year-old birch trees, was purchased and will be protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The land, located east of Buffalo Lake and 20 kms north of Stettler features 158 acres (64 hectares) grassland, aspen forest and wetlands. It is a provincially designated environmentally significant area and is a key habitat for waterfowl.

According to the NCC, it is one of the most productive shorebird staging habitats in Alberta. The area has about 70 to 80 breeding duck pairs per square mile, including the redhead, bufflehead, mallard, Northern pintail, American wigeon, lesser scaup and common goldeneye.

“It’s an important habitat, not only for the species who live there, but for the species who migrate over it,” said Carys Richards, NCC Alberta Region communications coordinator.

“Our team of scientists is trying to identify areas of high ecological value.”

Some of the birds who use Buffalo Lake as part of their migration include Foster’s terns, Virginia rails, yellow rails and great blue herons.

The land purchase was announced Friday morning in Calgary. The NCC said the purchase was done through a partnership with the Government of Canada, the business community and other groups.

Richards said the land has been well cared for over the years, most recently by Bob Thompson, a habitat biologist who has owned it for the last 20 years.

“My daughter and I used to skate on the big pond, we had picnics and went berry picking,” said Thomson.

“When she was little, I used to put her in a pack and walk around inspecting fences and she would hold my tools. I just hope that somehow kids can spend time out there — maybe some biology classes could experience nature first hand — and they could walk on the old trails and enjoy being outdoors.”

Thompson purchased the land from Harry Green, whose family owned and cared for the land for about a century.

The land is also home to mule deer, coyote, moose, red-tailed hawk and birch trees believed to be more than 100-years-old.

The NCC works to acquire land and create connectivity corridors that help with migratory patterns. Many of their protected areas are nearby provincial or federally protected areas. Near the Buffalo Lake area there are protected areas nearby, including some protected by Ducks Unlimited.

“It is now NCC’s responsibility to make sure this property and wetlands are cared for in the same way, to ensure that the habitat that makes this region so critical for waterfowl and shorebirds remains,” said Bob Demulder, NCC regional vice-president.

mcrawford@reddeeradvocate.com

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