The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the new owner of a large section of endangered native grassland in Saskatchewan.

The Mackie Ranch property, a few kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway between Moose Jaw and Swift Current, contains 646 hectares of grasslands and wetlands and is located along the eastern shoreline of Chaplin Lake, the second-largest salt lake in Canada.

The conservancy says that during spring and fall migrations, thousands of shorebirds use Chaplin Lake and the surrounding grasslands to refuel or nest.

It also says the site is one of only three in Canada with a designation of hemispheric importance to shorebirds, and the only such site located inland.

The group says the site has been named in honour of the Mackie family in recognition of their environmental stewardship over multiple generations. The conservancy organization says it will continue to be used for cattle grazing to help keep the grasslands healthy and support the local economy.

It says financial support from donors and partners, including the federal government's Natural Heritage Conservation Program, made the project possible.

"By working with partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are protecting Saskatchewan’s natural environment and building a healthier and more resilient future for our children and grandchildren," Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a news release.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada says over the past 25 years, Saskatchewan has lost more than 809,000 hectares of native grassland and now less than 20 per cent remains intact.

The group says grasslands filter water, help prevent flooding and droughts, sequester carbon and help provide sustenance for people.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2021.

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