Conservation easement will protect bison rubbing stone

Participants in the Saskatchewan Forage Pasture Tour examine the bison rubbing rock. | Melissa Bezan photo

Ducks Unlimited was mainly interested in protecting the land’s natural grasslands because of its value as wildlife habitat

The universe seemed to come full circle for Lorne Klein after he started to raised bison on his ranch near Francis, Sask.

Klein originally raised elk on the ranch but when he took up bison, it tied present day to the long-forgotten past because he owns a quarter section that contains an ancient bison rubbing rock, as well as natural native grasslands.

According to Klein, the rock was deposited on the land after the glaciers receded about 12,500 years ago.

“I don’t know when the bison first arrived at that site after the glacier receded, but they would have used that as a rubbing stone and because they would have been around it frequently, they would have kept the soil barren of vegetation,” Klein said.

Sarah Tranberg, a conservation program specialist with Ducks Unlimited Saskatchewan, said Klein reached out to them about preserving the land.

“When he came to Ducks and said he was interested in doing a project, we pretty much jumped at it,” Tranberg said. “It’s a beautiful quarter section and it would be a shame for that to get broken at any time.”

Klein said he wanted to preserve the land because of its ties to his youth.

“I grew up a mile and a half from that quarter,” he said. “So as kids, we would ride our ponies up there all the time and you just knew of that parcel of land for decades.”

When he was given a chance to buy the quarter section, he jumped at it.

“I didn’t trust that someone wouldn’t be in there plowing it up. And I’m certainly not saying that annual cropping and farming land is a bad thing. Farmers feed the world. And I’m not saying that we should not have plowed the prairie. I’m not saying that, but I’m thinking that there’s not a lot of native prairie left and I had the opportunity to preserve something. So that was really my motive for sure.”

Although the bison rubbing stone is a rare reminder of history, Tranberg said it wasn’t the reason they wanted to conserve the land.

“We weren’t looking at the bison stone in particular,” she said. “It’s a nice add-on, but typically we just look at the habitat value when we do conservation easements so we only take into account if the habitat is there for duck production.”

This habitat is ideal for ducks because it contains both grasslands and wetlands.

“The grass is important because that’s what the ducks nest in and if they aren’t able to nest, then they aren’t going to be in that quarter section. So the water is just as important as the grass.”

Through the conservation easement, Klein is allowed to graze his bison on the land and use the water, as long as the land isn’t cultivated and the water isn’t drained.

Now, Klein has plans for the quarter section — specifically for the bison rubbing rock.

“What I’m hoping to do with the bison is sort of recreate how it would have been a century ago,” Klein said. “And I would prefer that they use that stone to rub on more than they actually do.”

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