Two thousand acres of prime real estate west of Turner Valley will be protected from development in a deal announced by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) on Thursday.
The voluntary agreement with the owner of the White Moose Ranch will protect the 811-hectare portion of the property while allowing cattle operations to continue.
"From the day our White Moose Ranch first acquired this breathtaking property in 1992, I knew that we needed to find a way to preserve it in its natural state," said owner Stan Carscallen in a news release.
"We share a three-mile boundary on our south side with the OH Ranch. Over the years, I frequently spoke with our friend, Doc Seaman, about realizing a mutual dream of working together to create a single, contiguous block of conserved land extending from the Highwood River to the Sheep River that could never be developed or subdivided. This donation completes that dream, and my family and I are proud to be part of that accomplishment."
The NCC said the protected portion of the ranch, which lies along the Sheep River, features a mix of fescue grasslands, montane forests and riparian areas.
"It provides year-round habitat for elk, moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, cougar, gray wolf, coyote and bald and golden eagles," said the organization in its news release.
"Grizzly bears, which are listed under the Species at Risk Act as Special Concern, are often seen on White Moose Ranch."
The NCC said mountain sheep, lynx, badgers, wolverines, red-tailed hawks and great horned owls have also been spotted on the property.
The area is under increasing development pressure, according to the NCC, due to its scenery and proximity to Calgary.
The fescue grassland habitat is also one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country, according to the organization, with less than five per cent estimated to be intact.