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Conservation group backs beef sector

Ducks Unlimited wants people to see cattle as protectors of ‘threatened wetlands and grasslands’

Ducks Unlimited Canada and the beef sector share the same focus on “water and grass,” says CEO Karla Guyn.
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Ducks Unlimited Canada and the beef industry have a lot in common, and can work together to preserve vital grassland habitat, says the organization’s CEO.

“For us, our main focus is on water and grass. It’s the same focus for cattle producers as well,” Karla Guyn said in an interview.

The relationship between her organization and the cattle industry is one of mutual respect and benefit, said Guyn, who spoke about this relationship in a keynote at the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) meeting at the recent Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

“Ducks Unlimited Canada recognizes that cattle are protecting some of the most threatened wetlands and grasslands,” she said. “Without cattle grazing, these areas could be lost to cultivated agriculture or other uses that negatively affect things like biodiversity and carbon storage and wildlife.”

Ducks Unlimited has a seat on the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef board, and it and other conservation groups (including the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the World Wildlife Fund) want to work more closely with the roundtable.

“At our last meeting in April in Ottawa with them, there was agreement from the CRSB and conservation groups to come out with communication messages, and those are being worked on right now,” said Guyn. “CRSB has recognized that they need to have that conservation voice at the table.”

For their part, conservation groups need to speak up about the importance of the beef industry, as the media are speaking more often about eating less meat or choosing plant-based foods, she added.

“I think environmental conservation groups have a role in this. We’re going to help promote the idea of why the cattle industry is important to the conservation of grass and water.”

During her talk at the CRSB meeting, she encouraged the cattle industry to continue to research its impacts on biodiversity, climate change and water quality.

“I still believe that at the end of the day, science will prevail, despite the misinformation,” said Guyn, who grew up in Calgary and trained as a biologist. “If you don’t have scientific fact to back you up, you don’t really have a leg to stand on.”

Since its inception in 1938, Ducks Unlimited has always focused on maintaining habitat of working landscapes, and has not advocated taking them out of production.

There are currently more threats to the beef industry through trade wars, tariffs, and plant-based foods, said Guyn.

“This demonstrates the need to have an environmentally sustainable industry,” she said. “More and more, consumers are requesting that.

“I think that’s where conservation organizations can come in. We’re not part of the beef industry, so some folks think us speaking up can carry some weight. We’re really talking about the role that cattle producers have on the agricultural landscape in Canada.”

A communications specialist is currently working with the CRSB, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and conservation groups to get key messages to the public.

“We all agree that this is very important. Ducks Unlimited Canada sees the push to more plant-based foods as a threat to the conservation of grasslands and wetlands,” she said.

“Using science gives us credibility with government, industry and the public. I believe the CRSB will continue to do that.”

Messages from landowners and cattle producers have a big impact on the public, and landowners should not be afraid to share their stories or to be emotional when they are doing so.

“Ducks Unlimited knows that the beef industry is facing all kinds of challenges right now, and we want to navigate those challenges with them,” she said.

About the author


Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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