The McIntyre Ranch — Preserving native grassland and wildlife habitat
There have been many special occasions in the 129-year history of McIntyre Ranch, but, surely, conserving it forever must be one of the most momentous ones.
In 1894, William McIntyre began his legacy to conserve grassland in a sustainable manner, and the McIntyre family maintained that approach for their 53 years of ownership. When our grandfather, Ralph Thrall, purchased the property 76 years ago from William’s son — Billy McIntyre’s estate, he adopted that “balance with nature” philosophy and that legacy has continued through four generations of Thrall family.
As Ralph Thrall III, I grew up believing that Ralph Thrall was someone who took care of the McIntyre Ranch — and that has resulted in me doing so for the past 36 years. It has been a privilege, an honour and an amazing journey to have played the lead role of caring for the Ranch for our family (and for the environment).
McIntyre Ranch, AB (Photo by Leta Pezderic/ NCC Staff)
The idea of a conservation easement on the ranch started with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) over 30 years ago. In the spring of 2020, we dedicated our efforts to making it happen. The conservation agreement presented by NCC was unique, and it required considerable time and effort from everyone involved to get it right. Our Dad taught us that ”things worthwhile are done neither quickly nor easily” and in consideration of this, we know our accomplishment is worthwhile.
Dad also taught us that “to whom much is given, much is expected." I know our parents would be very proud of us, and on behalf of my siblings (Erin, Eric and Chris) and our families, I am honoured to acknowledge and express our pride, excitement and gratitude for our achievement. We are very proud of the collaborative effort between NCC, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and our family in establishing a conservation agreement on McIntyre Ranch that will conserve it forever.
Cows on McIntyre Ranch, AB (Photo by Leta Pezderic/NCC staff)
The process has been very rewarding and has resulted in a win-win agreement that, going forward, will have very little impact on how the ranch has historically operated. Furthermore, our partnership with NCC and DUC, through the creation of a Stewardship Management Plan, will assist us in our goal of making McIntyre Ranch the best that it can be.
A handful of years ago I needed to come up with a ”slogan” for an advertising banner and I was quite proud of what I came up with: “The McIntyre Ranch — Preserving Native Grassland and Wildlife Habitat.” I believe this is the essence of McIntyre Ranch, and it very much aligns with the values and goals of NCC and DUC. Grazing the grasslands conserves our environment and maintains species diversity, just as it did when millions of bison once roamed the plains.
Hoodoos at McIntyre Ranch, AB (Photo by Leta Pezderic/NCC staff)
And just the bison almost disappeared, one thing our mom taught us, to help be grateful for the things we have is, "it could all be gone tomorrow." I think of this because grasslands are disappearing at an alarming rate. This is happening largely because it is so easy to convert grasslands to cropland and because farming is more lucrative than the diminishing-margin economics of raising cattle or bison.
Grasslands are threatened by such things as urban sprawl, tilling for crops, wind and solar farms, petroleum exploration and subdivision for small acreages, just to name a few. Like the cattle industry, all of these come at some price to the environment and at the same time, all of them have many benefits. Grasslands are every bit as important to the sustainability of this planet as our oceans and our rainforests, and understanding this is why we have chosen to protect the grasslands of McIntyre Ranch.
Someday I’d like to write a book and I anticipate the title will be Matters of Degree – Striving for Balance. I firmly believe the challenge for humankind is to strike a balance between people’s needs and conserving the planet’s natural resources. I have hope and confidence, by working together, that balance will be achieved.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to NCC, DUC our provincial and federal governments and all the individuals who have supported and continue to support the conservation of our country's grasslands. Thank you all.