Conservationists are striving to double the amount of local land that is protected from housing and industry.
The Foothills Land Trust is working with three landowners on conservation easements that would see the trust’s land holdings double.
One of the properties in discussion for an easement is a 300 acre-area north of Priddis.
Foothills Land Trust treasurer Sandy Bruce said the property would be the group’s biggest holding.
“I’m very excited,” Bruce said. “It’s a prime property, right along Fish Creek. It has lots of riparian environment, which is always very special to preserve.”
Another land trust has an easement on a nearby property and Bruce is hopeful more landowners could be convinced to enter into conservation easements that will connect the protected lands.
“It gives an opportunity to approach other landowners to see if they will join in and provide a corridor – most importantly a wildlife corridor,” Bruce said. “It’s a beautiful property and, like many of the lands we deal with in the MD of Foothills, it’s subject to a lot of development pressure.”
The land trust has three conservation easements now and is currently negotiating with landowners on another three. In addition to the Priddis-area property, two others are in the MD of Foothills. One is a 70-acre, partly wooded property west of Millarville and the other is southwest of High River along the Highwood River.
Bruce said the Millarville property owner spoke with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the largest land trust in the country, which owns a property across the street. In the end they chose the Foothills Land Trust to continue their negotiations, he said.
“It’s more about relationships than anything,” Bruce said. “We are the local boys if you will. We see ourselves as neighbours talking to neighbours. Maybe that is why we clinched the deal.”
Near High River the conservancy is in talks that could see 90 acres of agricultural and riparian lands preserved. Bruce said it is currently grazing land and could continue to be used for that purpose with certain limitations.
“It will continue on being used for sustainable agriculture,” Bruce said. “It’s important in Alberta to encourage the sustainable use of the land.”
The Foothills Land Trust is working on an easement along the Highwood River in a section of land where homes were flooded out in 2013. The Province bought the land from homeowners, removed the houses and is set to hand it over to the MD, which is signing a conservation easement with the Foothills Land Trust.
Kirk Davis lived in the area west of High River when it flooded, and is now the vice-chair of the Foothills Land Trust. He said not-for-profit group Cows and Fish has done an assessment on the property that will provide them advice on how to restore the land.
Davis said the land trust will create a plan with the MD over the next two months.
“It’s very important because that natural area is an animal corridor,” he said. “It’s all cottonwood. It’s also High River’s filter system. High River lives off artesian wells, so we want to keep that area clean and natural.”