Flemington-Tough farm property protected by Conservation Agreement
Virden, Man.—Dean Flemington and Tracey Tough have farmed their half section, located west of Woodnorth and southwest of Virden, since moving there in 2008. There, they operate a small cow-calf operation that doubles as a hobby farm in summer.
“We run about 30 cow-calf pairs now,” says Tough. “And I keep myself busy as a hobby farmer with four jersey cows, horses and some chickens. Between the farm and our five year-old daughter and two year-old son, it can be a handful.”
Last year, the family was approached by Ducks Unlimited Canada to preserve the unique features of their land through a Conservation Agreement. Tough says they didn’t hesitate.
“Dean and I enjoy seeing the wildlife ambling through the yard and pasture. We are both strong advocates of preserving the bush, grass and wetlands in our area.”
“We have moose, whitetail deer, even mulies and all kinds of ducks. Last year we even had a whitetail doe watching over two fawns that had taken up residence under the spruce trees in our yard,” said Tough. “And we have two young moose, a cow and a bull that were born near here, returning every year.”
For Flemington and Tough, the agreement with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) was a natural fit to safeguard their property and the interests of their family.
“A Conservation Agreement is a voluntary contract between a landowner and a conservation agency,” explains Mark Francis, head of conservation programs at DUC in Brandon. “It protects specific features on a parcel of land that might not otherwise be protected. And this one’s a beauty.”
Francis says the Flemington-Tough property includes 127 acres of native grass that have never been broken and 106 acres of tame hay and pasture. There are 62 individual wetland basins that have not been drained or altered, which provide an array of ecological services to the community and the province. Those benefits include retention of water on the land to reduce the potential of downstream flooding. Also, by holding nutrient-rich runoff, excess phosphorus, nitrogen, pesticides and pathogens are retained in wetland soils and plants, rather than being released into the watershed.
“One of the most important aspects of a Conservation Agreement is that even though the habitat features are protected in perpetuity from drainage or clearing, landowners retain full use and control of their land,” says Francis. “Dean and Tracey can continue to operate their farm as they always have.”
DUC receives major support for conservation projects in the area from a variety of sources, including industry partners like Tundra Oil and Gas Partnership (TOGP). As one of the Richardson group of companies, TOGP provided a significant grant to support Ducks Unlimited Canada conservation projects through the Richardson Foundation. This funding helps to leverage funds from state governments, the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the Government of Canada under the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Grassroots funding from DUC events such as the annual banquet in Virden also contributes to the success of the local program.
“Our main interest in projects like Dean and Tracey’s lies in the area’s ability to produce significant numbers of waterfowl when habitat conditions are favorable,” says Francis. “This area is extremely important to the production of northern pintails, mallards and blue-winged teal.”
“Duck populations typically follow a boom and bust cycle. When water conditions are good, and the habitat is intact, ducks will respond and produce enough young to help carry the population through the dry bust years.”
“We need a balance between intensive agriculture and natural values,” says Tough. “Not only will we enjoy our new partnership with DUC, but our children and future generations will enjoy the beauty of the nature around us.”
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.