Weston Family awards $25 million in grants to support prairie grasslands

One of Canada’s wealthiest families is committing $25 million to fund projects that help conserve prairie grasslands.

The Weston Family Foundation says it will award grants to five organizations: Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation, Grasslands National Park (Parks Canada), and Meewasin Valley Authority.

“The Canadian prairie grasslands are some of the most ecologically valuable and threatened ecosystems in the world and we have an opportunity now to protect them for future generations,” says Eliza Mitchell, director for the Weston family’s foundation and a great-granddaughter of George Weston, in a news release issued March 3.

“We’re launching this initiative to bring together a diverse group of conservation and agricultural organizations to accelerate the adoption of sustainable approaches to protect and restore biodiversity in this unique landscape,” notes Mitchell, who also ranches in B.C. and has served as a director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation (SSGF) is receiving $3.4 million from the initiative.

“Native grasslands are the most threatened terrestrial ecosystems in Canada. They are the last refuge for 31 species at risk, and an important forage resource for Saskatchewan’s cow-calf sector,” explains Ray McDougald, SSGF chair. “We are building on the success of Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands’ first five years to achieve real environmental outcomes, projects that enhance the grasslands and species at risk habitat, and also increase the viability of ranching, enabling a younger generation of ranchers to continue caring for the prairie.”

The Weston Foundation says each partner organization is leveraging additional funding and in-kind donations for a total value of $70 million over the next five years.

“Partner contributions make this a $7M project,” notes McDougald. “The Foundation will use this funding to fill a growing need in the ranching community for voluntary, private-sector options for agricultural land conservation.”

Related: Weston Foundation provides grant to encourage cereals, cover crops in rotation

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