‘The best future’ for flora, fauna . . . and humans too

Enbridge investment drives $800,000 donation to Nature Conservancy of Canada for preservation of Beaver Hills, the ‘spine’ of Alberta’s biosphere

Tourists and Alberta residents aren’t the only ones flocking to the Beaver Hills biosphere area for recreational purposes.

More than 150 species of waterfowl stop over every year in the boreal wetlands region east of Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton—and given those numbers, Beaver Hills has rightly earned the honor of being Canada’s first established bird sanctuary, as well as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation.

In 2017, the Nature Conservancy of Canada launched a Keep the Beaver Hills Wild campaign, focusing conservation efforts on the most at-risk parts of the 1,572-square-kilometer expanse. Some of the area is already protected as provincial and national parks; other sections are privately owned.

Right down the center lies a vital strip of wilderness. Andi Romito, Edmonton-based senior development officer with the NCC, calls it the “spine of the biosphere,” explaining it provides a natural corridor to wildlife searching for food, habitat and breeding areas. It’s a key area of focus for the NCC’s campaign.

Thanks to a recent $200,000 Fueling Futures donation from Enbridge, the NCC is in the process of negotiating for the protection of two pieces of land along that spine, including a 160-acre, privately owned property.

The world is currently celebrating Earth Week, and the 2022 theme for Earth Day is “invest in our planet.” At Enbridge, sustainability is central to everything we do. We’re supporting society’s transition to a lower-carbon future by pioneering new energy sources while continuing to provide access to affordable, reliable and increasingly sustainable low-emissions energy.

Enbridge’s Fueling Futures program supports sustainability projects that help improve, grow and nurture our environment. By providing this $200,000 grant to the NCC’s American partner, the NCC has been able to leverage a three-to-one match through the North American Wetland Conservation Act.

That’s turned a $200,000 donation into an $800,000 investment in the future of Alberta’s biosphere—and represents the largest donation on the Beaver Hills project to date.

With that funding in place, negotiations to place an easement on the land are expected to move forward quickly, Romito explains.

It’s another example of collaboration, which has been a hallmark of the Beaver Hills conservation project. “The NCC is holding hands with groups of other people,” Romito says. “It’s not just the conservation organizations, it’s not just the government entities, working to conserve the area. It’s an entire community.”

Under the terms of an easement, landowners continue to work their land, but agree to do so sustainably. “This is the future of conservation,” Romito adds. “People need to keep living on the land, and we can move ahead with stewardship work and land restoration work.”

The NCC’s efforts have already led to results in Beaver Hills—wildlife is returning to the area, and at-risk populations are growing.

“The flyways will be safe, and the wetlands will be intact for the animals. And the people who live there stay on their acreages and live their best life,” Romito says.

“I heartily think that what we’re doing in Beaver Hills is what we need to be doing globally to make sure we’ll get the best future we can.”

(TOP PHOTO: The Beaver Hills region of east-central Alberta. Photo by Brent Calver.)