For the past 16 years, Alberta Beef Producers has recognized outstanding environmental efforts with their Environmental Stewardship Award. Cattle operations across Alberta are nominated for their exceptional stewardship practices. This year's recipients are Glen and Kelly Hall of Bar None South Ranches.
Bar None South Ranches, near Stavely, AB, run 350 head of Simmental cattle and have approximately 4,000 acres of grass and hay. Glen and Kelly Hall are part owners and managers of this 9,000 acre operation, located east of Parkland, to the Little Bow River Valley and west in the Porcupine Hills.
The Halls have been committed to environmental stewardship for many years and incorporate it in all aspects of their operation. They realize that you have to take care of what you have today so there is something left for tomorrow.
"For decades we have been working with our partners on being committed to our land and water," said Kelly. "When we were asked to be nominated for this award, it was an honour to know someone else recognized the efforts we have made."
"This wasn't a contest to us, it is just what we feel is the right thing to do and it is so great to be recognized for something we have just always done, it's our way of life," added Glen. "We see ourselves as caretakers of our land and believe we need to leave it better than when we found it for future generations."
After learning some valuable lessons through dryer years, the Halls began to focus on developing water systems, fencing dugouts, riparian areas and springs. Using solar pumps, water is taken from a spring and gravity fed down to a trough and overflow is fed right back into the creek. Through working with the riparian management group, Cows and Fish, they restored the creek banks by strategically fencing areas.
"We worked with Cows & Fish to monitor our riparian areas and found ways to lessen the impact on the land so the creek could establish its banks back," said Glen.
By doing so this improved the quantity and quality of the water for not only their cattle, but the wildlife and anyone downstream. Good vegetation on the creek banks prevents flooding and erosion, it also slows the flow, cools the water and leaves less silt.
As a commitment to their land, the Halls practice a ‘eat half, leave half' philosophy when it comes to rotational grazing. Cattle are moved when about fifty percent of the grass is gone. By leaving half of the grass, it acts as a blanket in the winter, covering the ground to keep moisture in and to protect the earth from wind and sun erosion. This protection will also provide shelter for new growth early in the spring.
The Halls did a thorough evaluation of their operation and modified some of their systems; this included restoring eroded farmlands by re-seeding them back to grass. An Environmental Farm Plan was done on Bar None South to see where else they could make environmental improvements.
"Our Environmental Farm Plan was a bit of an eye opener. We knew we had done some things right but we also knew there was more we could do," said Kelly.
After years of run-off flooding, the Halls contacted the Alberta Farm Stewardship program and received fifty percent cost recovery assistance to build a berm to stop the flooding. Many trees have been planted and grass has been seeded around the berm to stabilize the banks.
"For the last ten years our yard has been flooded from the run off because it comes through so fast," said Glen.
The Halls would like to spend this next year using this award as best they can to spread the word on environment. For them, it's about constantly looking ahead for new improvements and taking care of what they have.
"It doesn't matter how much land you have, you can do your part to keep our land and water clean for future generations and for Alberta," says Kelly.
For all of their great efforts and continued dedication to the environment, this is why the Halls have been selected as the 2008 Environmental Stewardship Award recipients by Alberta Beef Producers.
"We share this award with everyone in Alberta making a conscious effort to improve our environment," said Glen.