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Siwash Lake Ranch

Protecting the Cariboo

"We're like the den mother to this area," says Allyson Rogers, who built, owns and runs Siwash Lake Ranch, an exclusive and remote guest ranch on the Bonaparte Plateau. Along with her partner, Roy Grinder, she has devoted countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars fighting to protect the many threatened and endangered species that live near the ranch from excessive and invasive logging, mining, and non-nature-based, backcountry recreation. The dedication has garnered Siwash a Five Green Keys award by the Hotel Association of Canada, under the Green Hotels Program, every year since 2007. (A Five Green Keys eco-rating is awarded to a hotel that exemplifies the highest standards of environmental and social responsibility throughout all areas of operations.)

The award was recognition for her efforts since Rogers started building the lodge in untouched wilderness in 1998. "I built the place from scratch," she says. "From the beginning it was very important for me to be in balance with nature. I wanted to live with it and not take anything away - leave no trace." Siwash opened for guests in 2001.

From the beginning she focused on two goals: minimizing the ranch's overall impact and wetlands stewardship. She installed solar power, which now provides half the ranch's needs. Rogers and Grinder continue working to reduce the amount of diesel and propane needed to power the rest of the ranch operations by adding more solar panels and retrofitting for more energy efficiency. "We're hunting down all the power hogs in the place and replacing them," she says. It all comes down to the mission statement she wrote in 1998, when the ranch was still a dream. In part it says: "...we shall continue developing a ranch that's in complete harmony with the surrounding wilderness and we shall promote stewardship of the land, freedom of spirit, personal growth, and an appreciation for the finer things in life."

Back in 1998 Rogers realized the 160-acre property and the surrounding 80,000-acre tenure was rich in wetlands. Wetlands are endangered. Many ranches allow livestock to use them indiscriminately with significant negative impacts. Elsewhere they are drained and destroyed. She began protecting the wetlands on the property by fencing sensitive areas and managing livestock grazing to have minimal impact. Then she stepped up efforts by partnering with Ducks Unlimited Canada - jointly providing funding and man-power - to build a small dam at the outflow which helps keep the lake at an optimal level increasing and enhancing the riparian zone near shore. This area is where most creatures feed and hide. "There's decreased life in a lot of wetlands," Rogers says. "We're just trying to do our bit to maintain this wetland for the future."

She carries the same idea over to logging and mining exploration that's taking place on Crown land within the ranch's tenure. "Logging and mining are notoriously insensitive to usage by wildlife and tourism," she says. So, Rogers and Grinder work with industry to identify sensitive areas and keep lines of dialogue open so they know what's coming next and can react, all in an effort to protect the wilderness out their back door.

Website: www.siwashlakeranch.com

PHOTOS Siwash Lake Ranch