Protecting prairie grasslands is a main focus for the Nature Conservancy of Canada and a recent purchase in southwestern Sask. allows them to bolster their existing portfolio in this field.

The non-profit organization struck a deal with the Mackie Ranch in the fall of 2023, for the third time, to expand their project situated along the eastern shoreline of Chaplin Lake.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada acquired 640 hectares in the transaction moving its total to 1,286 hectares at this location.

Eric Cleland, the Sask. director of conservation for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, said they now own nearly half of the multi-generational Mackie Ranch.

"What makes the project exciting for us, is when we have an opportunity to acquire lands that have been stewarded quite well and are great representative examples of prairie grasslands in a healthy condition," he said.

The site is extremely rare in Canada as it is one of only three saline lakes in the country, with it being the second largest. It's also one of a trio that's been designated with hemispheric importance to shorebirds.

Mackie Ranch features a very diverse shorebird kingdom for sanderling, semipalmated sandpiper, Baird's sandpiper, and piping plover. Red knots are also known to frequent the area according to Cleland.

"It's a shorebird that we're excited to protect some habitat for because it's a known hot spot for that species," he said. 

Several other species visit the property that are listed under Canada's Species at Risk Act. This includes the chestnut-collared longspur (threatened), ferruginous hawk (threatened), and long-billed curlew (special concern).

"There are a lot of species that rely on large intact landscapes," he said. 

The property is nestled between the remaining Mackie Ranch, Shamrock Community Pasture, and the Coteau Hills Community Pasture.

"There's a really large complex now of well-managed grasslands that support biodiversity and the agricultural industry, so it's a nice mix," he said.