Science and stewardship

Supporting the next generation of scientists, Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative and protecting species at risk

Supporting tomorrow’s scientists

Delivering a lasting impact for nature depends on supporting the next generation of conservation scientists. Through the Weston Family Conservation Science Fellowship Program, NCC is helping graduate students open the door to their future as conservation leaders.

L to R: Amy Wiedenfeld, Brielle Reidlinger (Photos courtesy Amy Wiedenfeld and Brielle Reidlinger

Amy Wiedenfeld, a PhD student at the University of Lethbridge, is leveraging her 2022 Fellowship to study at-risk plants in Ontario’s Carolinian forest. She is developing models that illustrate how the populations respond to various threats and microhabitat conditions.

“Results may lead to improved management of these rare plants on some of NCC’s protected lands,” Amy says.

At the University of Saskatchewan, master’s student Brielle Reidlinger is investigating how grassland management can contribute to high-quality habitats for bird species at risk.

“With support from the Weston Family Foundation, I’m exploring the long-term impacts of varied grazing schedules on local at-risk bird populations,” she explains. Her findings will help to guide NCC’s future grassland management practices.

TO LEARN MORE: Weston Family Conservation Science Fellowship Projects

Using the power of philanthropy to protect Canada’s grasslands

NCC, the Weston Family Foundation donors, farmers, ranchers and local communities across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are partnering in a multi-year, multimillion-dollar effort to steward and protect one of the most at-risk ecosystems in the world.

Under the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative, now in its second year, NCC, along with land trust partners Ducks Unlimited Canada, Southern Alberta Land Trust, Western Sky Land Trust and Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation, is injecting more than $13 million over five years into native prairie grassland stewardship, restoration and carbon sequestration.

Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area, SK (Photo by Jason Bantle)

In 2021–22, thanks to support from the program, NCC:

  • Provided close to 300 ranchers with stewardship investment grants to improve the biodiversity on 194,200 hectares of privately owned native grasslands.
  • Identified priority restoration projects across the prairie provinces, and helped to increase the availability of native seeds and plants from local producers to use in restoration efforts.
  • Collaborated with landowners, industry and academics to raise awareness and implement grassland carbon credit programs.

In addition to supporting the long-term improvement of grassland biodiversity, donations to this priority are helping to restore soil health, ensure sustainable grazing for livestock and provide critical habitat for migrating waterfowl and pollinators.

Protecting species at risk

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has directly conserved habitat for over one-third of Canada’s most imperilled terrestrial and freshwater plants and animals.

For reptiles, amphibians and birds, we have conserved habitat for close to one third of Canada’s at-risk species.

Future inventories on our properties are likely to discover additional species from groups that are more difficult to identify. In addition to securing habitat, NCC also supports the protection of species at risk through stewardship activities, implementing recovery actions and participating on recovery teams.

Number of species at risk taxa that occur on NCC-owned properties

TaxaNumber of species at risk* for which NCC protects habitatTotal number of species at risk in Canada*
Clams, Snails & Other Molluscs1140
Fish (fresh water)12113
Insects & Spiders1676
Mammals (terrestrial)2144
Vascular Plants63211
Grand Total244687
*  Species at risk includes COSEWIC-assessed and SARA-listed (Schedule 1) taxa designated as endangered, threatened or special concern.  COSEWIC – Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. SARA – Species at Risk Act.

Leading the way and investing in nature

NCC's leadership in Canada and on the world stage in protecting biodiversity; a first-of-its-kind Nature + Climate Projects Accelerator

Protecting biodiversity for Canada and the world

As a measure of our leadership and influence on the international stage, NCC was invited to participate in negotiations for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a member of the Government of Canada’s delegation and as an official observer. The CBD is a multilateral treaty that sets out the world’s nature protection goals for the next decade.

Grizzly bear (Photo by Harvey Thommasen)

NCC representatives joined the negotiations with the convention signatories in March 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, and June 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. NCC will be attending the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Montreal in December.

“We’re on track to meaningfully contribute to Canada’s 30 X 30 targets and to the COP15 talks, which aim to give biodiversity and ecosystems the same international significance as the climate,” says Dawn Carr, NCC’s director of strategic conservation. Carr was a member of the Canadian delegation in Geneva.

“NCC is honoured to play this leadership role in amplifying Canada’s position and supporting the delegation.”

NCC launches first-of-its-kind Nature + Climate Projects Accelerator

Recognizing the role that private funding can play in combatting the dual threat of biodiversity loss and climate change, NCC launched a first-of-its-kind Nature + Climate Projects Accelerator in 2021. The Accelerator represents NCC’s formal commitment to attracting private capital to conservation projects through innovative finance mechanisms.

The Nature + Climate Projects Accelerator builds on more than a decade of NCC experience operating the Darkwoods Carbon Project in BC.

“The need for conservation action has never been more urgent. It will take substantial amounts of private sector investment to ensure nature and people thrive now, and into the future. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is at the leading edge of developing high-quality carbon projects and other nature-based solutions in Canada,” says Craig Losos, executive director, Nature + Climate Projects Accelerator.

Darkwoods Conservation Area, BC (Photo by Steve Ogle)

In its first year, the Accelerator has already delivered:

  • Cells NCC’s most successful year for carbon sales since the launch of Darkwoods in 2008 — the most highly certified forest carbon project in North America — in terms of both demand and sale price of verified carbon units.
  • The launch of a partnership with Intact Financial Corporation to develop a made-in-Canada protocol for wetland-based carbon offsets. When complete, the protocol will be another tool to fund conservation with private sector funds.
  • The initiation of a carbon project on the Boreal Wildlands property — the largest private conservation project in Canada’s history. Proceeds from this project will be used to help secure the property and to accelerate conservation elsewhere in Canada.

Indigenous collaborations

Walking together in honour of the land

Supported by donations and guided by our Indigenous Conservation Framework, NCC is learning from and building meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities to evolve how we protect the land and support Indigenous-led conservation efforts.

L'Isle Aux Allumettes, QC (Photo by NCC)

Over the last year, we collaborated with Kebaowek First Nation to acquire Fitzpatrick Island in the Kitchsibi (Ottawa River) waters. This initiative established the first component of an Anishinaabe Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) on the Kebaowek’s traditional territory.

NCC is now working with the Nation to transfer the title of the island.

Advancing research

We also collaborated with Indigenous Elders, practitioners and allies to help advance the research, awareness and development of Indigenous land trusts. Together with the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership (CRP), an Indigenous-led network to advance Indigenous-led conservation, NCC hosted a virtual sharing circle in 2021 to discuss the opportunities and challenges of establishing and managing Indigenous-led land trusts in southern Ontario.

NCC is also partnering with the CRP to create a donor-funded research fellowship on Indigenous land trusts.

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) are lands and waters where Indigenous communities and governments have the primary role in protecting and conserving the ecosystems through their own laws, governance and knowledge systems.

Qat'muk, BC (Photo by Pat Morrow)

Natural Heritage Conservation Program

Maximizing donor investments through a unique partnership to accelerate the rate of private land conservation and support Canada's global commitments

The Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique partnership that mobilizes Canadians to conserve and care for nature. First launched in 2007 as the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the partnership is a model of collaborative conservation. It brings together individuals, Indigenous communities, industry and other levels of government to create lasting conservation solutions.

Nearly $175 million in donations to NCC and other conservation charities have leveraged $98 million in investments from the Government of Canada as part of a unique partnership to expand existing network of protected areas and create new ones. NCC is the national administrator of the NHCP, which also includes Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trusts.

Together, NHCP partners have used the funding to conserve 143,045 hectares of land and fresh water since 2019.

Lonetree Lake, SK (Photo by Gabe Dipple)

Your gifts and matched funding also helped to:

  • protect of 101 species at risk;
  • create natural areas accessible to more Canadians — more than 95 per cent of Canadians live within 100 kilometres of an NHCP project, giving people opportunity to enjoy the benefits of nature;
  • contribute to connectivity — 96 per cent of NHCP-conserved properties are within 25 kilometres of a provincial or national protected area; and
  • support the work of local land trusts.

The NHCP motivates people to protect, restore and care for the places we cherish; places that provide us with clean air and water, connect us to nature and sustain prosperous communities. NCC is grateful to the many land donors and others who are helping us maximize the government investment for greater conservation impact.

Hectares secured and species at risk protected under the first three years of the NHCP (as of March 31, 2022).

ProvinceTotal area protected, in hectares, since the onset of the program (all partners)Number of species at risk* for which NCC protects habitat under NHCP
British Columbia6,36714
New Brunswick7142
Prince Edward Island1623
Nova Scotia1,2488
Newfoundland and Labrador190
Grand Total143,045102
*  Species at risk includes COSEWIC-assessed and SARA-listed (Schedule 1) taxa designated as endangered, threatened or special concern.  COSEWIC – Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. SARA – Species at Risk Act.

Together, NHCP partners used the funding to conserve 143,045 hectares of land and fresh water since 2019.

Hastings Wildlife Junction, ON (Photo by Chelsea Marcantonio/NCC staff)


Thank you for investing in nature

NCC’s supporters are at the heart of all that we do, and our vibrant community continues to flourish. This past year, more than 460,000 of you from Canada and around the world came together to show that you care deeply about nature, by donating, volunteering and supporting conservation efforts at NCC. As we approach our 60th anniversary, it’s heartwarming to know that we have an incredible and growing team of donors, partners and supporters who want to save the lands and waters that sustain us all.

Conservation Volunteers, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by Chelsea Marcantonio/NCC staff)

Our thoughtful and committed supporters are not only protecting precious places today, but also planning for the future. Our Nature Legacy Society (supporters who have left a gift to NCC in their Will) is now 2,173 members strong, and growing daily.

And it’s not just individuals taking action to protect nature — corporate Canada is too. This past year, we worked with corporate partners in every province who see nature conservation as part of their response to the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. Our partners made investments in protecting natural spaces, helped Canadians connect with conservation through efforts like the Big Backyard Bioblitz, and by supporting  innovative technology solutions to advance conservation.

It’s critical that we pick up the pace. Climate change and biodiversity loss are threatening the systems that sustain life. In 2020, NCC completed the Landmark Campaign, the largest fundraising campaign for conservation in Canadian history. Every one of NCC’s donors made this possible. Now, we’re building on this incredible momentum and laying the foundation for our next campaign that will deliver conservation impact faster and more extensively than ever before. There has never been a more important time for nature.

Looking back on 60 years of your support

Connecting with Canadians

Helping Canadians connect with nature from coast to coast

From hands-on volunteering to in-person and virtual events, our engagement programs provide Canadians with diverse opportunities to connect and share their love of nature.

Conservation Volunteer, Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, ON (Photo by Chelsea Marcantonio/NCC staff)

In total, we welcomed more than 24,000 participants at over 300 events. Highlights included:

  • Over 1,000 volunteers who helped maintain our properties.
  • 6,700 registrants recorded more than 36,000 observations during the second annual Big Backyard BioBlitz.
  • 48 per cent of those observations attaining the research grade level. 4,300 species were identified.

Volunteer and Event Photo Gallery

Check out photos from our events and of volunteers’ hard work throughout 2021–2022.


Thank you for your support. We look forward to continuing the pace of conservation with you!

Upper Ohio, NS (Photo by Mike Dembeck)