The 30,535-acre Waldron Grazing Co-operative in southern Alberta is the latest easement acquisition in the increasingly influential portfolio of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).
The Waldron is the largest Canadian landscape ever to be conserved by an easement, and the property will remain a working ranch without cultivation, subdivision or commercial development.
With no development restrictions, the land was appraised at $75.4 million. The NCC will pay the co-op 20 percent of the original appraised land value, slightly more than $15 million, netting each shareholder about $250,000 each. The co-op will also get a tax receipt for $18.5 million.
“I’m satisfied that we garnered the best deal that we could get and that we created the best easement that we could do for our membership,” said co-op board chair Tim Nelson.
“We’re OK allowing (the NCC) to come on the ranch and put an easement on the land, but we still want to run the ranch as we’ve always run the ranch and we want to graze it the way we’ve always grazed it.”
Larry Simpson, NCC’s associate regional vice-president, said the deal meets the organization’s goals of protecting landscapes and preserving wildlife habitat.
“I think we’re viewing success, as a conservation organization … if we can keep sustainable agriculture in place. If we can have landscapes that are ecologically robust and healthy and landscapes that inspire present and future generations, well, then we’ve done something worthwhile. I think with the agreement we’re working on with the Waldron, it accomplishes all those things.”
Seventy-five percent of co-op members voted in favour of the deal. Nelson said all members share a desire to preserve the grassland for grazing. That and the $15 million were attractive carrots.
The Waldron is one of the last big ranches that flourished in southern Alberta in the late 1800s.
Eventually encompassing 300,000 acres, Walrond Cattle Ranche was established in
1883 by Duncan McNab McEachran, and ceased active operation in 1908. The land transitioned through several owners until the rancher co-op purchased the land in 1962, and changed the name to Waldron. At the time, it was claimed to be the first ranch in Canada to sell for $1M.
It’s important to state the obvious; this land has always been under the capable stewardship of ranchers, the original environmentalists, who have been diligently protecting the landscapes and preserving its wildlife habitat for over 130 years.