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Weston Foundation Donates $1.5 Million to Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) in Norfolk, Ontario

It seems Aldo Leopold, the “father of wildlife conservation”, was on to something close to eight decades ago. Private landowners...aka farmers...are the key to conservation. One of Canada’s foremost philanthropic foundations agrees.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a private family foundation dedicated to land conservation, announced today it will provide close to $1.5 million to the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) project in Norfolk County, Ontario.

The Norfolk ALUS project is a farmer-led, community-supported initiative that promises to revolutionize conservation in this country. It’s built on the principle that landowners should be paid, not punished, for positive contributions to the environment.

The program is modeled after work done a decade ago by Delta Waterfowl and Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers. Delta has supported the Ontario project with strategic oversight, management and funding.

“ALUS is essential to all Canadians,” says Olson. “For me personally, I want ducks. That’s my thing. But there’s something in ALUS for everyone; habitat for endangered species, improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, carbon sequestration. Every road comes back to ALUS.”

The Norfolk ALUS project has just wrapped up a three year project with 97 farm families converting more than 700 acres of marginal agricultural land into valued “ecological goods and services”. Wetlands have been restored, native tall-grass prairie re-planted, riparian zones reclaimed.

Norfolk County is a biologically diverse hotspot, and one The W. Garfield Weston Foundation strongly supports. For more than a decade, the private family foundation has assisted ALUS initiatives as they have been established across Canada, most recently with support to a new ALUS pilot program in Alberta.

“The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is proud to be partnering with the Norfolk ALUS program in their farmer-driven approach to sustainability, community, and conservation,” said Eliza Mitchell, Director, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. “Our new expanded partnership underlines our confidence in the program and its impact on local ecosystems. ALUS is a leader in engaging audiences and positively impacting agricultural lands.”

The Weston Foundation money will be used over the next three years to expand the Norfolk program to other communities, develop research methods to verify environmental impacts and evaluate the cost effectiveness of the ALUS programs.

“This is very exciting for our community”, says Bryan Gilvesy, cattle rancher and Chair of Norfolk ALUS. “The Weston Foundation recognizes that farmers can make a significant contribution to the environmental wellness of Canada. Some very serious people with money to invest are betting that this is the way we’re going to do conservation in the future.”

The Norfolk ALUS project is one of several established across the country. Prince Edward Island has incorporated ALUS into its provincial agricultural program. The County of Vermilion River in Alberta is entering its’ second year. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are developing plans for their own projects.

About Norfolk County

In 2010, funding provided by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation enabled ALUS to enrol 40 farmers on 42 farm properties in the 2010, accounting for roughly 280 acres of wildlife habitat;
Areas of Norfolk are part of the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, an area that has been designated as one where conservation and sustainable land use can exist in harmony;
Norfolk has some of the most fertile land in Ontario;
Norfolk’s agricultural landscape supports a diversity of natural features including Carolinian forest, coldwater streams, groundwater, a rich variety of flora and fauna, and the largest concentration of species at risk in all of Canada;
Norfolk is home to Backus Woods, one of Canada’s largest remaining examples of Carolinian Forest;
Some of Ontario’s oldest trees, including Tulip, Beech and Black Gum trees, which are more than 400 years old, can be found in Backus Wood.
Delta Waterfowl Foundation is one of North America’s oldest conservation organizations, tracing its’ origins to the birth of the wildlife conservation movement in 1911. The Foundation supports research, provides leadership and offers science-based solutions to efficiently conserve waterfowl and secure the future of waterfowl hunting. Delta Waterfowl currently operates out of offices in Winnipeg, MB and Bismarck, ND.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is a private Canadian family foundation first established in the 1950’s by Willard Garfield Weston and his wife Reta. The Foundation directs the majority of its funds to organizations and projects in the fields of land conservation, education, and science in Canada’s North. For three generations, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has maintained a family tradition of helping charitable organizations to make a difference and enhance the quality of life for all Canadians.