Last review/updated: October 27, 2006
There are 32 provincial grazing reserves located throughout Alberta. They are administered by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.
Some of the reserves, or community pastures, are natural (native) grassland, while others have been partially cleared and seeded to tame forage. They range in size from 6,602 acres (Seven Persons) to 76,681 acres (Pinhorn). The overall average is close to 22,500 acres.
The main purpose of these reserves is to provide summer pasture for Alberta's farmers and ranchers on public land, enabling them to use their own land for crop and hay production. The reserves also offer a variety of recreational opportunities including hunting, hiking, trail riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and sightseeing. Others who use grazing land are oil and gas well operators, pipeline companies, gravel haulers and seismic crews. Large portions of the reserves also provide excellent habitat for wildlife.
To assist recreational users and other visitors, maps that clearly show access routes are available from the regional grazing reserve office. These access routes are trails that provide the public optimum access to the reserve while minimizing both damage to the grazing lands and conflicts with the livestock operation and other users.
The Alberta Government launched its grazing reserve program at the Twin River site in 1934. With the establishment of the Purple Springs irrigated reserve in 1957, the province initiated the concept of grazing large cattle herds on irrigated pasture. In addition to having Alberta's only irrigated reserves, the Southern region also contains the two largest reserves in the province. The 76,388 acre Sage Creek reserve and the 76,681 acre Pinhorn reserve both surpass the third largest reserve by more than 36,000 acres. The Pinhorn and Sage Creek reserves also encompass two of the largest tracts of intact native prairie left in Alberta.
Through the Grazing Reserve Program, the province has pioneered the development of tame pasture from tree-covered areas on a large scale. The reserves are generally on poor quality soils that are not suitable for annual cropping. If these areas are developed properly, they can yield high quality pasture. Part of the pioneering has been finding ways and means to retain good quality developed pastures, even though nature continues to try its best to re-establish the tree growth that originally existed on these lands.
The newer reserves, developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, posed tough planning problems. The pasture sites were frequently used by hunters and other recreational users. There was also the question of how to maintain wildlife habitat. These and other demands on the land, some of them conflicting, had to be resolved while planning and developing the sites to accommodate the needs of farmers and ranchers who wanted grazing pastures for their cattle. This planning of development initiated the multiple use concept that is now practiced on all public land in Alberta.
On April 1, 1999, the responsibility for the care, handling and management of livestock and the forage resources was transferred to grazing reserve associations. Use of the grazing reserves by the associations is authorized by grazing management agreements.
These agreements outline the responsibilities of the Alberta Government and each grazing reserve association to meet the Provincial Grazing Reserve Program's mission, vision and goals.
To deliver, through grazing management agreements on 32 provincial grazing reserves, a public land base of 720,000 acres that is managed for a variety of uses in an environmentally sound, sustainable manner, while protecting public investment and providing economic and social benefits to Albertans.
To have excellent stewardship of the provincial grazing reserves, with optimized forage production, integrated multiple use and environmental protection. Albertans will enjoy economic and social benefits from the grazing and other uses and values of these public lands.
- The use of grazing to ensure a productive forage resource through
environmentally sound, sustainable resource management.
- The integration of a variety of land uses and conservation, through
objective and unbiased decision making, with input from the grazing
reserves associations, general public and other stakeholders.
- Protect the public's investment by ensuring the grazing reserve
assets are properly maintained or replaced as required.
- Ensure the principles of environmentally balanced pasture and water
management by the grazing reserve associations are incorporated into
the annual operating plans.
- Provide areas designated for resource conservation and suitable
habitats for wildlife.
- Provide continued public access by managing to reduce conflict
with grazing, other resource uses and conservation.
- Provide opportunities for the economic and social benefits to users
of the provincial grazing reserves.
- Provide a monitoring program that ensures the mission, vision and goals are being achieved.