Tuesday, June 30, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 26 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“The options are obvious. Stay put as we think we have the right to do, or find some suitable alternative, which we don’t believe exists.”
- Allen Wilcke  
- on relocating from the Centre 

 

 
Nestled in the rolling hills west of Coleman, the Bohomolec Ranch property sits as an important wildlife corridor between Highway 3 and the forest reserve. Over the years its owners have resisted efforts from multiple fronts to exploit the land for natural resources, and now the property will be protected into the future thanks to the Government of Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).
The 160-acre property was purchased by the NCC in 2008, as part of the Government of Canada’s $225 million Natural Areas Conservation Program. On Wednesday, June 24, NCC celebrated with local and regional supporters and the land’s former owners, marking the preservation of this property as NCC’s 2009 Gift to Canadians in Alberta.
“It’s a wonderful piece of property,” said Bob Demulder, NCC’s Regional Vice President for Alberta. “It’s a critical area for conservation.”
Rick Casson, Member of Parliament for Lethbridge, attended on behalf of Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice and Macleod M.P. Ted Menzies. The government, said Casson, is committed to the long term conservation of land, because the country’s natural beauty defines Canada more than any man-made monuments.
“Canadians identify with these places,” said Casson.
The Keith and Berretti families, who owned the property for over 30 years, also attended the event. Serena Mellen (nee Berretti) reminisced about her childhood days riding her pony around the land.
“It brings back a lot of memories being up on this hillside today,” she said. “It’s so special for me that this is going to stay this way forever.”
Peter Keith spoke about the property’s history, noting that even when the family sold off other pieces of the larger ranch over the years, they always held onto the piece surrounding Iron Ridge.
“Holding onto this property has not been exactly easy,” said Keith.
He noted several attempts over the years from developers and others to use the land, all resisted by the family. In the 1980s, he said, the provincial government planned to expropriate the property for a rock quarry. The property has been targeted by mining investors, wind farm developers, and more.
 
As he got older, said Keith, he realized that he would rather see the property protected and safe for the future, free of development threats. He hopes to transfer another portion of the property to the NCC this autumn, he said.
The Keith and Berretti families donated a portion of the property’s purchase price back to the NCC for long term stewardship of the land.
Dr. Barney Reeves, a member of the NCC’s regional board, spoke about the importance of the property and the area to Canada’s ecology.
“Crowsnest Pass is one of those forgotten places in Canada,” he said. “It’s one of the most biodiverse valleys in the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, the Crowsnest has been largely ignored by scientists.”
Reeves said that there have been 12 rare plant species identified on the 160-acre property, and that Iron Ridge is a remnant of a volcanic feature. The land is also very important as a wildlife corrridor.
“Our board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada considers the Crowsnest to be one of the top priorities in Alberta,” he said.
Councillor Gary Taje, who has been a longtime supporter of conservation efforts in the Pass, represented the municipality at the event. He noted that many people see value in the Crowsnest Pass, and some people look to abuse it or take advantage of it.
Thankfully, he said, that will not happen to this property, and future generations will be able to enjoy it. He said that he is happy the municipality can work with the Nature Conservancy to balance the needs of protection and growth.
The property is an important corridor for local elk populations, and is also used by deer, moose, bears, wolves, and wolverines as they pass through the area. Over 20 bird species have been identified on the property, including pileated woodpeckers and peregrine falcons.
The Nature Conservancy had several birds of prey at the event, including a great horned owl, a short-horned owl, an American kestrel, and Spirit, a rehabilitated golden eagle –– a strong symbol for the Pass given the recently identified major golden eagle migration occurring over the Livingstone Range on the east end of the Pass.
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