About 800 hectares of the White Moose Ranch in the foothills of southern Alberta have been protected from development.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has signed a conservation agreement with the landowners to restrict development rights on the 2,000-acre property, just west of the town of Turner Valley, Alta.
The conservancy says the land, a 35-minute drive southwest of Calgary, is facing pressure from urban developers.
Officials say protecting the area is a priority because it’s one of the last pieces of relatively intact fescue grassland in Alberta.
They estimate that less than five per cent of native fescue grasslands remain in Canada, making the area one of the most threatened.
White Moose Ranch is also near the headwaters region of the Sheep River, which provides fresh drinking water to almost half of all Albertans.
It was protected by landowners Stan Carscallen — a prominent lawyer in Calgary — his wife Eva Friesen — the president and chief executive of the Calgary Foundation — and their sons Brock and Gavin.
“From the day our White Moose Ranch first acquired this breathtaking property in 1992, I knew that we needed to find a way to preserve it in its natural state,” Carscallen said in a news release.
Carscallen operates a commercial beef cattle operation on the ranch. The conservation agreement will allow the cattle operation to continue while removing the pressure to ever subdivide the property or develop it.
The land borders OH Ranch, a historic ranch founded in 1883 and bought in 1987 by Doc Seaman, a well-known oilman who was one of the original co-owners of the Calgary Flames.
Together, the areas create a wildlife corridor approximately eight kilometres wide and 10 kilometres long, between the Highwood and Sheep rivers and adjacent to Kananaskis Country.
Carscallen said that before Seaman died in 2009, they frequently spoke about protecting the land between the Highwood River and the Sheep River.
“This donation completes that dream, and my family and I are proud to be part of that accomplishment,” said Carscallen.
Other supporters of the White Moose Ranch project include the Alberta government through a land stewardship grant and the federal government through its natural areas conservation program.
© 2018 The Canadian Press