Wildlife & Land Stewardship

“Thou shalt inherit the holy earth as a faithful steward,

 

Conserving its resources and productivity from generation to generation.

 

Thou shalt safeguard thy fields from soil erosion,

 

Thy living waters from drying up,

 

Thy forests from desolation, and

Protect thy hills from overgrazing by thine herds,

 

That thy descendants may have abundance forever.”

– Cross (family) papers, date unknown 1820-1870

The Cross family has deep roots in Alberta. Our family stories are written on this land, and our children’s future is here too. This makes us think long-term about the land and water health, and a sustainable economy. As landowners, we honor the land stewardship responsibilities that come with the territory, and we are proud of our well known commitment to environmental conservation. For us, it is about respecting a harmonious land-people relationship that has stood the test of time for nearly 125 years.

Respect for the environment and wildlife

Protecting habitat – at the A7 Ranche, we maintain 13,000 acres of open grassland in the eastern slopes (foothills) of the Canadian Rockies. We believe in working with nature, not against it. This means not using chemicals, preserving and encouraging wildlife and fish habitat, and taking steps to protect the watershed. For example, we usually water from troughs connected to springs, instead of allowing the cattle to wade into creeks. This protects the ecosystem, and people downstream. Did you know that the water from the eastern slopes supplies Western Canada, east all the way to the Hudson’s Bay?

Maintaining grassland health – Cattle grazing provides natural fertilizer and is necessary for grassland health. It mimics the historical grazing pattern of bison here prior to European settlement.

Helping with climate change – Producing beef by grazing instead of the feedlot model means we don’t use a lot of fossil fuels to power farm equipment. And, an equivalent amount of native grassland sinks more CO2 than the equivalent in above-ground forest cover. Your support for the A7 Ranche as an eco-friendly grazing operation, maintains these grasslands from being developed – acting as a carbon sink and doing something positive for climate change.

Donations of nature reserves

Part of this environmental commitment is our demonstrated support for maintaining wild landscapes. In 1987, John’s aunt and uncle, Ann and Sandy Cross, donated to the province the Cross Conservation Area nature reserve southwest of Calgary, giving thousands of children the opportunity to re-connect with nature. At the time, the 4,800-acre property was the largest private land donation in Canadian history.

More recently, with Cross support, part of the A7 Ranche along the eastern slopes was turned into Bob’s Creek Wildlands, a provincial park designation. Present-day A7 owner John Cross is the past Vice-President of the local Southern Alberta Land Trust Society (SALTS). SALTS is a registered non-profit dedicated to preserving southern Alberta landscapes through conservation easements and public education (3% of the before-tax profits from our direct beef sales are donated to SALTS). We are also active members of the famous Pekisko Group, a group of eastern slopes ranchers who have successfully defended the eastern slopes from excessive development and drilling activity.
2011 Crocus

2011 Crocus

Maintaining a healthy, open foothills landscape

Our biggest environmental commitment is to work alongside our neighbors to maintain healthy, large-scale working landscapes where humans and wildlife peacefully co-exist. Without the ranches of the Eastern Slopes foothills, this landscape would end up as housing developments and the intact ecosystem would vanish. We ranch in the Porcupine Hills, on the eastern flank of protected areas like Kananaskis and the national parks. This provides adjacent habitat (animals do not read land title deeds!) which is critical for the survival of larger species like grizzlies. Recent scientific research suggests the biodiversity of a well-managed ranch can equal or exceed that of a national park.

Wildlife

Our cattle are grass-fed and grass finished (fattened). We carefully rotate and manage their grazing to mimic the historic grazing pattern of the bison, which is necessary for the grass health in a grassland ecosystem. The results speak for themselves: high quality topsoil and clean creeks, healthy cattle on healthy land, and an abundance of wildlife. Although we allow deer hunting, we do not kill any wildlife as so-called “pests”. Instead, we find that by leaving them alone, they keep each other in balance and do not harm our cattle.

A moose grazing

A moose grazing

Wild Roses

Wild Roses

Wild Flower

Wild Flower

On the A7, we co-exist with pretty much every kind of wild animal native to the foothills: grizzlies and black bears, cougars and lynx, ungulates like moose, elk, mule and white-tailed deer; predatory birds like golden and bald eagles and hawks, waterfowl like geese and pelicans, songbirds, and an abundance of small mammals, like skunks, coyotes, gophers, muskrat and beaver (we are too far away from the mountains for wolves). Check out our photo gallery!

Green Housing and Low-Carbon Living

On the A7, we minimize our carbon footprint. John lives in the main ranch house which is straw bale construction and completely off grid (solar and wind powered). We are investigating additional wind options to power the rest of the ranch. We also use minimal machinery to avoid fossil fuel use. Instead we employ good old-fashioned Alberta cowboys riding “solar powered” (grass eating) horses!

The off-grid ranch house

The off-grid ranch house

Horses at play

Horses at play