Video makes case for cattle as guardians

The documentary hopes to convince the public that livestock play an important role in preserving native grassland

Sometimes what you thought was the problem is really the solution. That’s the opening thought in a short documentary called Guardians of the Grasslands.

The statement is a reference to the importance of grazing cattle in preserving native grasslands. Cattle are frequently cited as contributors of greenhouse gases, a factor involved in climate change, and they have roles in the 15-minute documentary due for its first showing on Oct. 3 in Calgary.

“We’re really hoping that it makes people care about grasslands,” said Amie Peck, stakeholder engagement specialist with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

“Grasslands, we need them and they need our help. So by drawing attention to, one, the fact that the grasslands are an endangered ecosystem and then two, that information is only good if we know how to help them, and we have a solution for that.

“Cattle are actually preserving these spaces and maintaining a home for the plants and animals that live on those landscapes and … all the groups involved, conservationists and ranchers, are trying to benefit the land and trying to do what’s right. And what’s right is having a keystone ruminant species there.”

The documentary is a project of Nature Conservancy Canada and Ducks Unlimited and was produced by Story Brokers Media in partnership with the CCA.

It was shot entirely on the 65,000-acre Waldron Grazing Co-operative north of Lundbreck, Alta.

“We were shooting a project for the Waldron Grazing Co-op to kind of explain the history behind it,” said Peck. “While we were doing that project we thought, there’s a really cool opportunity there to talk about the role that cattle play in preserving the native grasslands.”

A trailer for the documentary says the grazing co-op alone sequesters two million tonnes of carbon.

About 300 steers have cameos in the film, which also features Mickenzie Plenel-Stronks of Ducks Unlimited Canada and Kristine Tapley, also with DU. Carys Richards of the Nature Conservancy and rancher Ben Campbell of Black Diamond also have appearances in the final version, said Peck.

The initial Oct. 3 screening is by invitation only.

“We’re really hoping that’s just the first of many (screenings) so we’re really hoping provincial organizations and affiliates will want to host their own screening and kind of take it across the country that way.”

The trailer for Guardians of the Grasslands can be found here.

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