The power of partnerships may be an overused phrase these days, however, there may be no better example of what that power can result in than the recent purchase of the Chinook Conservation Site by Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) with its partners. Purchase is the most powerful tool in the conservation tool box – it simply lasts forever, and that’s a long time. Pheasants Forever Calgary is very proud to be one of the primary partners on this showcase parcel of land, especially as it is secured on our 25th anniversary. Purchase opportunities simply do not come along very often, especially in southern Alberta where most agricultural entities are relatively large in nature. So, when opportunities do arise, it is generally – the whole farm or ranch, which can be very expensive.
The Chinook purchase will be the first Conservation Site purchased in southern Alberta in the last 6 years – a time which has seen land values increase by 50% and that was after over a decade of quick escalating values. Commodity prices have been good and every square inch of black earth in southern Alberta is treasured by producers. Irrigated quarter sections in southern Alberta are valued in the million-dollar range and a quarter section of land with all the management in the world is simply too small to sustain a wild pheasant population given open access to hunters. As well, the surrounding habitat is generally compromised due to intensive agricultural practises – often rendering the block an island or a predator trap. Intact contiguous tracts of land are clearly the best for all things wild.
Pastureland on the other hand is still relatively reasonable compared to cultivated and irrigated land usually selling for about 1/3 of the cost of cultivated land in any given area. Grassland is also the rarest of habitats and is critical to upland gamebird health. The location of Chinook is another bonus as generally speaking in southern Alberta – the further east you go the cheaper the land values are. In other words – the most bang for the conservation dollar. Arguably, the southeast corner of the province is the last bastion of great pheasant hunting in the province currently – with great reports of numbers of birds being reported the last few years.
Maybe the best thing about the Chinook purchase is how our like-minded conservation organizations’ leveraged dollars to make this securement real. The 3 quarter sections of land were purchased for $1.2M. Pheasants Forever Chinook, our sister chapter in Medicine Hat contributed $200,000 and we contributed $100,000. This money was used as match dollars for ACA to access funds from the Federal Government for Species at Risk, which share the same habitat as Huns, sharptails and pheasants in that part of the world. So, with the contribution of $300,000 from the 2 Pheasant Forever chapters, ACA was able to access an additional $300, 000, which means that PF Chapters enabled 50% of the final purchase bill.
We will continue to pursue purchase opportunities moving forward as they arise. In the meantime, we will continue to help our conservation partners in managing existing properties and infrastructure. Much of the existing habitat in irrigation districts is a result of Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) early strategy of ‘drought proofing the prairies’ – which represents works done from the early 40’s to the late 80’s and early 90’s. DU currently manages hundreds of basins, most with dams or weirs and hundreds of kilometers of canals. The organization has since moved forward with focus on small wetlands and perennial cover being present on the landscape. Much of this old infrastructure supports riparian habitat which is provides habitat for ring-necked pheasants. To this end, Pheasants Forever Calgary, will continue to support the operation and maintenance of existing habitat, where and when it is deemed optimum for pheasant conservation and pheasant hunting. We will do our share to see that these works remain in tact on the landscape for future generations to enjoy.
Taking Care of Tomorrow… Today!
We have expanded our hunter mentor program from Lethbridge College to the University of Calgary. Pheasants Forever Calgary will continue to expand the program targeting young adults. It is felt that focussing on recruits that are in the impressionable age – late teens early 20’s – that have demonstrated a desire to initiate hunting on their own, may prove to be an optimum means of converting folks into becoming pheasant hunters and conservation leaders. Several students from our inaugural first-time mentor hunt for Lethbridge College have since volunteered for our dinner, shooting events, casino and a couple have become hunter mentors. This could prove to also be a good strategy to inject a little youth and diversity into our ranks to ensure future vitality. Best of all it is pretty darn fun too.