Conservation easement on over 50,000 acres in southern Alberta set to preserve grasslands in perpetuity

Last month, the Thrall family announced it had reached an agreement to protect the over 54,000 acres of native grasslands in southern Alberta that make up the historic McIntyre Ranch through a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited. This makes the ranch the largest piece of privately-owned grasslands to be preserved in Canadian history.

The McIntyre Ranch was established in 1894 by William McIntyre who migrated from Texas. McIntyre made numerous visits over several years to look at the country in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. During that time he watched to see how the few cattle and horses which belonged to the early settlers had come through the winter and how fat they were the following fall. After about three years, he decided to plant his feet east of Cardston, Alta., near Magrath. The land at that time belonged to the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company who were eager to have settlers come in and purchase the land.

The ranch remained in the McIntyre family until William’s son, Billy, passed away in 1948. At that time, Ralph Thrall, who was a family friend and employee of the McIntyres, bought the property. The Thrall family has owned and operated the ranch ever since.

Ralph Thrall III and his three siblings own and operate the ranch today, and it was their group decision to commit to conservation easements on the ranch.

Hear from Ralph Thrall III explain how the conservation easement came to be and what it means for existing ranching practices and his family:

At the end of April 2024, the formal announcement was made that an agreement had been signed between the parties to protect the grasslands, wildlife, and habitat that the property entails, in perpetuity. The agreement gives both organizations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited, conservation easements on the property that prevent future development including from crops, roads, subdivisions, or even wind and solar farms.

With conversations regarding the easement beginning over 30 years ago, the Thrall family is proud to have completed the process of protecting the McIntyre Ranch, Thrall says.

William McIntyre, Jr. wrote about the founding of the ranch in a 1947 edition of Canadian Cattlemen magazine. You can read that, here.

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