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Cattle graze on a green hillside on McIntyre Ranch in Cardston County, Alberta

Protecting the globally rare grasslands of McIntyre Ranch

The Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada are joining forces to help protect one of Canada’s largest remaining stretches of prairie grasslands and wetlands.

McIntyre Ranch, a 129-year-old working cattle ranch south in Cardston County, has been marked for conservation thanks to an agreement between the two groups and the landowners.

Established in 1894, McIntyre Ranch is home to over 150 species of plants and wildlife, including 13 species at risk. The Thrall family has owned and operated the ranch since 1948, when Ralph Thrall purchased the land from Billy McIntyre’s estate. 

“We are grateful to be partnering with NCC and DUC as we work together and share the responsibility to conserve prairie grasslands,” said Ralph A. Thrall III, president and CEO of McIntyre Ranch Co., through a press release. 

“This relationship will help us achieve our sustainable ranching practices in conjunction with our ‘balance with nature’ philosophy. We are proud to play a role in conserving something that is the way that it used to be.”

Through a conservation easement, this 22,000-hectare ranch will see its natural integrity preserved by limiting future land development on the ranch site — commercial, residential or otherwise. 


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While the Thrall family will continue to oversee operations on the ranch, the land cannot be cultivated or cleared for future undertakings. The terms of the easement will remain in place in the future, regardless of the land’s ownership, as the conservation easement is attached to the land title.  

Upon completion, this project will stand as the largest conservation agreement in Canadian history.

“Conservation projects like the McIntyre Ranch give me hope,” says Catherine Grenier, president and CEO of NCC.

“By conserving the McIntyre’s cultural and natural history today, we are securing a nature-positive future for us all.” 

Over the years, Canada has lost over 80 per cent of its prairie grasslands due to land conversion, which is leading to the loss of nearly 60,000 hectares of grasslands annually nationwide. 

Alberta alone loses roughly 10,000 hectares of grasslands per year, leaving the province with just 26 per cent of its native grasslands intact.



Like the McIntyres before them, the Thrall family prides itself on sustainable stewardship in maintaining the natural value of the ranch. The efforts of four generations tending the ranch will ensure this rare and valuable habitat will be protected for generations to come.

Moving forward, the Alberta and federal governments are contributing $16 million to this project, while Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada are raising the remainder.

Despite this funding, $3 million is still required to complete the conservation project. The exact cost of the project has not been disclosed publicly.

For more information on this project and how to donate to the cause, visit



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