On June 15, The Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada held a virtual media conference to announce the largest private conservation project ever undertaken on the Canadian prairies.
A host of conservation leaders and government officials joined the webinar to make the announcement, which is happening due to a landmark agreement between the owners of McIntyre Ranch, the Thrall family, NCC and DUC.
McIntyre Ranch, one of the last privately owned tracts of undisturbed grasslands in North America, will be conserved.
In Alberta, only one-third of natural grassland remains. It is one of the most threatened and least protected ecosystems globally. An estimated 60,000 hectares, or 230 sections, are lost each year.
“Often overlooked, these grasslands are critical for biodiversity and for climate change,” stated Catherine Grenier, president and CEO of NCC.
Michael Nadler, CEO of DUC added, “The conservation agreement we are unveiling today protects more than 22,000 hectares of one of Canada’s at-risk ecosystems, prairie grasslands. Scattered throughout these amazing grasslands are more than 3,600 wetland basins.”
These combined ecosystems host an array of waterfowl, migratory birds, owls, badgers, elk, pronghorn, help keep water clean and mitigate severe weather occurrence. “Grasslands and wetlands are ecosystems that work together,” explained Nadler. “The combination of habitats found at McIntyre Ranch form an ecological powerhouse.”
The ranch is located south of Lethbridge and covers an area one-quarter the size of Calgary.
“In 1894, William McIntyre began the legacy to conserve grassland in a sustainable manner,” stated Ralph Thrall III, CEO of McIntyre Ranching Co. Ltd. “Our grandfather, Ralph Thrall, purchased the property 76 years ago.”
The Thralls have adopted the balance with nature philosophy and the legacy has continued through four generations.
While both provincial and federal funding have been received for the project, it still requires $3 million to be completed.
By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 19, 2023