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Conservation deal protects Mattheis Ranch

Deal will see 12,000-acre ranch near Duchess permanently protected and $3.8 million used to fund ongoing research

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The University of Alberta and Western Sky Land Trust have signed one of the largest-ever conservation easement agreements in the province.

The deal not only guarantees the university’s 12,000-acre Rangeland Research Institute-Mattheis Ranch will be conserved forever, but also creates a $3.8-million research fund.

Western Sky Land Trust is providing the money, but the agreement was made possible with funding from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s land trust grant program, the university said in a press release.

bird in long grass
More than 100 bird species have been identified on the Rangeland Research Institute-Mattheis Ranch, including the long-billed curlew, a nationally designated Species of Special Concern that breeds in Alberta’s grasslands.  photo: University of Alberta

“I’m pleased that our government can support the work being undertaken by the University of Alberta and Western Sky Land Trust to ensure that the Mattheis Ranch remains an important research centre for generations to come,” said Kyle Fawcett, the environment and sustainable resource minister.

The endowment funding will be used to promote rangeland research in critical areas not currently being addressed; support the training of rangeland management and conservation personnel; maintain databases needed by researchers; and fund the management of the ranch.

“I’m pleased with the guarantee the conservation easement provides with respect to conserving the land forever,” said Edwin Mattheis, who, along with his wife Ruth, donated the 12,000-acre ranch near Duchess to the university in 2010 after owning and operating it for more than three decades.

native grassland
Native Prairie plants such as sand grass and wild rose abound on the sandy slopes along Matzhiwin Creek at the south end of the Mattheis Research Ranch.  photo: University of Alberta

The ranch and surrounding landscape are primarily native grasslands, but also include a river valley, streams, wetlands, vegetated sand dunes, and shrubs. There are also irrigation ditches, irrigated fields, and water control structures. Several high-voltage transmission lines and oil and gas infrastructure are present including 134 active well leases, compressor stations, pipelines and access roads. There are more than 30 species on the ranch listed as endangered or species at risk and about 1,000 acres of wetlands.

There are currently 20 research projects underway, including work on grazing systems, carbon sequestration, forages, and management of water resources and wildlife.

Western Sky Land Trust was created in 2005 at the request of Calgary region landowners and members of the public concerned about the loss of treasured landscapes in southern Alberta.

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