By Liz Bruckner
It’s been 32 years since the Alberta Fish and Game Association introduced the Wildlife Trust Fund, and thanks to two significant donations made within the past few months, the program’s goal of minimizing the loss of critical habitat within the province continues to gain momentum.
“The first donation came from TransAlta, which gifted 64 acres of lakefront property on the south side of Lake Wabamun to the Wildlife Trust Fund,” says Michael Short, host of Let’s Go Outdoors.
With a portion of the land once used as a mine settling pond, the reclaimed area, dubbed the Beaver Creek Conservation Site, was cleared out, soil was tested and biologists were brought in to ensure that land-related issues wouldn’t arise in the future.
“What we see there now is a vibrant wetland community, home to 11 ecological communities. Each of these provide habitat to a host of critters, including mule deer, red fox, coyotes, beavers, muskrats, birds, fish, amphibians and more,” he says.
And the advantages don’t stop there. On top of myriad ecological benefits and a “no development” approach to caring for the land – the Alberta Fish and Game Association’s goal is to ensure donated land to the program transitions back to as natural a state as possible – it’s also open to the public for outdoor recreational day use.
“Visitors aren’t allowed to undertake specific activities like camp or build fires, but they are encouraged to access the site by foot to better protect the wildlife habitat in and around the area,” says Short.
The second notable donation came via Bernie Letourneau, a private donor who worked with the Alberta Conservation Association to transfer the land. One of the largest on provincial record, the 80-acre property located six kilometres south of Stony Plain along Highway 799 on Longhurst Lake, has been deemed ecologically significant by the Ecological Gifts Program and will be home to an incredible number of critters, both large and small.
“In the case of this particular donation, the native habitat supports a greater diversity of birds and water fowl because the land is centered on a sizeable lake. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for many wild animals, including moose, white-tail deer and woodpeckers to abound, and the same goes for a great variety of aquatic species.”
“The addition of these two sites brings the total number of conservation areas in the province to 756, and that’s fantastic any way you look at it,” says Short. While he adds that there’s still a long way to go in terms of protecting habitat for critters throughout Alberta, that the province offers a variety of protected areas for both humans and animals to enjoy is noteworthy.
“Whether you take in the sites with a picnic or to do some fishing, bird watching or even picking berries, having such a host of destinations that allow visitors to simply enjoy the land is pretty great.”