August 27, 2019 at 5:47 PM, by Arthur Green
As Edmonton continues to expand, conserving natural gems like the Visser lands in Edmonton’s river valley is more important than ever to some residents.
Nestled in a curve of the North Saskatchewan River in the northeast end of Edmonton is a special piece of land that has incredible natural, agricultural and historical value. The landowner, Doug Visser, feels that this 233-acre parcel of land has value worth protecting and plans to work with the Edmonton and Area Land Trust (EALT) to make sure it will be.
“The northern 93 acres of the land is composed of the largest old-growth forest within the Edmonton city limits. Old-growth forests have astonishing biodiversity,” Visser Said in a media release. “The Visser forest is home to over 80 species of birds, many large mammals such as moose and coyotes, as well as a wide variety of plants that support these wildlife species. Many of Alberta’s Species at Risk have been spotted here too, including the Peregrine Falcon, Sandhill Crane, Sora, and Baltimore Oriole.”
The entire plot of land is adjacent to the North Saskatchewan River, which acts as an important corridor for wildlife. In addition, the banks and riparian areas around the river provide unique habitat for aquatic and semi-aquatic wildlife.
The Visser forest also has cultural significance. Areas of the forest have been used by Indigenous people for many decades, since it supports growth of many important medicinal plants. The forest continues to be used for traditional ceremonies and for educating Indigenous youth.
The other 140-acres of land are mostly agricultural, with gently sloping south-facing soils that are wonderfully fertile. Lady Flower Gardens (LFG) occupies 10-acres of the farmlands. LFG is a non-profit that works to empower disadvantaged, impoverished, and immigrant communities through vegetable gardening. Apart from the benefits of connecting with the outdoors, those who partake in the tending, weeding and harvesting duties may share in the earth’s bounty at the end of season, with the surplus donated organizations like the Edmonton Food Bank, the Mustard Seed, Hope Mission, or the Bissell Centre.
The landowner also allows guests to tour these beautiful lands. A special event held at the Visser lands on May 25, 2019 brought together dozens of Edmontonians to experience the outdoors, particularly the unique old-growth forest and amazing social justice garden on site.
Unfortunately, residential development is increasingly pressuring the Visser forests and farmlands. The landowner wants to solve this problem by placing a Conservation Easement on the land, held by EALT. Under a Conservation Easement, it is EALT’s legal responsibility to monitor and protect this land forever, no matter who owns it in the future. The organization hopes to secure the lands by the end of 2019.
EALT, the region’s local nature conservancy and recent 2019 Emerald Award Winner for environmental excellence, has secured 12 other precious lands like this one in and around the city.
You can help protect this Edmonton treasure by donating to help with the front-end costs associated with placing a Conservation Easement on the land here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/edmonton-and-area-land-trust/campaign/ealts-securement-campaign-for-edmonton-agricultural-lands/