Two Red Deer sisters have donated a parcel of land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to be preserved as a safe haven for eagles, badgers and other important species of wildlife.
Ruth and Dorothy Bower donated 193 hectares of land on the west bank of the Red Deer River that had been in their family for three generations.
The site, now known as the Bower Wildlife Sanctuary, will allow for native plant and animal species to thrive without any disturbance from humans.
Because it is a conservation area, it will be closed to the public.
The Bower family had owned the land for nearly a century, NCC said in a news release this week.
Michael Dawe, a Red Deer city councillor, city archivist and friend of the family, said the generous donation is typical of the Bowers.
“They have a very strong sense of giving back to the community, to helping others, to preserving history and natural history and the environment, but doing it in a quiet way,” Dawe told CBC’s Edmonton AM.
“They’re not people that do things because they want to see a lot of attention for themselves,” he said. “They do it because they feel it’s the right thing to do.”
Ruth and Dorothy Bower declined an interview request.
Edmonton AM7:28Huge land donation
The land is in NCC’s Red Deer River Natural Area, a unique region focused on the Red Deer and Battle rivers and their tributaries.
The native habitat in the area features a transition zone between grasslands and parklands, NCC said, adding that across the Prairies, only one-third of this type of land remains in its natural state. The rest has been modified or cultivated.
Dawe said the unique feature of the land is that it’s thousands of years old, dating back to the last glacial period, not millions of years old like other parts of Alberta.
“During glacial times, the melting waters were dammed up in a large lake and it suddenly cut a large and very deep gash through the ridge that formed the canyon and this is the north entrance to the canyon,” he said.
“[It is] very, very unique in so many ways … and it’s just spectacular to look at.”
James Bower, the sisters’ grandfather, purchased two quarter sections of land from CP Rail in the 1920s, NCC said. He and his son Charles later added another 51 hectares along the river.
Carys Richards, communications manager for NCC Alberta region, said it’s rare to find intact habitat like the property.
“There’s a lot of species in the Red Deer area that are really going to benefit from having access to the river valley through this particular site,” Richards said.
Wildlife found in the region listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act include include the taxus subspecies of American badger, the western tiger salamander, and two birds — Sprague’s pipit, a threatened species, and the piping plover, which is endangered.
The site is located within a Sensitive Raptor Range for bald eagles, a designation by the provincial government which aims to minimize impacts to nest sites, foraging habitat and to prevent mortality of young and nest abandonment.
The federal government’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program contributed funding to the project.