Prairie and mountain ecosystems clasp like fingers where ranches border the national park. People who travel south from Pincher Creek, Alberta to Waterton Lakes National Park remember the drive as one of the most beautiful in Canada. As you approach the entrance to the park, you first see the Rocky Mountains at a distance across rolling farmland and soft ridges. Gradually the mountains get closer and closer until you see the valley of the Waterton River with mountains to the west and south, almost close enough to touch. The mountains themselves are located within the boundaries of the park, but the aspen parkland spread out before you is mostly privately owned ranchland.
The area is prime habitat for grizzly and black bear, cougar, wolf, moose, elk, white-tailed and mule deer.
For many ranchers, the decision to place an easement on their land was not an easy one. In some cases, three generations in the family had to come to agreement. Flexibility from all sides was necessary to ensure the success of the project. In some cases, families sold part of their land to NCC and leased it back. Concerns about the management of the land and access rights were also addressed so that easements were granted or purchases made.
Thanks to the vision of our partners and the long-term commitment of area ranchers, more than 100 square kilometres (32,000 acres/13,000 hectares) of this stunning landscape have been protected as conservation lands forever.
The Waterton Park Front Project, an ecological gem in southwestern Alberta, was celebrated at the 2007 Emerald Awards for Environmental Excellence.
A visitor centre and nature trail at Waterton Springs Campground describe how ranchers and Nature Conservancy of Canada saved more than 30,350 acres) of grasslands for grazing and wildlife.