Calgary, Alberta – The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has finalized the protection of a 3,034-acre (1,228-hectare) ranch in Alberta’s Porcupine Hills.
The Welsch Ranch lies on the southern flank of the Porcupine Hills, 20 kilometres north of the town of Pincher Creek. Situated on a south-facing valley overlooking the Oldman River Valley, this scenic location is under significant pressure for residential development.
The property will now be protected in perpetuity though a conservation easement established with NCC by Reno and Corine Welsch.
A conservation agreement is a solution for landowners who still want to retain ownership of their property, but are invested in long-term conservation. It is a legally binding contract recognized by both provincial and federal law, and remains in place even if ownership of the land changes in the future.
In Alberta’s southern foothills, this partnership between NCC and landowners will help to maintain the ecological integrity of the region as a working landscape.
The Welsch family has been ranching in southern Alberta since 1947. Reno Welsch’s father immigrated from Germany in 1929 and invested in his own property in 1947.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Reno started ranching in 1971, and in 1988, Reno and Corine moved to the Porcupine Hills, where they established the Welsch Ranch.
They have been living and working on the land ever since and are currently in the process of handing the property over to their daughter, who will continue to care for the land with the same commitment and dedication that her parents did.
The conservation agreement on the Welsch property will restrict further subdivision, land fragmentation and cultivation of native cropland. By preventing the drainage of wetlands or the alteration to riverside areas it will not only conserve habitat for a wide diversity of plant and animal species, but also help maintain water quality while assisting in flood mitigation in the Oldman River basin.
This property is also located in a wildlife corridor that facilitates the movement of large carnivores such as bears and cougars across private and Crown lands.
Other species found on this property include the COSEWIC-designated endangered limber pine, a five-needled pine that can live up to 1,000 years, and ferruginous hawk, which is listed as threatened in Alberta under the Species at Risk Act. Sometimes found in Alberta’s prairie region during the summer months, ferruginous hawks are one of only two birds of prey species that use grasslands as their main habitat.
This project was made possible with the support of the Welsch family, the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Government of Alberta through the Land Trust Grant Program, and donors. A portion of this project was donated to NCC under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.
“This conservation agreement gives me the freedom to run the ranch the way I always wanted it run, and to protect it for future generations—and not necessarily just my future generations. It also protects the land for agricultural use at a time where agricultural land, especially good ranch land, is getting harder and harder to find.”
-Reno Welsch, landowner
“This project is yet another addition to a growing mosaic of private and Crown land conservation initiatives in the Porcupine Hills area of southwestern Alberta. Over the past 20 years, NCC and other land trusts have assembled more than 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) of private conservation lands along Alberta’s eastern slopes. When combined with adjacent Crown lands, these conserved lands provide habitat for a wide diversity of plant and animal species while maintaining water quality and mitigating floods in the Oldman River basin.”
-Bob Demulder, Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Regional Vice President in Alberta
“I want to thank the Welsch family and the other donors for helping to make this important conservation initiative possible. The Government of Canada is proud to support their efforts through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and the Ecological Gifts Program. Working together, we will protect this land from development and benefit the many wildlife species that are found here.”
-Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- This ranch is located in close proximity to several other properties conserved by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, including the Waldron Ranch and the King Ranch. This conservation easement adds to the substantial investment NCC has made to conserve one of the largest intact blocks of native grassland in Alberta.
- The conservation easement on the Welsch Ranch will ensure the conservation of several miles of riverbank habitat of an unnamed creek that feeds into the Oldman River.
- These grasslands located in the southern foothills provide essential ecosystem services by filtering water, protecting soil and providing forage for both wild animals and domestic livestock.
- To learn more about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit http://www.ec.gc.ca/pde-egp/
About the Nature Conservancy of Canada
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation’s leading private, not-for-profit land conservation organization, protecting vital natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped protect more than 2.8 million acres (1.1 million hectares), coast to coast. In Alberta, we have conserved more than 94,700 hectares (234,000 acres) of this province’s most ecologically significant land and water.
The Government of Alberta created the Alberta Land Trust Grant program in 2011—a program designed to support land trusts such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada to assist in the purchase of conservation easements on ecologically significant landscapes.
The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership managed and directed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). To date, $345 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $500 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners.