Property Contributes To Biodiversity – for Sep. 23, 2010

There is a place that hasn’t changed much since the days of the early fur traders. A lush river valley located between Alexander and Rivers appears much like it was back in 1670 when it fell under control of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Today it is being protected by a Conservation Agreement (CA).

“Mother and Father bought it from the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in the 1940s and it has never been cultivated,” said Robert (Bob) Harvey, referring to the part of Willeta Farm that he calls the HBC Quarter. “It has never changed.”

The pristine tract of natural habitat will remain in its natural state because the Harvey family has decided to protect it with a CA.

“This is very valuable habitat for a variety of reasons,” said Curtis Hullick, Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation (MHHC) field manager. MHHC is the conservation agency that holds the conservation interests in the property. “This type of river valley habitat makes an important contribution to the biological diversity of this entire region.”

The well-treed valley property also helps to stabilize the soil and prevent erosion by controlling and slowing water run-off. It also plays an important role in carbon sequestration as well as connecting the patches of habitat that are found along the valley.

Bisected by a creek with numerous ravines and natural springs, the land isn’t well suited to cultivated crops, according to Harvey. However, since Bob’s parents, William and Leta, first purchased this quarter section the family has recognized its multiple values as cattle pasture, recreational land and wildlife habitat.

From its highest point the HBC Quarter reveals a panoramic view of rolling valley, bluffs and small, lush, spring-fed wetlands. From here the rich biodiversity is obvious, as is the property’s importance as a travel corridor for hawks, songbirds and deer.

Each spring the property comes alive with a dazzling display of crocuses, which is only one of the many plant species commonly found here.

It is obvious that under proper management the cattle have had little impact. Bob decided that the habitat should remain in perpetuity so he has now decided to permanently protect it. “We just want to leave it the way it has always been,” he said.

When Bob and his wife retired from farming they decided to keep the HBC Quarter. His stepson, James Blatz, will eventually inherit it, thus retaining the family connection well into the future.

Back in 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company was given all the land whose rivers drained into the Hudson Bay, which became known as Rupert’s Land. Later, when this became part of Canada, the company retained a portion of this land including the Harveys’ quarter section.

CAs are a form of easement and a tool that allows landowners to permanently protect the habitat on a portion of their property for future generations. They continue to hold title to the land and enjoy all the other benefits of land ownership.

For more information on CAs, contact a Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation office in Minnedosa (867-6032), Reston (877-3162), Shoal Lake (759- 4220), Killarney (523-5522) or Rosser (471-9663). MHHC, with a mandate to conserve, enhance and restore habitat, is a provincial Crown corporation responsible to the Manitoba minister of water stewardship.

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