Roy Audet of Last Sands Ranch, southeast of Milk River, Alberta is the year 2000 recipient of the Alberta Cattle Commission Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA). Audet was selected because of his commitment to managing the native range, riparian areas and tame forage under his care in a sustainable manner.
The ranch was settled at the turn of the century by Audet's grandfather and managed as a mixed cattle and grain operation.
Feeling that this part of moisture-poor southeast Alberta was never meant to be farmed, Audet has taken farmland out of production and seeded it back to grass to better manage the sensitive ecosystem. This has not only prevented soil erosion, but has helped stop the spread of alkali in the soil.
Today the ranch has approximately 140 head of cattle on almost 5,500 acres of deeded and leased land.
Audet feels a whole-farm approach to grass management is especially important in the dry Milk River area. Last year (1998), Audet saw only 3.5 inches of moisture for the year. So any steps taken to minimize erosion and maximize soil stability are essential. As a result, Audet practices rotational grazing and winter feeding.
The Milk River is the life-blood of the many ranches and farms in southeast Alberta, so Audet is an ardent protector of the water system. Cattle access to stream banks is managed along some sensitive areas of the river and Roy has been encouraging brush and tree growth through selective fencing and caging.
These progressive attitudes have led Audet to become very involved with conservation minded projects in his area such as becoming a founding member of the Milk River Ranchers Association, which promotes water conservation and pasture management, and supporting the Riparian Habitat Management Program, better known as Cows and Fish. Audet was also part of a local canoe club set up to help smooth interactions between boaters and local landowners by developing public access points to the river at several bridge crossings.
Last Sands Ranch has undergone many changes in the past and the Audet family feels change will continue into the future. And it's a future that will include an environmental stewardship approach to sustaining a way of life.