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Ranchers tell their story

Sustainability: News Roundup from the October 3, 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Scott Parker, with the National Film Board, is telling the good news story about grazing through nine short films on how ranchers on the Canadian Prairie are managing their grazing lands to sustain a healthy ecosystem.

Called the “Grasslands Project,” the films tell important prairie stories from the southern end of Alberta and Saskatchewan about life on the grasslands. “We held a series of public consultations to determine what the essential prairie stories might be, and we heard from a lot of ranchers and farmers,” said Scott. “Ranchers in particular felt that they never received any credit for their land management which is conducive to healthy grasslands ecosystems. So this was an important story from the region that needed to be told to the rest of Canada.”

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“There is a lot of terrific work being done by conservation groups, government and ranchers. It’s not easy as they often start off with different goals and perspectives. However, the work to maintain native prairie grasslands is essential to all Canadians, and it was clear to me during the project that many ranchers took great pride in their land stewardship,” said Scott.

A documentary film called “A Rancher’s View” is one way to communicate this to other Canadians. It is about how Miles and Sheri Anderson and family from Fir Mountain, Sask. are managing their native grazing lands in an environmentally sustainable way. Scott went on to say, “They were terrific people to work with on the film. Miles clued me into the business of ranching and how important land stewardship is, and we reviewed the film together a couple of times so I was sure to get it right. The Andersons are people that are both from the land and reliant on the land. Roaming their grazing area looking for sage grouse (and I found them) was one of the highlights of my film career.”

Miles Anderson is in a tough spot. The land he ranches has been in his family for over a hundred years, but it’s bordered on three sides by an expanding Grasslands National Park and its conservation imperative. Cattle were once considered a major threat to grasslands integrity and the endangered sage grouse in the region, but, due in large part to Miles’ persistence, his cattle are now seen as part of the conservation solution.

Miles and Sheri were awarded the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association National Environmental Stewardship Award in August at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary.

Other films that Scott produced highlight life in rural communities on the southern prairie. Many small communities are losing their young people, attracted to careers away from the farm. “Generations” is a short film about a young person’s dream to follow in the footsteps of his father — to be a farmer.

“Ranching and farming are male-dominated industries. But women have a strong voice in the operations, and some women have been running their own ranches for decades. In the film “Life Out Here,” we were able to show a female perspective and it was the participants themselves who chose the themes to be discussed and then they interviewed each other for the film. These women are deeply dedicated to their farms, ranches and families. They can ranch as well as a man, or maybe even better.”

“I am so grateful to the Andersons, and to Grasslands National Park for all the assistance in making these important short films. I hope the films enlighten people as to how some ranchers are carefully managing their land for the benefit of multiple species. I’m grateful so many people are looking after the grasslands for future generations,” Scott concludes. “I hope these films will serve as a legacy of prairie life, and can be viewed by generations long into the future.”

Scott spent about a year working on “The Grasslands Project,” and shot 10 short films covering an area from Magrath, Alta., in the west, across to Radville in the east, travelling over 30,000 km to shoot these films.

Other films feature prairie homecomings, volunteer firemen, prairie artists, the Val Marie Hotel and the community of Wood Mountain, Sask. All the short films can be viewed on the National Film Board’s web site NFB.ca/Grasslands.

About the author

Contributor

Duane McCartney is a retired forage-beef systems research scientist at Lacombe, Alta.

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