Green grassland, Frolek, British Columbia (Photo by NCC)
Conserving British Columbia's Heritage Grasslands
The Frolek Ranch contains some of the most intact grasslands in the Thompson-Nicola Valley. These grasslands, which provide important habitat for a vast number of rare and endangered species, are among the most threatened ecosystems in the province due to the ease with which they can be developed.
Biodiversity on the Frolek Ranch
Decades of conservation-minded range and grazing management by the Frolek Cattle Company has kept these grasslands expansive, healthy and robust. Key features of the ranch include a complete range of intact grassland ecosystems and habitat for a number of species at risk, including the federally endangered and provincially red-listed burrowing owl, the provincially blue-listed sharp-tailed grouse and the federally endangered badger.
Northern harrier (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)
The Frolek Ranch contains a number of key habitats that are important for maintaining grassland biodiversity.
Some of the many species associated with these habitats include long-billed curlew, western meadowlark, great basin spadefoot and Okanogan fameflower.
The size and varying landscape of the Frolek Ranch offer species and ecosystems some resiliency in the event of disturbances due to climate change.
Numerous small lakes, ponds and wetlands provide important aquatic habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife species.
About the project
In 2007 Ray Frolek, a third generation rancher and lifelong cowboy, approached NCC about working together to conserve the natural ecological values on his family's Kamloops-area ranch, while also continuing to raise cattle. Well aware of the encroaching threats of urban sprawl, development and fragmentation of the land base on the century-old ranch, the Frolek family wished to protect the natural integrity of the landscape in the face of an uncertain future for the ranching industry.
The project combined two different conservation approaches to protect a total area of 7,828 acres (3,168 hectares) around Kamloops:
- The Frolek Ranch covenants protect 5,486 acres (2,220 hectares) of land south of Kamloops that continues to be owned and managed by the the Frolek Cattle Company. NCC staff work with the Frolek family to ensure the conservation values are carefully stewarded while the land is also used as rangeland for their cattle.
- A third of the total project area (2,342 acres/948 hectares) was purchased by NCC to become the Lac du Bois Conservation Area. These conservation lands are located within the provincial Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area. Their protection greatly enhance the conservation value of the entire landscape. The acquisition and covenants were registered on September 30, 2008.
This creative conservation initiative allows the Frolek family to continue ranching on the land, while conserving the biodiversity of the landscape through the covenants and NCC's stewardship activities.
History of the Frolek Ranch
Original Frolek homestead buildings (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)
The Frolek family first began working this land in 1906, when George and Teresa Frolek acquired the original Crown grant of a quarter section. George and Teresa's son, Alex, was a businessman and visionary who spent his life pursuing a dream of securing vast tracts of land in the Kamloops area for ranching. Under Alex's leadership, the family quietly increased their holdings over time, purchasing the Trapp Lake parcels in 1961, the Lac du Bois parcels in 1964 and the Stump Lake block in 2005. Today, this Canadian-owned ranch is one of the largest in the province, alongside Douglas Lake Ranch and the Gang Ranch.
The fourth generation of the Frolek family is now taking the reins of the Frolek Cattle Company, ranching and stewarding the land as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did before them. The young children of the fifth generation live and work alongside their parents.
The new generation of Frolek ranchers is highly attuned to the importance of careful land stewardship. Over the past four decades in particular, grazing and water management has been designed to enhance the productivity of the land, and an appreciation for the natural systems on the land has permeated decision-making.
Other heritage ranching projects by NCC