Protected lands expand around Waterton Lakes National Park

An image of the Belly River. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has a piece of land that includes part of the river, to protect it for animal and plant species. Courtesy: Brent Calver. Courtesy: Brent Calver

A new purchase by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will grow the area of protected lands around Waterton Lakes National Park.

106 acres have been acquired along the Belly River outside the park, in a purchase from a ranching family.

“You go north, there’s the Castle (provincial parks), Kananaskis, Banff, Jasper — so this area really links those wide-ranging space together,” NCC Alberta region communications manager Carys Richards said.

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The land will be used as part of a “natural buffer zone” by the group, intended to protect core habitats for many animals and plants.

Two thirds of the Belly River property are native grasslands, which many species rely on.

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“(It’s) Canada’s most endangered ecosystem,” Richards said. “85 per cent of all Canada’s endangered species need grasslands at some point in their lives, so from a conservation standpoint it’s important to keep these areas intact.”

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NCC has made conservation around the park boundaries a priority, helping to conserve over 44,000 acres around Waterton Lakes.

“By putting these conservation measures in and creating this network of conservation lands, we’re going to ensure our children and our grandchildren and future generations see this area the same way that we do today,” Richards said.

The area is home to multiple species, including grizzly bear, wolf, cougar, wolverine, Canadian lynx and their prey.

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