It wasn’t prime real estate a century ago, but the Hansen Ranch near Waterton Lakes National Park certainly is now.
“When my family first came to this area in the 1920s, this was one of the last places people wanted to settle down,” said Shane Hansen, the third generation to work the land. “The snowfall was too deep and it was too remote.”
The Hansen family — Shane, wife Laurel and sons Riley and Carter — took over the operation in 2003 and last month announced their conservation agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
The agreement voluntarily restricts development rights on the 903-acre property, which contains several important habitats. It is located in an area referred to as the Crown of the Continent, home to wide-ranging mammals including grey wolf, wolverine, Canada lynx and fisher. It also adds to a buffer zone of protected properties surrounding Waterton Park that has helped conserve more than 44,000 acres.
Hansen Ranch is located in the headwaters region of southern Alberta. This area covers only four per cent of the province but provides fresh drinking water to 45 per cent of Albertans. Boundary Creek, a tributary of the St. Mary River, runs through the property.
It will continue to be a working ranch.
“Now my son, Carter and his wife Megan, live on the very first quarter section of land that my family bought, and he is now a shareholder in Hansen Ranches Cattle Company Ltd.,” said Shane. “He will eventually take over the farm and keep it going in the family.”
The project received funding from both the provincial and federal governments. A portion of the project was donated under the federal Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.