June 5, 2019
Southwestern Alberta ranch provides habitat for iconic Canadian wildlife
On the occasion of World Environment Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing the conservation of Hansen Ranch, a 365-hectare (903-acre) property located east of Waterton Lakes National Park.
A conservation agreement with NCC has been placed on the property. This agreement voluntarily restricts the development rights on the land. It will ensure that it can continue operating as a working cattle ranch while maintaining the landscape in a natural, healthy, un-fragmented state.
For landowner Shane Hansen, protecting this ranch is important, not only for its ecological value, but because it ensures his family’s legacy will continue. In 1928, Otto Hansen, who emigrated from Denmark to Canada, came to southern Alberta. Then, in 1935, he purchased this property and established Hansen Ranch. He met his wife, Laura Peterson, in Pincher Creek, and together they raised a family on this land.
For three generations, the family has been living and working on Hansen Ranch. Shane Hansen, grandson of Otto, purchased his first quarter of land in 1983. Then, in 1988, he became a partner with his parents, Earl and Ruth.
In 2003, Shane and his wife, Laurel, and their two sons, Riley and Carter, took over the operation. It is the family’s hope that Carter will continue the family legacy of managing the ranch.
This property contains several important habitats that extend beyond the boundaries of the already protected national park. 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. It also supports habitat for grizzly bear, which is designated as a species of special concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
The creation of a buffer zone of protected properties surrounding the park, called the Waterton Park Front, is one of Canada’s most successful private conservation initiatives. The conservation agreement on Hansen Ranch adds to this network of conservation lands.
Since 1998, NCC, with the support of private donors and foundations, has helped conserve more than 18,000 hectares (44,000 acres) of land in this area.
For decades, NCC has worked with private landowners to create a natural buffer for the wild species that live in this area. Fortunately, the ranchers who have cared for this landscape for generations are careful stewards of their land. Their sustainable use of the ranching lands have meant that many species continue to thrive here.
Hansen Ranch 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.
The wetlands and streams on Hansen Ranch provide habitat for birds, amphibians and fish. Boundary Creek, a tributary of the St. Mary River, runs through the property. Keeping the riparian area — the areas of habitat along the banks of water bodies — intact and undisturbed will provide source water protection and good quality water to the neighbouring conservation lands and downstream waterways.
This project was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Hansen family. Other supporters include the Government of Alberta’s Land Stewardship Grant, and the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. A portion of this project was donated to NCC under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.
“When my family first came to this area in the 1920s, this was one of the last places people wanted to settle down. The snowfall was too deep, and it was too remote. People used to show up with just the clothes on their back. My grandparents purchased their first piece of property in 1935, and my family has lived here ever since. My parents started running the farm in 1961. They continued to build the place up, and they bought more land. My wife and I took over in 2003. Now my son, Carter, and his wife, Megan, live on the very first quarter-section of land that my family bought, and he is now a shareholder in Hansen Ranches Cattle Company Ltd. He will eventually take over the farm and keep it going in the family.”
-Shane Hansen, landowner
“On World Environment Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is proud to announce the conservation of Hansen Ranch. This ranch, located outside of Waterton Lake National Park, adds to a significant conservation network of protected lands that has been built up over decades. This project is an example of how working landscapes and conservation go hand in hand. Thanks to Shane and Laurel Hansen, and their sons Riley and Carter, we can ensure the family’s ranching legacy will carry on while also safeguarding these native grasslands that will continue to supply habitat for the many plants and animals that live along the Rockies’ eastern slopes.”
-Bob Demulder, Regional Vice-President, Nature Conservancy of Canada
“With the help of partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Hansen family, our government is making progress towards doubling the amount of protected nature across Canada’s lands and oceans. Recent scientific reports have shown that our biodiversity is under threat, and we’re taking action to protect nature and the habitats of the plants and animals we love. Nature is central to our Canadian identity and by taking the initiative now to conserve Hansen Ranch, through programs such as the Ecological Gifts Program and the Natural Areas Conservation Program, we’re ensuring our kids and grandkids can connect to nature and experience its wonder.”
– Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada
- The Hansen Ranch fits into NCC’s existing network of conservation lands adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park. This property borders an existing NCC conservation agreement and is close to numerous other conservation projects.
- The eastern slopes of Alberta contain the last one per cent of the Canadian Great Plains that remain intact. The area still has enough space and habitat to sustain all of the species that historically roamed the grasslands, including grizzly bear, wolf, cougar and their prey. These species rely on the wide, undeveloped areas of wild habitat in Alberta’s foothills, which has been kept intact thanks to the ranching community.
- Each working ranch conserved in this region benefits the ranching community, native wildlife and Alberta’s headwaters. NCC’s conservation agreement on this significant stretch of working rangeland will assist in the conservation of water quality, flood mitigation and the maintenance of an important watershed along Alberta’s southern foothills.
- Native grasslands are home to a large percentage — 85 per cent — of Alberta’s species at risk and any alteration to this habitat will have a direct impact on habitat for wildlife.
- To learn more about the Ecological Gifts Program, please visit canada.ca/ecological-gifts.