There are places where you’re there and time seems to stand still. You could imagine yourself in 1830 watching a herd of buffalo or a First Nations community moving across the landscape with their horses and travois. Most of it still looks that natural, and it still is that beautiful, to me.
For Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC) Larry Simpson, there are few places as breathtaking as the Waldron – 30,535 acres of natural lands in the rolling foothills on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta. In 2014, NCC celebrated the completion of its fundraising to purchase a conservation easement on this spectacular land from the co-operative of 72 ranchers who own it protecting the landscape indefinitely for traditional ranching activity and as important wildlife habitat for species including grizzly bear, wolf and elk. It is the largest conservation initiative of its kind in Canadian history, and one in which TransCanada has played an indirect role.
“I think the ranchers, when we first approached them as an organization called ‘Nature Conservancy of Canada,’ they struggled to understand, well what did we really want? And did we just really want to tell them what to do and how to manage their affairs?” Simpson says. “Well, we were not interested in that. All we really wanted to achieve is an agreement that would maintain that land in the current condition it’s in, or better.”
To NCC, this meant that the range lands could not be cultivated, wetlands could not be drained and streams could not be diverted.
“Not that they would really want to anyway. They’re in the business of maintaining those lands as ranchers,” he adds.
Representing 72 shareholders, the Chairman of the Waldron Cooperative’s Board of Directors discovered that dealing with NCC was a bit of an unusual situation.
“You know how ranchers are – we say ‘Brian I’m going to be there in three days to get the fence done,’ and I’m there in three days to get the fence done. We say ‘Brian we’re going to split the cost,’ and we split the cost. It’s done on a handshake,” says Tim Nelson. “So when they sent us a 38 page document we were like, ‘What?’ It was a bit of a different outlook for us.”
After some back and forth, an agreement was formed between the ranchers and the nature group. This meant the land would be protected according to the NCC’s guidelines, but could still be used and managed by the ranchers for grazing their cattle.
A third party in the mix was TransCanada – longtime supporter of NCC and owner and operator of pipelines that have run through the Waldron lands for over 60 years. TransCanada’s infrastructure on the Waldron includes the Burton Creek Compressor Station, the original Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) pipeline and the Foothills pipeline. These assets have operated on the Waldron for decades, reliably and responsibly serving natural gas to users in the Pacific Northwest, California, Nevada and western Canada.
“TransCanada works with groups trying to find if there’s a way we can re-establish rough fescue and other native species,” says Ian Jerrard, TransCanada’s local land agent in the Waldron area, who has worked for decades with local landowners and other stakeholders during project planning, construction, operation and maintenance. “And we work hard with the landowners to achieve something that’s at least as good as it was before we came to the area.”
“It looks to me the way a lot of it has come back in, someone was paying attention, but probably a lot more is known today compared to 20 or 30 years ago.”
“We haven’t always been successful, but at least we try different methods to get the native species’ to come back,” says Jerrard. “I don’t think every company does that, but it shows that TransCanada does care about our environment.”
As part of TransCanada’s commitment to environmental stewardship, we have contributed $2.7 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s conservation program since 2003. Our support of agencies like NCC, Ducks Unlimited, Pollinator Partnership and Nature Canada are aligned with TransCanada’s corporate values of integrity, responsibility, collaboration and innovation. It’s about doing what’s right.