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Ranchers and landowners stand up for better management on Alberta's southern East Slopes

Alberta ranchers ask for reduction and greatly improved management of OHV access along the Eastern Slopes.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative is working in collaboration with some of Alberta’s oldest ranching families to support better management of public land along the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Through a series of short videos released today, the organization has provided a platform for 10 of these land stewards to tell their stories. 

The messaging in the series, Voices from the Land, supports the reduction and greatly improved management of OHV access along the Eastern Slopes. 

It also encourages the government to ensure space for other quiet recreation activities such as hiking, hunting and fishing in their management plans.

“My grandfather came to the Livingstone Range in 1902 and our family has lived here ever since,” says Ted Smith, a rancher near Maycroft. “It has changed a lot, with the rutting and stream-crossings from off-highway vehicles.”

According to Connie Simmons, program coordinator at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, the films are a way for landowners and ranchers in the Porcupine Hills, Livingstone and Pekisko region to share their perspectives.

“There was no script. Folks just shared what was important to them,” she says.

Ranchers and landowners along Alberta’s southern East Slopes call on government to use the current planning process for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone region to manage land-use and recreation on public lands in a way that protects wildlife, water and Alberta’s heritage.

“We can look at activities that we can imagine can continue for future generations, and we can see activities that don’t make sense,” says Pekisko rancher Gordon Cartwright. “There is responsibility for people in government to steward those resources for future generations.”

“My husband’s family has been here for four generations. We have the privilege to live in this beautiful country,” says Shawna Burton, of the Burton Cattle Company in the Porcupine Hills. “We graze this ground for one month of the year. There is a carrying capacity and a threshold. In the past there has been no threshold established for motorized recreation use. That needs to change.”

Ranchers have witnessed a steady escalation of unmanaged recreation use over the years and have watched the damage spread throughout public lands.

“The impact of motorized vehicles in the upper headwaters of the Beaver Creek area has grown

exponentially over the last 20 years,” says Porcupine Hills rancher Ray Nadeau. “The erosion on some trails is extreme.”

The Government of Alberta is developing a recreation management plan for the Porcupine Hills and the Livingstone region under the South Saskatchewan Regional Land Use Plan. Scientific analyses show impacts from forestry, oil and gas and OHV trails and roads exceed what is needed to safeguard important source waters for Albertans, and puts vulnerable species, such as grizzly bears and westslope cutthroat trout at risk.

“The government needs to work from its scientific assessment of the Livingstone and Porcupine Hills and follow through with appropriate management,” say Dr. Hilary Young, Alberta program manager with Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

“Our scientific knowledge supports what land owners and ranchers have known for decades: that we need strict limits on how many roads and trails are allowed in sensitive areas. Right now that number is as much as 10 times too high,” she says.

“We run our own business,” says Kate McKim-Keil, of Centre Peak High Country Adventures. “We are held accountable for what we do on public lands. I feel that OHV users need to see the same kind of accountability.”

The full series of short films can be viewed above or on YouTube.

For further comment please contact:

Connie Simmons, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative program coordinator: 403-627-1736

Hilary Young, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative ecologist, 403-609-2666