Can Private Land Conservation Maintain Biodiversity?and Healthy Watersheds in Alberta’s Foothills?

February 1, 2018 :: Justin Thompson
Moderated by Cheryl Bradley

Maintaining healthy landscapes has benefits that extend well beyond the boundaries of a given property. These ecological services include things like water filtration and storage, healthy wildlife populations, and aesthetic values which support tourism and the preservation of our heritage. The economic value of these ecological services is enormous and once compromised they are often irreplaceable. In southwest Alberta a significant portion of the lands that provide these important ecological services are private lands.

As our population grows, so does the demand for these services. And while demand continues to grow, the intact land base that provides these services is shrinking. Based on historic rates, “business as usual” will see much of the private land in our foothills developed over the next 50 to 100 years. This is occurring through a continual process of subdivision, road and residential development, and industrial activity. The result will be further loss of iconic vistas, fresh water, wildlife, and the working ranches of our foothills communities.

This ever-expanding human footprint in rural areas will also have measurable impacts on resources that we rely on in neighbouring communities, such as clean water. The speaker will argue that protection of private lands in the Oldman River Watershed is crucial to the health and economic well-being of rural communities but also all downstream including Lethbridge. He will also highlight many of the exciting initiatives that are going on not only to increase awareness but also to protect valuable areas in the watershed.

Speaker: Justin Thompson

Justin is the Executive Director of Southern Alberta Land Trust Society (SALTS). He spent much of his childhood and youth exploring the foothills of southern Alberta, including his family’s ranch land west of Pincher Creek. This clearly influenced his decision to pursue a B.Sc. in Biology and a Master’s in Public Administration, with an eye to influencing a change in environmental practices.

Justin got to know SALTS when he started looking for options to preserve wildlife habitat and watersheds on his own land. He, along with his family and several of their neighbours, ended up doing conservation easements with SALTS. His positive experience with SALTS and his passion for preserving Alberta’s natural landscapes led to him working full time on private land conservation.

Prior to SALTS, Justin had a varied career in wildlife conservation, renewable energy development, and his own energy efficient home-building business. He also continues to run a small cow/calf operation on his land in partnership with a local rancher. This combination of experiences is helpful in his role as he directs and implements the work of the organization.

Moderator: Cheryl Bradley

Date: Thursday, February 1, 2018
Time: Noon - 1:30 pm
Location: Country Kitchen Catering (below The Keg restaurant) 1715 Mayor Magrath Drive South
Cost: $11 lunch (hearty soup & bun, desert & coffee/tea) or $2 coffee/tea. RSVP not required

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