CRSB sus­tain­abil­ity projects more com­mon with ranch­ers, landown­ers

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Agriculture - BY JAMIE RIEGER

The part­ner­ship be­tween the Cana­dian Roundtable for Sus­tain­able Beef (CRSB) and or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Al­berta Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (ACA) goes back a few years and th­ese part­ner­ships such as th­ese make sense. They all have the same goal bring­ing a top-qual­ity prod­uct to the ta­ble while do­ing what it takes to not only min­i­mize any en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age, but to en­hance the en­vi­ron­ment for the flora, fauna, and com­mu­nity.

A ma­jor com­po­nent for pro­duc­ers in be­com­ing cer­ti­fied un­der CRSB stip­u­la­tions is to meet a num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­te­ria and that’s where or­ga­ni­za­tions like the ACA come in. The ACA and Mul­tiSAR had al­ready been work­ing with pro­duc­ers on sus­tain­abil­ity projects for years, so join­ing forces with CRSB a few years ago was a no-brainer.

"In 2002, there was a de­sire from pro­duc­ers and from govern­ment to have a part­ner­ship in place. Pro­duc­ers were tired of groups com­ing to their door want­ing to do one thing for one species. So, that was why Mul­tiSAR (Mul­ti­ple Species at Risk) came about," ex­plained Brad Downey, se­nior bi­ol­o­gist for the Al­berta Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and project co­or­di­na­tor for Mul­tiSAR. "It started in the Milk River area and was very grass­roots."

In fact, it was one rancher, John Ross, who was the first to be­come in­volved with Mul­tiSAR and it has since grown as pos­i­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ships were de­vel­oped.

"We con­ducted sur­veys, talked about the range and about dif­fer­ent en­hance­ments, but the land­hold­ers al­ways re­main in the driver’s seat," said Downey. "Our goal is to have long-term re­la­tion­ships with open, hon­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion and that has en­abled us to work with close to 600,000 acres. When it started, there was one pro­ducer."

Over the years, ACA and Mul­tiSAR have com­pleted en­hance­ment projects that in­clude hawk poles, wildlife fence tags, putting smooth lines on the bot­tom of fenc­ing, drilling wa­ter wells, and por­ta­ble elec­tric fenc­ing, among many oth­ers.

Downey re­called in one in­ci­dent where a fer­rug­i­nous hawk nest kept fall­ing and the eggs in it lost, but the hawk kept com­ing back to the same place to nest, al­ways with the same re­sult. A hawk pole was put up at the site as fer­rug­i­nous hawks re­turn to the same place every year to nest. The strat­egy has been suc­cess­ful with three to four young be­ing pro­duced each year as a re­sult.

A num­ber of years ago, the ACA planted sage brush plugs in the Many­ber­ries area in an ef­fort to im­prove the habi­tat for the Greater Sage Grouse, but learned they had more suc­cess by plant­ing sage brush seeds rather than plugs.

Ini­tially, their work was pri­mar­ily within the Milk River wa­ter­shed, but that has since ex­panded and so has the re­quests for their ser­vices.

In an­other par­tic­u­lar project, 1,760 acres planted back to na­tive grass for graz­ing and wildlife.

"In 2015, CCA (Cana­dian Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion) and CRSB got fund­ing from the Species at Risk Part­ner­ships on Agri­cul­tural Lands (SARPAL)," said Downey. "That al­lowed us to ex­pand into the South Saskatchewan wa­ter­shed and it runs from Longview to the Saskatchewan bor­der and south to the U.S. bor­der."

With that fund­ing from the Species at Risk Part­ner­ships on Agri­cul­tural Lands (SARPAL) pro­gram, CRSB has part­nered with Al­berta Beef Pro­duc­ers, Cana­dian Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, Mul­tiSAR, and Cows and Fish to in­crease, main­tain, and im­prove habi­tat for species at risk within the Grass­land nat­u­ral re­gion of Al­berta. And, the ACA is also a mem­ber of the CRSB.

"What they are all about are the same things we are about and ev­ery­body wants the same thing," said Downey. "Com­pared to where we were in 2002, there has been a big change in the open­ness, the aware­ness, and in the will­ing­ness. We now have a wait­ing list of peo­ple who want to work with us and it has every­thing to do with our part­ner­ship with CRSB."

In 2016-17, ini­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ven­to­ries were com­pleted on 10 ranches, with col­lab­o­ra­tion to im­ple­ment 15 habi­tat en­hance­ments as part of their con­ser­va­tion strate­gies. In 2017 alone, habi­tat con­ser­va­tion strate­gies were de­vel­oped on seven ranches to­tal­ing 62,973 acres. By com­par­i­son, for 2017-18, 42 habi­tat con­ser­va­tion strate­gies in­volv­ing 395,296 acres in the Milk River and South Saskatchewan wa­ter­sheds were com­pleted by Mul­tiSAR.

Downey also rec­og­nizes that each project and prop­erty will be dif­fer­ent and the or­ga­ni­za­tion is open to ideas from the rancher.

"We are open to ini­tia­tive ideas. One size doesn’t fit all. The pro­duc­ers know the land and knows the species? on their land," said Downey. "Look­ing for­ward, we will con­tinue work­ing with pro­duc­ers. That trust and re­spect is im­por­tant. We still work with that same pro­ducer from all those years ago."

As the ground level work con­tin­ues and more pro­duc­ers sign onto the CRSB pro­gram, the global beef com­mu­nity is watch­ing.

Canada is the first coun­try to de­velop a sus­tain­able beef pro­gram with its Cana­dian Roundtable on Sus­tain­able Beef pro­gram and has one of the low­est green­house gas foot­prints of beef pro­duc­tion in the world.

The CCA at­tended the Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties to the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change re­cently and sus­tain­able beef was part of the dis­cus­sion there.

"Our in­dus­try con­tin­u­ally strives to be a global leader in sus­tain­able beef pro­duc­tion and a part­ner in du­ally achiev­ing Canada’s eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal tar­gets," CCA said in a writ­ten doc­u­ment. "Cana­dian beef pro­duc­ers have achieved this through in­vest­ment and ap­pli­ca­tion of re­search and con­tinue to drive to­wards fur­ther im­prove­ment and shar­ing of best prac­tices through en­gag­ing in fo­rums such as the COP 24."

CCA Se­nior Man­ager, Govern­ment and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Fawn Jack­son also at­tended the Eu­ro­pean Beef Fo­rum 2018 that was held just prior to COP 24 in War­saw. One high­light of the fo­rum was the in­di­ca­tion that Poland will be mov­ing for­ward with their own sus­tain­able beef ini­tia­tive. Canada has been a lead­ing force in the sus­tain­able beef con­ver­sa­tion through the Cana­dian Roundtable for Sus­tain­able Beef. She also at­tended a COP 24 side event on sus­tain­able land­scapes. The work­shop con­firmed what Canada’s sus­tain­able beef in­dus­try al­ready knows "that high bio­di­ver­sity is highly cor­re­lated to cli­mate re­silience. This is yet an­other rea­son it’s so im­por­tant to keep na­tive grass­lands and the agri­cul­ture sys­tem that keeps grass­lands healthy," she said.

Pho­tos con­trib­uted

Hawk stand is dis­played.

Up­land wa­ter­ing site pushed by so­lar power.

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