The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is a leader in private land conservation in Canada. The Foundation’s contributions to leading conservation organizations have resulted in the preservation of more than 100,000 acres of ecologically significant land from coast to coast.
The Foundation’s conservation mandate is to be a catalyst for innovative approaches to conservation that revitalize Canadians’ connection with nature and advance the preservation and restoration of natural spaces. Funding is directed to projects that model excellence and can be replicated across the country.
The Foundation has identified three areas where we believe grant-making efforts will help to meet program goals:
- Protecting critical habitats and the species that call them home
- Enabling hands-on environmental education
- Enhancing green spaces in proximity to urban centres
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is proud of its significant role in preserving Canada’s natural legacy. This work in land conservation, in both rural and urban areas, demonstrates what private individuals and family foundations can achieve.
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation made a lead gift of $1 million in 2012 to the revitalization of the Garrison Common at the Fort York National Historic Site. The fort is situated on 17.4 hectares of land, a huge expanse on the western edge of the downtown core.
The Garrison Common is part of the battlefield where the Battle of York was fought in 1813. This long-neglected patch of green between a highway and condo towers will become an amazing urban green space and a destination for the entire city and a unique public space for the nearby community to enjoy.
Since the early 1980's, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has contributed to land securement and stewardship projects across Canada which include the following:
- In partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, support for high-level Canadian scientists and graduate students has allowed for the creation of a digital public library of stewardship and planning materials which have informed many conservation actions. These, along with the completion of conservation blueprints, help to set conservation priorities from coast to coast.
- Major achievements in land conservation have included the protection of over 4,300 acres in Norfolk County in Southwestern Ontario, work at the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area in southwest Saskatchewan, and 20 km of walking trails at Musquash Estuary in New Brunswick. To date more than 18,000 students have participated in the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie studies program. The Foundation’s leadership support of the Waterton Park Front has resulted in the protection of over 35,000 acres – one of the largest private conservation efforts in Canada.
The Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program provides farmers with the opportunity to have up to 20 per cent
of their farm land revitalized and reclaimed by nature. Through ALUS’ integrated and targeted approach to stewardship and conservation, unproductive land is restored to healthy, functioning ecosystems. Farmers receive payments to deliver a variety of environmental benefits such as improved water quality and wildlife and pollinator habitats, cleaner air and carbon sequestration. Support for the expansion of ALUS
across the country speaks to the Foundation’s commitment to fostering innovative solutions to land conservation in Canada.
Protecting and stewarding the land is a first step. It is important to raise awareness of the importance of ecologically significant land through interpretation and outreach initiatives. Environmental education is therefore, a fundamental part of the Foundation’s conservation work. For example:
- Through a partnership with Waterton Lakes National Park, 800 students each year visit Waterton Park Front to learn of the ecological issues facing Southern Alberta. School groups from the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge also travel to Waterton to participate in an outdoor experience that increases environmental awareness. Visitors of all ages are engaged at the Weston Family Conservation Centre at Waterton Park Front, Alberta. For more information about student visits to the Ecosystem Investigator Camp click here to watch a video.
- The Weston Family Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow program gives inner-city children the opportunity to go on an overnight trip to a local field centre. The project was initiated by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) who currently works with three program sites serving more than 1,700 children each year. The Foundation has funded a provincial expansion which will support an additional five centres across Ontario, benefiting more than 4,500 students over the next three years. This two-day outdoor experience teaches students about the importance of biodiversity and how to reduce their carbon footprint. By combining the residential field centre visit with in-school programming, a groundbreaking format for environmental programs has emerged. Lessons and activities that were designed for one field centre have now been adopted by other regions. The “Weston Model” has emerged as a vehicle for enabling students to experience nature and then take responsibility in their own communities for sustainable practices. As one Grade 6 student stated, “We have changed our habits!”
The Foundation is pleased to expand its conservation mandate to include the preservation of accessible, natural green spaces in urban centres, with a current focus in Toronto. Additional information will be available in the coming months.