The Bulka Project

Two halves make a whole…lot of habitat

The 640-acre Bulka Project has plenty of potential for habitat conservation and enhancement. So in 2008 the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) jointly purchased this central Alberta property, aided in part by Natural Areas Conservation Program funding. The two halves of the property are distinctly different, so the agencies have split it into two parcels.

The east half is owned and managed by NCC and ACA. The land had been used for grazing and has native grasslands and numerous wetlands, mostly ephemeral to seasonal types. “It’s rare to come across a property like this that has the native plant communities intact, so we’re really excited,” says Juanna Thompson of NCC.

The parcel was identified as a high priority for conservation through NCC’s Red Deer River Natural Area Conservation Plan. The diversified landscape favours an abundance of wildlife such as mule deer, moose and red-tailed hawk, and provides potential habitat for Canadian toad and northern leopard frog.

DUC owns and manages the west half. This parcel was in annual crop production, and has 19 wetlands that were drained for agricultural purposes. So it’s a perfect fit for DUC’s habitat restoration objectives. “We’re always looking for opportunities to put water back on the landscape and restore perennial cover,” says Darwin Chambers with DUC.

Another important aspect of the Bulka Project is that it builds onto nearby habitat parcels. It is adjacent to a DUC conservation easement, and it is directly south of the Willow Lakes Complex, a provincial Environmentally Significant Area. Willow Lakes is an important area for marshbirds and diving ducks, and contains two great blue heron nesting areas. The Bulka Project also lies within a NAWMP target area, and has important habitat for migrating and nesting waterfowl.

NCC and ACA will be developing a property management plan for their parcel in 2008–09, once the baseline inventory has been completed. DUC will be restoring the 19 wetlands and restoring 230 acres of uplands to grass. Half of the parcel is slated to be a revolving land purchase. Chambers explains, “In a revolving land purchase, we buy a piece of land, and restore everything to natural water levels and perennial cover. Then we sell it on the open market, and as a condition of the sale there’s a conservation easement placed on the property, ensuring that the land stays in perennial cover and the wetlands are never drained. So it’s an opportunity for us to be a little more efficient with our dollars. It will go back into the community and it will be protected in perpetuity.”

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The Alberta NAWMP Partnership is an excellent example of the cooperation we need. Working with partners is the key to moving conservation efforts along.

H. Loney Dickson
Past Chair of the Prairie Habitat Joint Venture (PHJV), Shorebird Working Group