The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has supported a number of important land conservation and stewardship programs. A sample of these is detailed below.
Waterton Park Front, Alberta
In 1997, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)embarked on an ambitious project to conserve critical habitat adjacent to the Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta. The Waterton Park Front lies within the Crown of the Continent, a critical wildlife movement corridor within the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation (Y2Y) region.
Several different ecosystems meet in this region, creating a special biosphere comprised of Wetlands, lakes, rivers, prairie grasslands, aspen parkland, montane and sub-alpine forests. As a result, a wide variety of wildlife, plants and wildflowers can be found throughout the Park. This is prime habitat for grizzly and black bear, cougar, wolf, moose, elk, white-tailed and mule deer.
From May through September, the Weston Family Conservation Centre welcomes visitors and offers activities for school groups and nature enthusiasts. Through a partnership with the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta more than 300 elementary students and their teachers walk the trail and learn of Waterton’s unique ecosystem each year.
The Waterton Park Front Project, an ecological gem in southwestern Alberta, was celebrated at the 2007 Emerald Awards for Environmental Excellence. Today, this long term project, involving more than 50 properties, has resulted in the protection of more than 130 square kilometers (30,000 acres) of key conservation and ranching lands surrounding Waterton Lakes National Park.
Waterton Park Front is one of the largest private land conservation initiatives in Canadian history.
Campbell River Estuary, British Columbia
The Campbell River is one of the world's top salmon-producing rivers. Its estuary provides key habitat for Chinook, Coho, Pink, Chum and Sockeye Salmon. Besides its essential role in maintaining salmon stocks, the estuary also provides important habitat for at least 125 species of birds.
The Campbell River was a significant resource to the forest industry in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. By 1977, 84.4% of the estuary’s land base was being utilized commercially, primarily for milling and storing logs.
In 2002, recognizing the ecological significance of the area, the Foundation helped to initiate a comprehensive estuary restoration program. Foundation support enabled creation of salt marshes in the intertidal area. This required the removal of asphalt pavement and concrete forms from Baikie Island. An interpretative trail was also constructed to create a level crushed-rock multi-purpose trail between Baikie Island and the Raven Channel trail.
This program has aided in rejuvenating the biological productivity and ecological integrity of the Campbell River estuary.
Tatlayoko Lake Valley, British Columbia
The Tatlayoko Lake Valley is a low land corridor between British Columbia’s coastal rainforests and the dry, desert-like conditions of the central interior. The Valley provides an important migratory corridor for wildlife such as Trumpeter Swan, geese and other birds, and valuable habitat for Black and Grizzly Bear, Mule Deer and Wolf.
In 2006, it was believed that the Valley faced threats to large animal migration that might compromise the ecological integrity of region. The Foundation helped to launch a long-term research program to observe and assess the biodiversity of the Tatlayoko Lake Valley. This scientific approach to enumerate the grizzly bear population and migratory bird populations, and monitor the valley’s freshwater ecosystem can be used to confirm that key biodiversity targets are met.
Through the support of the Foundation, the Tatlayoko Lake Valley will remain one of the largest intact and undisturbed wild areas in the province of British Columbia.
Burnley-Carmel Natural Area, Ontario
In 2002, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation contributed toward the securement and stewardship of 784 acres (317 hectares) of conservation lands at Burnley-Carmel, in the Rice Lake Plains Natural Area on the Oak Ridges Moraine in Ontario.
The Oak Ridges Moraine is the high ground separating the watersheds of Lake Ontario from Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay. This landform, stretching 160 kilometres from the Niagara Escarpment in the west, contains a number of critically important sites that must be managed to adequately protect Canada’s ecological diversity. The Moraine’s older-growth forests, wetlands, sand barrens and and oak savannas are of particular ecological importance, and Burnley-Carmel supports significant areas of all these ecosystems.
Of the one million square kilometers of tallgrass prairie and savanna habitat that once covered central Canada and the United States, less than one percent remains. It is one of the rarest ecosystems in North America.
Mount Sutton, Quebec
The Sutton Mountains, situated approximately one hour from Montreal, Quebec, are the beginning of the majestic Appalachian Range and one of the last extensive forest wilderness areas remaining in southern Quebec.
Building on the Foundation's leadership, the Nature Conservancy of Canada initiated the Sutton Mountain Range project in 2002 as a large-scale conservation initiative to protect the diversity and livelihood of an ecosystem threatened by recreational and residential development due to its proximity to such a dense metropolis.
The Foundation was one of the first to contribute toward NCC's securement of sensitive land situated within the interior of the Sutton Mountain Range. The area is known for its vital role in the Range’s biodiversity and essential wilderness with a mix of forests ranging from 70 to 120 years old. Conservation efforts have guarded the Sutton Mountain Range as an essential wildlife corridor for the Black Bear, Moose, and Bobcat, contiguous with the Green Mountain in Vermont.
Musquash River Estuary, New Brunswick
Musquash is one of the last fully functioning estuaries in the Bay of Fundy, located in one of the most biologically productive natural settings in Atlantic Canada. The diversity of ecosystems in this area is extraordinary, and includes each of the habitat types found in the greater Bay of Fundy region. Many birds, including American Black Duck, Common Loon and Broad-winged Hawk nest and rear their young in Musquash. Moose, Black Bear, Bobcat and White-tailed Deer also make their home in the surrounding forests.
The Foundation began its work in the Estuary in 2001. To date, over 3,800 acres of this diverse region have been protected. The Foundation also enabled the construction of more than 8km of interpretive trails. The Nature Conservancy of Canada continues its protection of the ecologically significant upland habitat, salt-marshes, buffer zones and coastal islands.
Photos of Musquash Estuary are available here.