Faith and Terry Gabert have ensured that future generations can enjoy their grasslands. (Sean Feagan photo)

Faith and Terry Gabert have ensured that future generations can enjoy their grasslands. (Sean Feagan photo)

New nature conservancy north of Stettler

An area surrounding Meeting Creek, north of Stettler, is being preserved for future generations.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced on Aug. 29 that a 129-hectare property that straddles Meeting Creek and is owned by Terry and Faith Gabert is going to be preserved “in perpetuity” following an agreement between the two parties.

The Gaberts have farmed the area since 1974, and the agreement between them and the NCC will see the property continue operating as “a working landscape while protecting its natural state.”

This property is a special place to us and our family. We enjoy this native prairie, especially the wildflowers in the spring and summer. The wild animals such as mule and white-tailed deer, moose and coyotes, beavers and birds such as hawks, meadowlarks, ducks and geese are wonderful to see, all the while the land provides marvellous grass, water and shelter for our grazing cattle,” said the Gaberts, in the media release.

“This easement ensures that the land will remain wild forever. We hope that other owners of grasslands will consider protecting their lands this way.”

According to the NCC media release, the Gaberts have donated the full value of the property to NCC, allowing it to continue its efforts in Alberta nature conservation.

The NCC notes that the region in the southern portion of Camrose County only retains about five per cent of its natural cover and that the conservation of the Gabert-Meeting Creek property will prevent further loss.

Consisting primarily of Prairie grasslands, the ecology of the region supports a number of plant and animal species, and assists with carbon storage and water management.

The area of the newly conserved area is home to the Sprague’s pipit, a songbird listed in the Species At Risk Act as threatened. Since 1970, the pipit has decreased in numbers by nearly 90 per cent, and preserving its habitat will assist its recovery.

“NCC extends its gratitude to the Gaberts for their commitment to conservation and for their role in protecting this ecologically valuable property,” states the release.

“Their partnership ensures that the land’s natural features, including native Prairie grasslands, riparian habitats and diverse wildlife, will be safeguarded for generations to come.”

The NCC is currently working on a project which will conserve more than 500,000 hectares by 2030.

“Through programs like the Natural Heritage Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program, the Government of Canada is making progress toward its goal of conserving a quarter of Canada’s land and water by 2025, working toward 30 percent of each by 2030,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“By working with partners such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and thanks to generous landowners such as Terry and Faith, we are helping to protect the natural environment in Alberta and across the country. Protecting prairie grasslands plays a vital role in helping to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and contributes to carbon storage, soil conservation, water regulation, and the recovery of species at risk.”

According to the NCC release, native prairie grasslands in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have lost up to 82 per cent of their footprint.