The Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Since 1996, TESA has been recognizing beef producers from across the country who go above and beyond standard conservation practices to care for their land and environment.
Each year, producers are recognized at the regional level. A national TESA winner is then chosen from the regional recipients. This year the national winner will be announced during the Canadian Beef Industry Conference, slated for August 31 to September 2.
Watch for a feature about TESA's 25th anniversary in the August issue of Canadian Cattlemen. In the meantime, we'll be featuring the regional winners on the website. This story was originally published by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and is republished with permission.
When asked about his reasons for practicing good environmental stewardship on his lands, Ed Bothner doesn’t hesitate to remind us that we humans are stewards of the land. And nowhere is that more evident than on his 300-head cow-calf ranch.
Ed and Charlotte Bothner (a registered nurse for over 50 years who recently retired) manage 9,000 acres of owned and leased mixed pasture and cropland in the Beechy/Kyle, Sask. area.
Since turning their operation into a full-time ranching enterprise in the 1990s, the Bothner’s have seeded much of the crop land to grass, put up a cross fencing system to facilitate good rotation practices and installed a first-class watering system.
“The environment is important for us, and that’s reason enough to do what I do,” says Ed Bothner. “It’s important to me to have a balance between making a living on the land and not farming the environment. I wouldn’t want to overuse the land because every time you do that, you end up shorting yourself down the road.”
Bothner’s cross fencing initiative involved the modification of his existing rotational grazing system on native grasslands along the South Saskatchewan River. The resulting project was a five-field rest-rotational system with deferment of grazing on river break lands until late fall. This was accomplished with the restoration of two dams that had eroded but would now supply water to upland fields. Another two miles of fence was also constructed. To this day, Bothner continues to closely track his stocking rates to ensure the range is not over utilized.
“The point of cross fencing is not only to keep cattle on a pasture ground but to keep them off the other parts of the pasture so that it can re-grow,” he notes, adding the whole goal is to maintain and enhance native pasture. “It’s a community of grasses, a community of plants. It’s not just grasses – it’s sages and shrubs and everything else that is growing with the native grass. It’s a community that has grasses and plants that have a symbiotic relationship with one another. That’s what makes it so magical.”
Keeping native grasses healthy and sustainable, in turn, protects and enhances the environment on the
ranch, attracting birds and wildlife. In 2016, Bothner entered into a conservation agreement with Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) under the Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) initiative. This agreement has contributed to the maintenance, protection and recovery of many bird species on the ranch, including McCown’s longspur, Sprague's pipit, chestnut-collared longspur, golden eagle, piping plover, prairie falcon and ferruginous hawk.
A diversity of additional birds and other wildlife also share the grazing space, including tree swallows, American goldfinch, meadow lark, turkey vulture, hawks, geese, pelicans, swans, mule and white-tailed deer, elk, moose, antelope, coyotes, bull snakes and leopard frogs.
“With the conservation of the grassland, ranchers understand that what’s good for the cattle and good for the grass is also good for the wildlife,” says Bothner.
The river portion of the ranch is predominately crown land, but a conservation easement was placed on a half section of native grasslands. Being that the uplands are highly sought after for annual cropping, Ed has investigated purchasing the balance of the lands and placing a conservation easement on those lands.
“Education is important, and people need to understand what is going on in the symbiotic relationship with the plants and animals on the native land,” says Bothner. “It’s gone on for centuries, and cattle play an important part in that relationship as well, if managed properly.”
Bothner has taken his passion for stewardship beyond his own fence line, having served on the SSGA executive, the Saskatchewan Livestock Association board, Beechy Credit Union board, Beechy Saskatchewan Pastures Program (SPP) patron committee and the Beechy CCA rodeo committee. He makes it a priority to stay current with industry issues and programs available, as well as staying connected with his peers within the ranching community.
Bothner also stresses the importance and value of getting a positive message out to the public regarding ranchers and their stewardship. He sees value in programs such as South of the Divide Conservation Action Program Inc. (SODCAP), a partnership between stakeholders and government with the goal of implementing actions relating to the South of the Divide Multi-Species Action Plan. SODCAP bridges the gap between rural and urban conversations, and establishes opportunities for producers to better manage their productivity.
“I don’t see there being any problem with a balance between habitat and what you do as a rancher,” notes Bothner. “If people get to learn what ranchers are doing, I think they will have a greater understanding of nature and we can all appreciate each other a lot more.”
This article was originally published on the Canadian Cattlemen's Association blog.