Waldron Ranch, AB protected for future generations

Posted by on 28. December 2014 in Blog / Journal, Conservation, Ranching | Comments Off on Waldron Ranch, AB protected for future generations

Earlier this fall, Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) secured the largest conservation easement in Canadian history. This outstanding agreement between the NCC and Waldron Grazing Co-operative Ltd. will protect over 12,357 hectares (30,535 acres) of native grasslands and forested foothills on Waldron Ranch in southwestern Alberta.

This spectacular property is located northwest of Lethbridge, along the famed ‘Cowboy Trail’ (Highway 22) between Longview and Lundbreck. The ranch contains large tracts of native fescue prairie, rich history and spectacular scenery. Situated in a broad valley, Waldron connects the 28,000 hectare Bob Creek Wildland Park (the Whaleback) to the west with the 39,000 hectare Porcupine Hills Forest Preserve to the east. The three conservation areas will protect the critical headwaters of streams and rivers flowing east through the Canadian Prairies, and provide habitat and critical movement corridors for local wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, moose and elk.


Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) at Waldron Ranch

Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) passes by Waldron Ranch north of Lundbreck, Alberta


By securing the conservation easement with the Waldron Grazing Co-operative, NCC will work with the partners to ensure the property’s natural features are preserved for the benefit of wildlife and future generations. Waldron’s diverse habitats will remain preserved, and the lands will be protected from development, subdivision, cultivation or drainage. Seventy-two members of the Waldron Co-op will continue to own and raise livestock on the working ranch.

Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between a grantor (landowner) and a holder (in this case the NCC) that is registered against the title and binds all future owners. Terms of the agreement are negotiated between the interested parties, to meet the conservation objectives of the owner and goals of the holder. The main objective is protection of biological, physical or cultural features of the land. Conservation easements are usually initiated by a current landowner, who wants to make sure that the land will continue to have careful stewardship by the future owners.

The Waldron Cattle Ranch Ltd. was established in 1883 by Duncan McNab McEachran of Montreal, with financial backing by Sir John Waldron of England. The original ranch was a giant of ranching industry, spanning 260,000 acres of land between Oldman River and Porcupine Hills. At times, more than 20,000 head of cattle and hundreds of horses were raised on the ranch. After changing owners several times, a much smaller holding was purchased in 1962 by a newly formed co-operative. More than 50 years later, members of the Waldron Grazing Co-operative manage the land with a primary goal of maintaining health of the rangeland under their care. The Waldron Co-operative received the 2010 Alberta Beef Producers’ Environmental Stewardship Award and the Environmental Stewardship Award from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in recognition of management practices that ensure a sustainable use of resources, rangeland health and wildlife management.

I had an opportunity to visit Waldron twice: in the summer of 2009 and again in 2010. I was thrilled by the beauty of landscape and incredible ecological diversity. Gently rolling hills, lush fescue grasslands, dense carpets of blooming prairie wildflowers and abundant wildlife just called for happy snaps. Here is a small gallery of images captured during those two trips. I owe gratitude to Mike Roberts, General Manager of the Waldron Ranch for outstanding hospitality, and for enabling me to explore and photograph on the land.



More information:

A historic deal preserves 12,000 hectare Alberta ranch (Calgary Herald, with a short video)

Nature Conservancy of Canada completes landmark project (NCC press release, background at www.conservewaldron.ca)


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