For Brian Sterling and his family, working with Ducks Unlimited Canada to conserve wetlands is an investment - an investment in their farm, nature, and their family. Sterling, a cattle producer from Tilston who has taken part in almost all the conservation programs that Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has to offer, says that working with the conservation charity is also an investment in the livestock industry as a whole.
“They’re a partner in the industry,” Sterling says. “They have realized how beneficial livestock is to preservation, and they have the capability and the resources to be a strong voice.”
Brian’s son, Andy, has also partnered with DUC to protect wetland and grassland habitat on his own land. In addition, father and son have jointly signed on to protect more wetlands and grasslands on property they own together. In total, the Sterling family has protected 550 wetland basins and nearly 540 acres of grasslands that serve as habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Southwest Manitoba is part of the Prairie Pothole Region, named after the shallow wetlands scattered across the landscape. The region is among the best waterfowl breeding areas on the planet and is home to more than 600 species of plants and animals — including more than 50 that are at risk.
While wildlife benefit from wetlands and grasslands, so do cattle.
“The forage and the water is a big part of what we need to put pounds on the calves,” says Andy. “The whole thing works really well for us.”
Andy says the agreement with DUC hasn’t changed the way they work.
The conservation agreements are not only an investment in the farm, but its future, says Brian, who likes watching his grandkids run around in the grass and enjoying wildlife.
Andy says he likes seeing moose, deer, ducks, and grassland birds on his land. There was recently a duck nest nearby, and his excited children stopped by every day to see if the eggs had hatched.
While working with DUC, Andy made some discoveries of his own. While mapping the area with GPS, he and DUC staff found native plants that he hadn’t realized were there.
Andy says DUC was easy to work with. There was an ongoing and open conversation about which parts of land the family wanted to include in the agreement and which they wanted left out.
“It’s just been a good experience, the whole thing,” he says.
DUC’s work is made possible by various funding partners. In this case, wetland restoration work was funded in part by the RBC Blue Water Project.