First screening of Guardians of the Grasslands sparks conversation and hope

New film focuses on the role that cattle play in the survival of the Canadian grasslands, one of the most endangered ecosystems on earth.

A new film about a Canadian landscape under constant threat is sharing a positive message about the role of beef production.

Guardians of the Grasslands, a short documentary on the vital role of cattle in conserving Canada’s native prairie, premiered to a receptive audience in Calgary on October 3.

Featuring young ranchers and conservationists, the film highlights the necessity of protecting the grasslands of the Canadian Great Plains, one of the most endangered ecosystems on earth. It explains the importance of grazing, originally by bison and now by cattle, in sustaining the health of this landscape and the species that call it home.

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“Most people don’t even know that it’s an endangered ecosystem, and it’s endangered in our own backyard. Once people start to care about that, they start to want to do something about it,” said Mickenzie Plemel-Stronks, cattle industry liaison for Ducks Unlimited Canada, who appears in the film. “Just to tell the story is one of the best things you can do right now.”

The 13-minute film, shot at the Waldron Ranch Grazing Co-operative near Longview, Alta., was produced by Story Brokers Media House, in partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s Public and Stakeholder Engagement team.

“We had been inspired through similar projects of filming on different ranches with Canada Beef earlier in the summer and also with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef,” said Ben Wilson of Story Brokers Media House.

“We thought this could be a real opportunity while at the Waldron to capture the right footage and capture the right message through these interviews to really tell the story not of one particular farm or one particular region even but the story of the grasslands as an ecosystem, which we felt hadn’t really been done before.”

The trailer for the film, which premiered at this year’s Canadian Beef Industry Conference, garnered an overwhelmingly positive response. As of early October, the trailer had been viewed more than 15,000 times and shared widely on social media.

Two more screenings are planned in the coming weeks: an invitation-only event in Ottawa on October 30 and a screening in Toronto, the date of which has yet to be announced.

Wilson said they hope to make the film accessible to the public as soon as possible.

“We’d love to get the film into some film festivals. Some festivals require that a film not be publically released or available online for them to be included in their festival,” he said, adding that they hope this approach will attract media attention beyond the agriculture industry.

At this time, the public is invited to request a screening of Guardians of the Grasslands. This can include a classroom presentation, a supplement to a meeting and even a private gathering, if several people are invited to watch it. For more information about the film or to request a screening, visit guardiansofthegrasslands.ca.

About the author

Field editor

Piper Whelan is a field editor with Canadian Cattlemen. She grew up on a purebred, Maine-Anjou ranch near Irricana, Alta., and previously wrote for Top Stock, Western Horse Review, and various beef breed publications.

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