Prairie farmers and ranchers are key partners in one of the largest prairie grassland conservation efforts in Canadian history. Announced yesterday, the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative supports organizations that are working with local communities to deliver conservation solutions that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.
As one of the organizations involved, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) will work collaboratively with prairie farmers, ranchers and other landowners to protect grasslands and wetlands over the next five years. Grasslands and wetlands are essential to a resilient landscape, and it is through these partnerships that producers can be compensated for their ongoing conservation efforts.
“DUC has been working on the Canadian Prairies since our organization was established more than 80 years ago,” says Karla Guyn, chief executive officer for DUC. “We have a strong relationship with, and a deep respect for, the farmers and ranchers who steward the lands that support biodiversity in Canada. Working together, we can unite the needs of conservation and agriculture on this important working landscape.”
Over the next five years, the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative will contribute $5 million to DUC’s conservation easement program that will see more than 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of vital habitat protected. This contribution directly benefits agricultural producers while maintaining Canada’s biodiversity and providing habitat for a wide variety of species including waterfowl, songbirds and pollinators.
Conservation easements are legal agreements between a landowner and DUC to preserve natural features and resources on their land. Under these agreements, the habitats are protected in perpetuity, but the land remains in private ownership and in grassland-based agricultural production.
“It’s exciting to see what can be accomplished by bringing Canadians together to find innovative and sustainable approaches to restoring and protecting biodiversity,” said Tamara Rebanks, chair of the Weston Family Foundation. “Our Foundation is committed to supporting landscape-level efforts to find solutions to our environmental challenges and, ultimately, improve the well-being of Canadians.”
The funding DUC is receiving for its programs is part of nearly $25 million in grants that have been awarded to five organizations across the country. The Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative will support projects that conserve nearly four million acres of priority prairie grassland habitat by actively engaging landowners and agricultural producers.