By Emily Jaycox For the Independent
Upon his passing, Stettler-area resident James Scheerschmidt donated his 240-acre property to the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), as part of a bequest and monetary gift detailed in his will.
The land, a mix of farmland, drained wetland and woodland, is being restored and cleaned up by the ACA, Ducks Unlimited and Alberta Fish and Wildlife.
There will be no grazing on the site this year, to allow the land to rest.
“We want the habitat and grass to recover,” said Mandy Couve, biologist and project lead for ACA.
As with all land donated to the ACA, the site is open for public use, such as hunting during regulated hunting season, berry picking and hiking.
The site is strictly for foot traffic and day-use only, says Couve.
A public parking area with a sign was developed on the west boundary of the property.
The ACA, working with Ducks Unlimited, restored 4.5 acres of wetland on the property by installing ditch plugs to prevent draining, and restricting access to cattle.
Twenty-seven acres were reseeded on the west side of the property last spring, and 80 acres will be reseeded on the east side next spring.
A standard mix of tame grasses and alfalfa is being used. The surrounding woodlands will also be encouraged to move into the pasture land.
This will provide more food and shelter for wildlife.
The ACA will continue to provide weed control for noxious weeds on the site, such as chamomile, and keep track of the land’s progress using photo reference points in five-year intervals.
Donating land for conservation purposes is becoming more common, says Couve.
“It has happened more than once in this region, where people have signed living wills and donated their land.”
It is a priority of the ACA to find parts of the land that connect, forming corridors of wildlife habitats.
“The Parkland region has been divided up a lot through agriculture … oil and gas,” said Couve.
“A lot of the land has been broken … there’s not a lot left for habitat.”
According to Ken Fischer, Scheerschmidt’s nephew and an executor of his will, his uncle had no immediate family; he had no children or siblings and his wife had passed before him.
“He wanted to do something for the community,” said Fischer.
“We’re hoping that [the land] will be kept as a park-type thing.”
Fischer says his uncle was fond of the deer on his property, except when they got into his crops.
“This was his wish, what he wanted to do,” said Fischer.
“We stood up to what he wanted as good as we could.”
The legal land description of the site is NW and SW 143819 west of the 4th, and is southeast of Stettler.