Conservation group hopes to preserve ‘untouched’ Parkland County property by Gordon Kent, August 6, 2015, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON – A national conservation group is working to create its most expensive protected area in the Edmonton region. [With which to frac with?]
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has until next January to complete a $13- million deal to buy a 250-hectare section of hills, old-growth trees and wetlands being called the Bunchberry Meadows Conservation Area.
An oil company takes water for their operations from the Oxyoke Nature Preserve, Rocky View County Alberta – October, 2012 ]
“There’s clumps of birch, there’s lots of raspberries, wetlands, there’s everything,” says Kim Laskin, whose family is one of five that own the property.
“It’s untouched. Never had any human development whatsoever. It’s pretty unique this close to a large urban centre.” [Perfect for what oil and gas companies need to frac Edmonton with]
The families form the Parkland Syndicate, which has agreed to sell the site for $4.5 million, less than half its $9.7-million appraised value.
While donors have provided part of the remainder, the non-profit conservancy still needs to find about $4 million to close the purchase and create an endowment fund for upkeep.
“This is a very expensive project for us. Normally, we would look further out from an urban centre,” says Larry Simpson, associate vice-president of the conservancy’s Alberta region. [To be later sweetly rewarded via Harper/big oil bribes?]
“But the ownership group’s willingness to cut the price in half and the awareness that kids are less and less connected to nature made this a worthy project to take on.”
The owners bought the land, about 1.5 kilometres southwest of Edmonton in Parkland County, in 1974 mainly as a place for recreation and contemplation.
They’ve walked and skied the six kilometres of trails cut through the brush, held picnics and fished for trout in the stocked lake.
The Laskin family once lived on a nearby farm and young Kim often rode horses around the property.
There are stands of birch and tamarack, pine trees two metres wide and 12 hectares of wetland.
Moose, deer, coyotes and the occasional bear wander the property, and bluebirds that laid eggs in the nesting boxes last spring for the first time in decades flash into the sky.
The area has been used to graze cattle, but the sandy soil hasn’t grown crops and there aren’t any buildings.
“We bought it with the idea that it was a beautiful piece of property,” Laskin says.
“It wasn’t to have a farm, it wasn’t to develop, it was for all the families to have a place to come and enjoy.”
But four of the original syndicate members have died and the rest are in their 70s or 80s.
Everyone involved is united in their desire to see the site preserved [by Nature Conservancy of Canada? Why not find a group that will actually protect and preserve the land, if one exists] and wanted to act before ownership was split between too many people, Laskin says.
Although the site was once well out in the countryside, the edge of Edmonton’s suburban growth is now only a few kilometres away.
“It’s a flagship property,” says Wanda Kowalchuk, development and operations manager at the conservancy’s recently opened Edmonton office.
“We typically buy larger pieces of land for less money … If we don’t raise the money to make this happen, it scares me to think of what could happen to this land.” [Or what “donations” the oil and gas industry will not give?]
Although Laskin works in the development industry, he wants this area protected for the benefit of the community.
The conservancy’s tentative plans call for construction of a gravel parking lot, washrooms, picnic facilities and little else.
The group hopes school groups will visit to learn about the outdoors if the site opens to the public as scheduled next year.
Laskin isn’t concerned about the extra money the owners could make if the land was sold for full value.
“To be able to keep something like this and work with such a great organization as the Nature Conservancy of Canada is a great legacy … for our kids and grandkids,” he says.
“They will be able to come out for generations and enjoy it.”
Wetland sculpture by LIPG member company, Equal Energy – Rocky View County, Alberta. Above photos from FrackingCanada Fracking Rocky View County
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a charitable organization started in 1962 to save natural spaces and encourage conservation.
It has helped protect 1.1 million hectares across the country, including 95,000 hectares in Alberta. [And lease to water intensive oil and gas and fracing?]
Among the group’s 40 properties in the Edmonton area is the 130-hectare Wagner Bog, its first project in the province. Bunchberry Meadows would be its largest investment in the capital region. [Emphasis added]
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