Posts Tagged "nature"

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

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.     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.   Misty morning over pasture at sunrise. Waldron Grazing Cooperative, Lundbreck, Alberta Pasture with prairie lillies. Prairie vegetation changes with the elevation – there are areas on Waldron Ranch where one can see spruce and fir trees. Waldron Grazing Coopeative, Lundbreck, Alberta Pasture at sunrise. Waldron Grazing Cooperative, Lundbreck, Alberta Pasture with wildflowers in bloom. This prairie...

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The Last Cowboy – a short documentary film about the human cost of PFRA pasture closures

Posted by on 5. December 2014 in Blog / Journal, Ranching | 4 comments

The Last Cowboy – a short documentary film about the human cost of PFRA pasture closures

A few days ago a friend alerted me to a marvelous and touching documentary film about Jim Commodore, a retired cowboy at the Val Marie PFRA Community Pasture. This 6-minute documentary conveys a message about the human cost of the Community Pasture System closure, told through the eyes of a long time cowboy Jim Commodore. The Last Cowboy was produced by Megan Lacelle and Kaitlyn Van de Woestyne, journalism students at the University of Regina. Jim Commodore was born at the Val Marie PFRA pasture in 1941 and spent his working career as a cowboy on the federally run community pasture. In a very humble and personal way, Jim conveys a message about the importance of maintaining healthy prairie environments for the benefit of rural communities, everyday people and the ranching culture of southwest Saskatchewan. Jim talks about the need to care for the livestock, for the grass and water, and the need to “always hold the balance”. The Community Pasture Program was initiated after the Great Depression in the 1930s, with a goal of stabilizing the drought-ravaged land and assisting small to medium-size mixed farm operations. After the federal government pulled out of the Community Pasture Program in 2012, Jim, like many other Saskatchewan residents, did not expect that politicians would shut down “probably one of the most successful programs the federal government has ever conducted”. Here is the mini documentary The Last Cowboy by Megan Lacelle and Kaitlyn Van de Woestyne, posted here with permission.   The Last Cowboy from Megan Lacelle on Vimeo.  Val Marie PFRA Community Pasture is located northwest of Grasslands National Park. It is the largest community pasture in Saskatchewan, with over 41,256 hectares (101,946 acres) of strikingly beautiful native prairie. The Frenchman River slowly meanders through the pasture, with rugged valley slopes adding to its appeal. Home to several species at risk, the Val Marie PFRA community pasture is a national treasure, and needs to be safeguarded and sustained for the benefit of future generations. This federally managed pasture is set to close in 2017. It will be transferred to the province of Saskatchewan, which plans to either sell the land or lease it to a yet-to-be-formed pasture patron association. The most poignant moment in the documentary is when Jim laments that the Val Marie community pasture might share the same destiny with him: “I am closing down too. I am at that stage in my life, so I guess, we are closing down together”   I have put together a photography tribute to the life of cowboys on PFRA community pastures, hard-working people who have been looking after the federal community pastures in the Prairie Provinces for over 75 years. At the end of that post, I included a few links to articles about the impact of federal Community Pasture Program closures on small rural communities. I would also recommend a recent article by Andrea Hill published in The Star Phoenix, Still at home on the range. Andrea writes about the impact of federal pasture closures on pasture managers and riders, and how they are adjusting to the change....

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Photography of Courtney Milne on display at the University of Saskatchewan

Posted by on 29. October 2014 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | 1 comment

Photography of Courtney Milne on display at the University of Saskatchewan

Library at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon is holding a special presentation of the exhibition “A World Closely Observed: The Photography of Courtney Milne”. Opening reception and exhibition viewing will take place in the Link Gallery (1st floor of the Murray Library) on Thursday, October 30, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. The exhibition will be on display until December 31, 2014. The gallery exhibition includes large prints of Milne’s images, copies of publications and books featuring his photography, display of awards such as the posthumous Saskatchewan Order of Merit, family photographs and more. Additional images will be displayed through a rotating slide show on a large screen in the gallery. The exhibition highlights various points in Milne’s career, and quotations from Milne and others provide insight into his approach to photography and his changing view of the world. Milne`s personal collection of more than 550,000 images, 2,000 prints, textual records, audio and visual media and his reference library was donated to the University of Saskatchewan in 2013. A demonstration of the website featuring thousands of Milne`s photographs will follow the opening reception. You can also pick up your own copy of the exhibition catalogue. Courtney Milne was one of Canada’s most recognized professional photographers, renowned worldwide for his landscape and nature images. He died in 2010 at the age of 66 following a prolonged battle with cancer. A prolific photographer and author or co-author of more than 180 illustrated magazine articles and several books, he explored sacred sites and landscapes around the globe. His best-selling 1991 book, The Sacred Earth, features a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Milne was awarded the Gold Medal for Distinction in Canadian Photography by the National Association for Photographic Art (1993), was selected to the 1995 jury for the International Photography Competition sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program, in Tokyo, Japan, where he presented The Sacred Earth Concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and was nominated for the 2004 prestigious Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts. Milne was granted an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Regina in 2005. (source: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan).   Update: U of Sask. Library web site with the archive of Milne’s images can be accessed at www.library.usask.ca/courtneymilne There is also an exhibition catalogue with essays by David Bindle and Cheryl Avery. You can get a copy though Blurb books as softcover (Cdn $42.14) or hardcover (Cdn $53.61)...

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Autumn in Prince Albert National Park

Posted by on 1. October 2014 in Blog / Journal, Workshops | Comments Off on Autumn in Prince Albert National Park

Autumn in Prince Albert National Park

At the end of September I led a photography tour to Prince Albert National Park in northern Saskatchewan. We were fortunate this year to be in the park right at the time when leaf colours were starting to change into the full glory of autumn colours. The weather was also very cooperative; early in the weekend we had some interesting clouds for late afternoon and sunset photography. Saturday was overcast which allowed us to spend more time inside the woods and focus on colour patterns and details on the forest floor. It cleared overnight and on Sunday morning we enjoyed photographing gentle fog rolling over the Waskesiu Lake. Later on that day, we were able to capture various shades of yellow and red against a clear blue sky. Here are a few images captured in Prince Albert National Park that weekend. I would like to thank the photo tour participants for their friendship, laughter and great discussion. Pond reflection – homage to Milne’s Pool of Possibilities project Pond reflection – homage to Courtney Milne’s Pool of Possibilities project...

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Canadian Bondar Challenge – a photo contest to connect youth with nature

Posted by on 30. July 2014 in Blog / Journal, News & Events, Photography | Comments Off on Canadian Bondar Challenge – a photo contest to connect youth with nature

Canadian Bondar Challenge – a photo contest to connect youth with nature

Roberta Bondar Foundation is launching the Canadian Bondar Challenge, a weekly photo contest to encourage Canadian youth ages 13 – 18 to explore the natural environment in their communities. The contest goal is to promote a hands-on outdoor experience that inspires the sense of awe, respect and appreciation for living organisms that share our planet. I am not personally connected with the Foundation, just passing on this information because I believe we have to do something about the growing nature experience deficit in our society.     The photo contest will run throughout the month of August 2014. At the end of each week (each Friday), participants are asked to contribute one photograph that demonstrates the weekly theme along with a mini-essay (maximum 200 words) explaining their image, and why they took it. The contest will provide some friendly competition for youth from every Canadian province and territory, to show off what makes their environment so special. Winners will receive a $50 gift certificate to various outdoor outfitters, The Roberta Bondar Foundation swag, a chance to have their photographs featured on the  Foundation web & social media sites, and images displayed alongside Dr. Roberta Bondar’s photographs in The Foundation’s Travelling Exhibition. To make the participation as easy as possible, there are no technical restrictions for submitted photographs. How to participate: Explore the natural environment around you. Take a photograph of what interests you most. Write a mini-essay (maximum 200 words) describing why you chose the photograph. Submit your image and written piece to contest@therobertabondarfoundation.org Follow the photo competition progress on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WIN. Theme of the Week: Week 1 – submit by Friday, August 8, 2014 The Colours of Canada: demonstrate the diversity of colours in different natural environments in Canada. Week 2 – submit by Friday, August 15, 2014 Finding Water: display the precious water source around you : lakes, rivers, oceans or a rainy day. Week 3 – submit by Friday, August 22, 2014 In the Clouds: capture life in the sky. This could be mountains, clouds, sunsets, trees or birds (for example). Week 4 – submit by Friday, August 29, 2014 What makes it Special: show off the uniqueness of the natural environment in your region.     Visit the Roberta Bondar Foundation web site to learn more....

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