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Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust receives big boost from Ottawa

$260,000 over four years for Grassland Set-Asides program
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough announcing $260,000 in funding for the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DFWT) over four years with Delta Farmers Institute president Jack Bates and DFWT executive director Christine Schmalz looking on during Wednesday's press conference at Emma Lea Farms on Westham Island.

A program that helps protect biodiversity and habitat for species at-risk on the Fraser River Delta has received a significant contribution from Ottawa.

Delta MP Carla Qualtrough was at Emma Lea Farms on Westham Island Wednesday morning where, on behalf of Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault, announced Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DFWT) will receive $260,000 over four years for its Grassland Set-Asides program. The funding comes from Canada’s Enhanced Nature’s Legacy Priority Places Initiative.

Only five percent of native grassland remains within the lower Fraser River Delta. DFWT works with farmers to temporarily take fields out of agricultural production, plant native grasses, and set them aside as undisturbed grassland habitat for species at-risk and species of other concern.

“This is a project that will go over four years so that they can carry out the work that protects grassland habitat on agricultural land right here in Delta,” said Qualtrough. “This initiative supports programs that will work with farmers to support regenerative agriculture, plant native grasses and set them aside as undisturbed grassland habitat for species at risk and other species of other concern. The Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust project targets four species – the Great Blue Heron, Barn Owl, Barn Swallow and Short Eared Owl.

“I just want to thank them for everything they do and helping them to thrive now and generations to come. This is just one example of how this program supports the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitat through conservation action.”

DFWT executive director Christine Schmalz says the financial support will mean approximately 400 hectares of tall grass will be established and maintained.

“The funding announced today will make it financially feasible for partnering farmers to incorporate short term grasslands into their crop rotation,” explained Schmalz. “The loss of grassland habitats is listed as one of the main threats to both Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl populations. Grassy farm fields have also been identified as important forging habitat for the Pacific Great Blue Heron and for the Barn Swallow as well.

“Grassland set asides established through the (DFWT) programs mimic the natural grasslands that were once abundant in this region.”

Delta Farmers Institute president Jack Bates added the federal support is crucial for the DFWT to carry out its programs and make a significant impact.

“The (DFWT) has been going on for just about 30 years now and the money goes directly to the farmers. We run a pretty lean ship. It's community-based and we certainly appreciate any funding from the outside. Environment Canada has been great over the years, helping us out when they can,” said Bates.