In 1997, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada 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 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. Foundation support of hands-on environmental education programs, has enabled the Helen Schuler Nature Centre and Parks Canada to take more than 4,000 students and their teachers to walk the trails and learn of Waterton’s unique ecosystem since 2008. In 2012, Parks Canada’s Ecosystem Investigator Camp (ESI) received an Emerald Award in recognition for excellence in Public Education and Outreach.
The Waterton Park Front Project, an ecological gem in southwestern Alberta, has likewise received an Emerald Award for Environmental Excellence. Today, this long-term project, involving more than 50 properties, has resulted in the protection of more than 130 square kilometers (32,000 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.