B.C. ranch recognized for conservation efforts

The Clifton family of Keremeos, B.C., receive the national environmental stewardship award for their range practices

Long-term improvements to a family ranch in south-central British Columbia were recognized when the Clifton family received the national environmental stewardship award.

Clifton Ranch, which is based on arid land near Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley, received the award at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary.

The family has been in the area for about 100 years and runs about 500 cows on native grassland.

Water projects, rotational grazing, grassland conservation and species protection are part of the plan led by Wade and Sandra Clifton. They work with their three daughters, Cassie, Trisha and Megan, as well as sister-in-law Dianne Clifton and her children, J.R. and Marla.

“We didn’t do this to win awards. We do these range practices because it is the right thing to do,” Wade Clifton said after the award presented Aug. 14.

The ranch suffered from wildfire damage last year, losing grassland, fences and water line infrastructure, but timely moisture rejuvenated it. In this desert climate, plants go dormant until it rains and the growing season is short.

The family is able to graze until January and calve in mid-February so that the herd can be sent back out in mid-May.

“We are trying to bring a lot of the natural grasses back with rotations,” Clifton said.

Improvements have seen vegetation nearly double its previous levels and they are starting to see carbon build up in the soil. Weed growth is decreasing, and natural species are returning to the landscape.

The family’s environmental plan also protects wildlife, and the Cliftons want the public to understand that cattle are now part of the ecosystem since they have been there for more than 100 years.

“It is important they understand we are trying to better the land,” he said.

“Until we got in the middle of all this, I don’t think we understood how little people understood. We are working at this for a long time, but people don’t even know we are doing it.”

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