The president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), John Lounds, was in St. John’s Tuesday. He spent the day meeting with campaign volunteers, reporters and government representatives — working to get the word out on conservancy projects past, present and future.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The organization and its partners have protected more than 2.6 million acres of land in the country, about 12,200 acres in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The lands are being maintained in perpetuity, kept for future generations.
The NCC does not have an extensive history in this province when compared to others across the country.
The first land acquired by the organization in Newfoundland and Labrador was in 1996, but activities have ramped up quickly since that time.
The Grassy Place in Western Newfoundland near Robinsons River, Lloyd’s River and the Grand Codroy River Estuary are just a few of the conservancy’s holdings in this province.
While the majority of holdings are in western Newfoundland, the conservancy acquired 11 acres of oceanfront property in Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove in May of this year. The area includes sections of the “fog forest” and a portion of the East Coast Trail runs alongside.
The NCC is fundraising and negotiating for more lands — accepting donations, or paying up to the assessed value for lands determined to be environmentally significant.
The work of protecting land has been helped along by the Natural Areas Conservation Program announced in 2007. The five-year federal government program saw $225 million entrusted with the NCC. Under the program agreement, the conservancy partnered with Ducks Unlimited (to the tune of $40 million) and other land protectorates to see protection project fundraising matched with dollars from federal coffers.
The program is coming to an end now, though Lounds said he would like to see it renewed.
Asked why the organization can’t go it alone on the fundraising, he said, “We can, and have, but not to the extent of when you have a matching program in place,” he said, adding the “matching funds” idea resulted in almost two dollars being raised for every dollar from the federal fund.
Lounds said donor matching encourages people on the edge of contributing to make the donation, since they know every dollar they provide will actually mean two dollars for the project they support.
“So what it’s done is accelerate the work that we do,” he said.
He credited the boost from the federal funds, combined with a growing appreciation for ecology, with the conservancy’s being able to move forward with an estimated 120 projects across Canada this year — two to four times what was being completed as little as 10 years ago, he said.
The NCC is about more than acquiring land. The organization conducts and sponsors research, attempts to increase awareness of what is contained within local environments and promotes unique ecological finds.
The Labrador “blueprint” project is an example.
As previously reported in The Telegram, it is a massive, landmark effort in data gathering and analysis — recording everything from wetland areas to a cumulative human footprint index.
The project is being recognized internationally. It received support from the provincial government, Lounds noted.
The conservancy is now working with tech consultants to determine the best way of translating the information for public use and fundraising to cover the cost of that work.
“We have definitely targeted a web-based delivery,” said Randal Greene, a GIS and conservation analyst with the NCC. He said the conservancy is envisioning an online, interactive map.
Meanwhile, Lounds spoke about the enthusiastic, rallying efforts of supporters within Newfoundland and Labrador, again expressing his wish for more NCC projects in this province.
“The limiting factor for us is funding. That’s always the case.”