The Hamilton Commonage, located 23 kilometres east of Merritt, includes 6,475 hectares of rolling grasslands. This expansive landscape consists of a patchwork of grass, wetlands, riparian areas, rocky outcrops and forests that support a diversity of wildlife habitat and grazing lands for livestock.
In 1998, a group of environmental organizations (the GCC, the BC Federation of Naturalists - Williams Lake, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society), government agencies (BC Ministry of Forests; BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries; BC Environment), professional volunteers (agrologists and ecologists) and the Nicola Valley’s Guichon Ranch began working together as the Hamilton Commonage Demonstration Project to develop a management strategy that would maintain and enhance biological diversity on the Hamilton Commonage.
As more than 70% of BC’s grasslands are on private land, working with ranchers, First Nations and the range management community to develop and implement ecologically and economically sustainable range management practices is critical to ensuring stewardship of BC’s grasslands over the long-term.
The objectives of this project were to:
- Demonstrate the economic and ecological benefits of stewardship
- Revise the Guichon range use plan and develop a strategy to conserve and enhance bio-diversity on the Hamilton Commonage
- Establish a longer-term monitoring program on the Hamilton Commonage
- Evaluate the Forest Practices Code and Associated Guidelines through this project (are they realistic and practical?)
- Identify inventory and research requirements
- Improve communication, knowledge, and working relationships
The Hamilton Commonage Demonstration Project was an ambitious project. Although fraught with hurdles and unforeseen challenges, it made significant strides toward developing a model for sustainable range management.
Click to see map
The Hamilton Commonage Demonstration Project has completed a comprehensive inventory and mapping of the Guichon Range on the Hamilton Commonage grasslands. The long-term goals of the project are to:
- Increase the abundance & distribution of late successional conditions, reduce bare ground & improve plant community structure
- Determine the vegetation potential for riparian areas and improve riparian conditions
- Develop a monitoring strategy
- Manage for the whole (for all components of the ecosystem)
- Maintain economic viability of the ranch
- Improve the understory and health of aspen stands (copses)
- Minimize recreational impacts
- Eliminate weed infestations
- Agree on indicators of range condition and trends
- Complete ecological capability maps for forage production
- Complete wildlife capability maps
- Reduce forest encroachment and ingrowth
- Improve water quality
The Hamilton Commonage Project has:
- Established a new grazing management plan with the Guichon Ranch for the 2000 and 2001 grazing seasons. The new management plan is intended to improve forage utilization and distribution over the range
- Established four new exclosures with electric fencing to address biological and habitat concerns around wetlands, riparian areas and aspen copses, as well as increase the abundance and distribution of late succession grasslands and their condition
- Established one new pasture with electric fencing around Rush Lake that will receive about 20 percent forage utilization and will be grazed in late summer or early fall
- Planned, organized and delivered Hamilton Commonage Demonstration Project Field Tour on September 16, 2000. Over 30 ranchers, biologists, range managers, environmentalists, and government gathered to tour the Hamilton Commonage Demonstration Project
To read about the history of the project, click here.
The Hamilton Commonage Project was funded by: