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Biodiversity In The Snow:
How Alberta Ranches And Farms Stay Wildlife-Friendly All Winter

You’re a farmer in Alberta, and you know how vital biodiversity is to the health and sustainability of your land. But have you considered what you can do in the winter to support wildlife and promote habitat on your farm? The cold months don’t mean your conservation efforts have to go into hibernation.You can enhance biodiversity year-round, even when the ground is frozen. Winter biodiversity conservation will benefit your operation and the environment, from providing shelter and food sources to improving connectivity.

Read on to discover practical ways to help local wildlife thrive this winter on your farm. The future of Alberta’s agriculture depends on the biodiversity we cultivate today. Let’s make this a season of opportunity.


What Is Biodiversity and Why Is It Crucial for Alberta’s Agricultural Landscapes

As a farmer, you already know that animals like spotted deer, can wander in your land. It's your job to take care of them too.

Biodiversity simply means the variety of life on Earth – all the different plants, animals, microorganisms, and the ecosystems they form. Agricultural landscapes comprise much of Alberta’s land area, so maintaining biodiversity is essential.

Albertan Farms and ranches provide habitat for numerous species, from tiny soil microbes to large grazing animals. This biodiversity generates many benefits for agricultural producers, including pollination, natural pest control, soil health, and water quality regulation. Losing biodiversity poses risks to farm productivity and resilience.

Preserving biodiversity also has much broader implications. Many species found on agricultural lands are declining globally, and once lost, cannot be recovered. Maintaining biodiversity helps ensure healthy, functioning ecosystems that support all life on the planet, now and into the future.

Conserving biodiversity requires balancing environmental health and economic viability. With proactive management, agricultural producers can achieve both. Protecting the web of life that sustains us all is a shared responsibility that begins at home, on the land.

What Are The Six Principles of Biodiversity Conservation

Some horses might wander on your farm during winter as they might consider it as their food 'storehouse.'

The six principles of biodiversity aim to preserve and improve the habitat of native plants and animals on your Albertan farm or ranch.

Soil is the Foundation of Healthy Ecosystems

Healthy, living soil is essential for biodiversity. Make sure not to disturb or expose soil unnecessarily. Limit soil compaction from equipment and livestock to allow water, oxygen and nutrients to reach plant roots and soil organisms.

Native Areas Are Biodiversity ‘Storehouses’

Protect any native grasslands, wetlands, woodlands or riparian areas on your land. These provide habitat for wildlife even in winter.

Timing and Intensity of Use Influence Biodiversity

Adjust the timing, frequency and intensity of practices like crop harvesting, manure spreading, and pesticide use. For example, delay fall manure spreading until spring to avoid loss of nutrients over winter.

Variety is the Spice of Life 

Maintain diversity in your farming or ranching operation. Grow a variety of crops and use integrated pest management to avoid eliminating beneficial insects. Rotate where you locate livestock feeding areas.

Not All Things Are Ecologically Equal

Some areas of your land may be more ecologically valuable or sensitive. Prioritize these areas for biodiversity enhancement and avoid disturbances here when possible. For example, avoid feeding livestock or applying manure in riparian areas adjacent to water bodies.

By following these principles, you’ll be well on your way to supporting biodiversity through the winter and beyond.

How To Apply The Six Principles Of Biodiversity Conservation On Your Land This Winter

Preserving wildlife during winter is a community effort. Talk to other farmers too!

Even in winter, there are steps you can take to enhance biodiversity on your Albertan farm or ranch. By following the six principles of biodiversity conservation, you can improve the habitat for plants, animals, and other organisms during the colder months.

Keep an Eye on the Soil Health

Make sure any soil that remains unfrozen still has coverage to prevent erosion. You can also plan any soil amendments or cover cropping for the spring. Healthy, biodiverse soil is the foundation for biodiversity above ground.

Protect Native Areas

Any remaining native grasslands, wetlands, or woodlands on your land should be left undisturbed in winter. These areas provide shelter and food sources for wildlife during winter. Plan any maintenance, enhancement or expansion of these areas for the growing season.

Consider the Timing and Intensity of Use

For any agricultural activities that continue into winter, like grazing, be mindful of the effects on biodiversity. Provide recovery periods for pastures and rotate livestock to prevent overgrazing. Also, avoid activities that may disturb wildlife in ecologically sensitive areas.

Plant Various Crops

Increase variety on your farm by planting cover crops, buffer strips or food plots for wildlife. A diversity of plant life means a diversity of habitats and food sources for animals. Winter cover crops and food plots continue providing benefits even under snow.

Evaluate the Ecological Impact of Your Practices

Some actions have greater effects on biodiversity than others. Make choices that minimize harm to wildlife and their habitat. For example, choose targeted herbicide application over broadcast spraying.

Cooperate With Your Community

Work with neighbouring landowners and local conservation groups to enhance biodiversity on a landscape scale. Connecting habitat across property boundaries benefits more species. Community cooperation may also open up opportunities for education, funding, or resources to support your conservation efforts.

By using the winter months to plan and prepare for biodiversity conservation in the growing season, you’ll be well on your way to enhancing habitat on your farm or ranch. With time and patience, you can make a meaningful difference.

How To Create A Custom Winter Biodiversity Enhancement Plan for Your Alberta Property

Farmers, plan your biodiversity management!

As an Alberta farmer or rancher, developing a custom biodiversity enhancement plan for your property this winter is one of the most impactful steps you can take. A good plan will guide your efforts to support native wildlife and restore natural habitat in a way that works with your land and operations.

Assess Your Property

The first step is examining your land to identify areas that can be enhanced or restored. Look for native grasslands, wetlands, woodlands or riparian areas that could benefit from protection or rehabilitation. You may find remnant habitats worth preserving or places you can create connections between. Talk to conservation agencies about options for your land and what funding or technical support may be available.

Set Goals

Next, determine your goals. Do you want to provide habitat for grassland birds, restore a wetland or plant shelterbelts? Setting clear goals will help focus your plan. Think about starting small by enhancing or restoring one area, then building on successes. Consider how the changes may impact your operations and how to address any challenges.

Develop Your Plan

Outline steps to achieve your goals, including any land management adjustments needed. Describe how you’ll protect and maintain enhanced areas, and monitor effects. A good plan evolves over time based on results, so build in opportunities to revisit and revise.

Take Action

With plan in hand, it’s time to get started. Work with any partners to implement enhancements like controlling invasive weeds, installing nesting structures or fencing off an area. Carefully monitor how wildlife and habitat respond so you can make changes as needed to ensure the best results.

Conserving biodiversity provides benefits that extend beyond your property lines. By taking steps to enhance habitat on your land this winter, you’re making a valuable contribution to the health of Alberta’s environment and agricultural landscape. With a customized plan tailored to your goals and operations, you can make a real difference for generations to come.

Farmers and Ranchers In Alberta Play A Vital Role In Biodiversity

A farm with a proper winter biodiversity management is a vibrant land for all!

Biodiversity is essential for the health and sustainability of agricultural operations, and the winter season provides opportunities for habitat improvement that benefit both current and future productivity. By following the principles outlined and implementing an effective conservation plan, you can make a meaningful contribution to biodiversity on your land.

Though challenges exist, focusing on what you can influence and leveraging available resources will help ensure progress. Every small act adds up when it comes to sustainability. Do your part this winter, and your farm or ranch in Alberta will surely benefit from it in the long run.

Looking to invest in agriculture? Consider Alberta’s fertile and abundant agricultural lands. Hansen Land Brokers can assist you in finding your ideal farm or ranch. Our experienced brokers are experts in identifying exceptional properties that meet your specific requirements and expectations. Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Contact us today to begin your search.

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