Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips marked Earth Day at an event held at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, where she praised the important work of land trusts in helping to conserve some of Alberta’s most vulnerable landscapes.
“Albertans care deeply about their environment, and as we celebrate Earth Day the Alberta government is pleased to help fund projects that bring private landowners and land trusts together to ensure that ecologically sensitive areas are protected now and into the future.”
Under Budget 2016, the funding available through the Land Stewardship Fund will be $15 million per year over the next five years to support public and private conservation projects. The fund is used to support the Land Trust Grant Program – which promotes voluntary conservation of high-quality private land – and the Land Purchase Program, which is used to purchase land of high conservation value or importance to the province.
The announcement follows the 2015-16 round of Land Trust Grants, which saw six land trusts receive grants for projects on 22 parcels of land. These projects will help conserve more than 5,400 hectares of privately owned land.
These grants are used by land trusts to undertake stewardship activities or establish conservation easements – a legal agreement between landowners and organizations that protects agricultural, aesthetic, environmental and recreational values on their land from certain types of development.
Several projects managed by the Southern Alberta Land Trust Society, which also attended the event, will help preserve vital headwaters that supply drinking water to Calgary and Lethbridge, as well as essential waterways in the Castle.
“The Land Trust Grant Program has been a game changer for private land conservation in Alberta. In only four years, it has helped our organization preserve more than 2,000 hectares, or seven square miles, of Alberta’s most ecologically significant privately owned land.”
Applicants to the program must demonstrate that their conservation areas align with the overall conservation goals of Alberta Environment and Parks. This includes maintaining large areas of native landscapes, conserving connecting corridors for biodiversity or sustaining disconnected pockets of native habitats within fragmented landscapes. Applicants must also provide at least two-thirds of the final funding for the project.
The following land trusts received grants in 2015-16:
- Alberta Conservation Association – seven grants totaling $348,225
- Alberta Fish & Game Association – one grant totaling $22,975
- Ducks Unlimited Canada– three grants totaling $200,098
- Nature Conservancy of Canada – four grants totaling $3,807,659
- Southern Alberta Land Trust Society – four grants totaling $744,000
- Western Sky Land Trust – two grants totaling $765,100
Grant total: $5,888,057