One-Four Research Farm: A Cooperative Wildlife Management Area

Image of Blair Scott

Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern

Located in southeastern Alberta, One-Four Ranch Research Facility, most of which is leased land from Alberta, has served as a hub for both agricultural and conservation research since 1927. The site is a 42,000-acre expanse of semi-arid mixed-grass prairie, situated south of Medicine Hat AB.

One-Four Ranch is a part of the Northern Great Plains and home to at least 23 federally listed species at risk, and other rare species including the threatened Swift Fox, the endangered Mountain Plover and the threatened Soapweed.

One-Four Ranch has traditionally occupied a common ground for achieving the goals of ranchers and conservationists. Its operations yielded agricultural research that had a pivotal influence on the production strategies and market valuations of ranchers. With respect to conservation, the research conducted at One-Four demonstrated that ranching and wildlife protection do not merely co-exist – they can actually complement one another. An operational framework that centres on preserving essential habitat features for species at risk involves well-managed pasture grazing; in fact, some species, such as the Mountain Plover, depend on grazing by ungulates to maintain optimal grass conditions.

Image of a Greater sage grouse

A Greater Sage-Grouse by Gary Kramer

In 2012, AAFC proposed a transfer of One-Four lands to the Province of Alberta. Shortly after, major conservation organizations began questioning how such a transfer would benefit conservation of the grasslands and grasslands wildlife.

The Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) contested the proposed transfer arguing that the One-Four grasslands should be protected under the Canada Wildlife Act.

AWA cited the importance of this research farm to the re-introduction of endangered prairie species such as the Greater Sage-Grouse. The Greater Sage-Grouse cannot afford to lose anymore native grassland habitat – sagebrush accounts for about half of their diet during the warmer seasons, and 100% of their winter supply.

In light of the complicated land-holding arrangements, Nature Canada has supported establishment of  One-Four Ranch as a Cooperative Wildlife Management Area, under which management responsibilities would be shared between Alberta, Canada and ranchers whose cattle graze this land.

Nature Canada also has been calling for greater protection of 7 other proposed protected areas. To read more about these critically important sites, click here.

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