Home on the Rangeland

An AltaLink gift supports University of Alberta research to protect a special ecosystem

Mifi Purvis - 02 February 2017

Alberta's rangeland rolls out from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and makes up 43 per cent of the province's agricultural base. The varied grassy ecosystems that form the rangeland help keep Albertans fed and safe. It is forage for livestock, a rich habitat for wild animals, and a natural "carbon sink" that cleans the air and water. But you don't need to tell John Buckley that.

Buckley is a third-generation rancher, a partner in the Quarter Circle X Ranch and a University of Alberta grad ('82 ALES). He's also a keen steward of the rangeland, which he says is under threat. "Cows, crops, wildlife, country residential development, urban sprawl, recreation and people demand their time and space," Buckley says. Other threats include industry, invasive species and climate change. To find out what's impacting the rangeland and how, Buckley works with students from the University of Alberta. And he advocates for more research, leading to better land management.

That's where AltaLink has stepped forward. The company is Alberta's largest regulated electricity transmission company. It works with landowners across Alberta, powering communities, businesses and industries. AltaLink has donated $655,000 to the University of Alberta's Rangeland Research Institute (RRI). This gift will create the AltaLink Master's Scholarship in Rangeland Disturbance Ecology and advances research that will protect Alberta's rangelands.

"AltaLink's transmission network provides power to more than three million Albertans, and the 6,000 landowners, including more than 150 ranchers, across the province that host our facilities play an important role in helping us keep the lights on," said Dennis Frehlich, AltaLink's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We are making this investment to enable new research that will support Alberta's ranching community." Future projects may include studies into how grasslands function when they're disturbed, and the testing and development of ways to help them recover.

"Funding from this gift supports research. It helps rangeland users better manage their activities," said Edward Bork, director of the RRI. "We work with ranchers across Alberta so that all Canadians benefit from our rangelands." Thanks to the support of AltaLink and the work of University of Alberta researchers, people will be able to see Alberta's rangelands for years to come, and not just in their imagination.

"Investment in studying rangelands will help ranchers like me manage them," says Buckley. "We can take what we already know, and combine it with science, to make sure we are good stewards of this land, and that we work with all our partners to keep it usable for our children."