By Tim Kalinowski
Cardston County rancher Shane Hansen and his family have entered into a conservation agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to preserve their 365-hectare property for future generations.
“The Nature Conservancy is willing to work with you,” says Hansen, “and there are many different options to put an easement on your property. I kind of like that idea of it, and the staff there is really good to work with, too. We still retain ownership of the land. It now just has an easement on it saying certain things will be restricted, mainly subdivisions and developments like that, draining of wetlands, removal of logging, forestry — those are some of the things now which will not be permitted on the land.”
Hansen Ranches was founded in 1935 by Hansen’s grandfather Otto, who first emigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1928. Hansen’s son Carter makes it four generations who have called this sensitive and crucial eco-system bordering Waterton Lakes National Park home.
Hansen says when his grandfather first came these lands were the last frontier of the Canadian Prairies, and not at all desirable due to the high elevation and difficult winters. Hansen thinks his grandfather would be surprised and happy to see a thriving ranch amid those snowy heights.
“Historically, the people who came here were people who had almost nothing,” explains Hansen. “This was kind of the last area where they could afford to buy land. Because of that historically you had poorer people here with smaller land bases, and has time has gone on a lot of those smaller places have been bought up and ranches have become bigger and bigger.
“I think my grandparents would be really proud of how our land looks today, and what we are doing with the land. It’s wonderful to be able preserve it this way.”
According to a press release on the conservation agreement from the Nature Conservancy, the NCC has worked for decades with private landowners around Waterton Park to create a natural buffer for the wild species that live in this area. Hansen Ranch, it says, is located in the headwaters region of southern Alberta. This area covers only four per cent of the province but provides fresh drinking water to 45 per cent of Albertans.
“Located in an area referred to as the Crown of the Continent, this region provides core habitat and connectivity for populations of wide-ranging mammals including gray wolf, wolverine, Canada lynx and fisher,” the NCC release states. “It also supports habitat for grizzly bears, which are designated as a species of special concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.”
Hansen says he is at peace with the decision to work with the NCC going forward.
“We wanted to keep our ranch intact and the legacy of our farm,” he concludes. “The main thing, too, is there is a lot of subdivision pressure in this area, and our current Cardston County representatives seem to be pro-development and not so much pro-agriculture. “This way, we are protecting our land from being developed further down the road.”