Prairie grasslands, Alberta (Photo by River Run Photography)

Prairie grasslands, Alberta (Photo by River Run Photography)

Teaching the next generation of Alberta ranchers

Participants at Youth Range Days (Photo by River Run Photography)

Participants at Youth Range Days (Photo by River Run Photography)

The Southern Alberta Youth Range Days (YRDs) program teaches youth about southern Alberta’s native working agricultural grasslands. The program aims to inspire the next generation of ranchers to promote sustainable stewardship on these lands. This program has been running for 11 years. It is both a celebration of Alberta’s western heritage and an educational course.

Each year, the location of YRDs changes so attendees get to learn about different ecoregions of the prairies. In 2018, YRDs was hosted by Rangeview Ranch in Cardston County. This property is protected with a conservation agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). It is owned and operated by Roger Thomson, an exceptional land steward who cares for many conservation sites in the Milk River Ridge natural area.

In a thank you letter to NCC, Kandra Forbes, education and outreach coordinator for the Milk River Watershed Council Canada (MRWCC) said: “Having hands-on exercises and in-depth knowledge from [Leta Pezderic, natural area manager at NCC] and other presenters was tremendously beneficial. This was evident by the amount of positive feedback that we received from the participants, particularly regarding being able to stay and visit Nature Conservancy of Canada properties and meet ranchers that are doing good work on the landscape. The Milk River Watershed Council Canada appreciates the work that NCC does to protect important grassland areas, and the dedication of staff necessary to provide extension and education to both producers and youth who are involved with managing our rangelands.”

Thirty youth attended the program in 2018 —  12 were new to YRDs and 18 had previously attended. They participated in horseback riding and plant identification. They also had the opportunity to trap insects and observe ferruginous hawks. Participants learned about invasive species such as Dalmatian toadflax and bio-control. Other activities included tubing down the Milk River and listening to campfire stories from a local rancher.

The participants also learned about artificial nesting structures and built nests for ferruginous hawks. These nests were later installed near Sandstone Ranch as part of a partnership project between Fortis, NCC and Alberta Conservation Association/MULTISAR.

Participants at Youth Range Days (Photo by River Run Photography)

Participants at Youth Range Days (Photo by River Run Photography)

On the final day of the program, participants completed a Ranch Plan. This allows the youth to use all of the skills they just learned.

“It is important for MRWCC to continue to partner with NCC for programs like YRDs. It gives participants a holistic view of the great work going on in the Milk River watershed,” said Kandra. “We look forward to continuing this partnership with future outreach events.”

This grassroots program is a great example of the outstanding work that can be achieved from a collaboration of dedicated organizations and passionate individuals! Thank you to each and everyone who helped make the 2018 workshop a success:

  • Milk River Watershed Council of Canada
  • Cardston County
  • County of Warner
  • Alberta Conservation Association/MULTISAR
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Trace Associates
  • Tracy Kupchenko

To learn more about YRDs and get updates for upcoming programs, visit facebook.com/youthrangedays.

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