ALUS presents a profile series showcasing outstanding farmers and ranchers creating ecosystem services in Alberta.
Alberta trailblazers Doug and Susan Clark with their son, Wes, of JC Ranch participate in the ALUS Wheatland program, a partnership between Wheatland County and ALUS. Wheatland County has been home to JC Ranch for over 125 years. Doug and Susan Clark, with their son, Wes, run a cow-calf operation over 2000 acres in the Crowfoot Creek Watershed. They became ALUS participants in 2020 when they protected 32 acres of their land through the ALUS Wheatland program.
As the stewards of a Century Farm, the Clarks are keenly aware of the value provided by a healthy landscape. Clean air and water are particularly important to the Clark family. They knew that in order to help keep the creek and their land cleaner that it was important to keep their cattle away from the creek.
“With ALUS Wheatland, we have been working towards reducing our impact on the health of the water on our land,” said Doug. “It was important to us to provide alternate water sources for our cattle.”
With ALUS Wheatland, the Clarks were able to install an off-site watering system to provide their cattle an alternate source of drinking water. By keeping their cattle out of the waterbodies on their land, the Clarks are able to keep their cattle well- hydrated and avoid having the water fouled by the cattle tramping about in the waterway.
Another key component of protecting the creek was the fencing project that the Clarks undertook with ALUS. With well-placed fencing, the cattle can be more easily managed and access to the riparian areas can be reduced or excluded. This helps to reduce the impact on riparian vegetation and the streambank. This buffer zone between the pastureland and the waterway provides critical protection to the plants, insects and animals that make their home in the boundary environment between the uplands and the water. Keeping the cattle away allows the natural vegetation to flourish, which helps to clean the water that flows off the land and into the waterway. The flourishing plant life also helps stabilize the stream bank, preventing soil from falling into the water. The results from such a seemingly simple act of protection are manyfold and complex. The Clark’s preserved wetlands, waterways and buffer zones are dynamic environments that supply food, cover and water for wildlife. The benefits to the environment will only increase as the Clark family continues to steward their creeks and grasslands. A healthy landscape regenerates land function, improves biodiversity, stores carbon in the soil and helps ensure resilience during drought and flood.