Stewardship, predation payments discussed

The care and feeding of wildlife was on the minds of ranchers earlier this month at the Alberta Beef Producers annual meeting.


Six of the 20 resolutions that members passed dealt with how cattle production overlaps with predators and wild grazing animals.


The ABP executive has been directed to lobby government for quicker payments for livestock predation, allow paid hunting under the wildlife act and increase elk hunting in problem areas.


“There’s a number of places now within the province that swath grazing or bale grazing is almost not even a possibility because the wildlife will wreck it before your cattle even get a chance to eat it,” said new ABP chair Greg Bowie of Ponoka, Alta.


Elk have become a particular problem, notably in an area surrounding Canadian Forces Base Suffield where a herd estimated at 5,000 eats and damages nearby private grassland. 


There are similar concerns in grazing areas along the eastern slopes of the Rockies in southwestern Alberta.


Wildlife issues were also addressed in a more encompassing resolution directing ABP to lobby for market-based payments to those who provide ecological goods and services.


The idea that landowners should be compensated for stewardship they provide in the form of wildlife habitat, water protection and conservation, biodiversity and other services has been arising more frequently, Bowie said.


“There’s lots of places in the world where people are compensated in one form or another for providing those things, whether it is the wildlife itself or marshlands or areas to protect water sources,” he said.


“It isn’t going to be a simple task, that’s for sure. It will take some time and it will take a lot of thought to get this thing right.”


The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association established a task force to explore the options about a year ago, Bowie added, and ABP is part of that. 


Task force members are exploring ecological goods and services programs elsewhere in Canada and in other countries to determine what will be sustainable, market-driven and fair, Bowie said.


ABP members also resolved to oppose plans to re-introduce bison to Banff National Park because of fears of disease transmission to cattle herds near the park. Bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis can infect bison and cattle and have been detected in the past in bison surrounding Wood Buffalo National Park.


Ranchers don’t want the same occurrence near Banff.


“We know that there’s disease problems up there (near Wood Buffalo National Park), and until there’s a lot of assurances that these animals will be clean and that they will be contained … there’s a number of concerns there,” said Bowie.

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