It took less than five seconds for the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia to accept an invitation from David Zirnhelt to attend the official launch of the new Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU in Williams Lake.
“It’s a great day and the combination of a lot of work,” Guichon said Thursday. “David’s been one of the main inspirations behind the project for sure for so many years in so many ways.”
TRU itself has become the centre for expertise in range ecology in B.C., Guichon said.
“It moved from UBC quite a few years ago to the Interior, and rightly so because that’s where the grasslands are.”
Guichon said it is “wonderful” to see a recognition of the importance of our range lands, both are very precious.
Within the province, ranching is one way to gain income from the land so it is important that message get out there, she added.
She said she is hoping graduates of the ranching program won’t only be employed on ranches, but that some of them will be employed by other agencies such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada which owns a lot of grasslands in the province, government agencies or parks.
“I am hoping there are many areas where these graduates will have an influence,” she said.
Guichon married a fourth-generation rancher from the Nicola Valley who was a pilot in the Yukon where she met him.
“He flew commercially and decided to quit and we’d go back to the ranch.”
Her two oldest children are now the fifth generation operating the ranch and her grandchildren are in 4-H and will “hopefully” be the sixth generation running the ranch.
Guichon has been kept abreast of the new program’s development and credited the Cariboo region for its proactive approach to providing education to ranchers.
She had met many area ranchers as past president of the BC Cattlemen’s Association and was involved with the Grasslands Conservation Council which is where she got to know Zirnhelt.
“They have had some terrific projects going on in the Cariboo region and I think the program has been a glint in Dave’s eye for a lot of years.”
Guichon’s attendance at the ranching program’s official launch will mark her first visit to Williams Lake in her capacity as Lieutenant Governor.
“It’s time,” she chuckled, noting she’s visited the area lots in the past.
When asked for a message to students considering enrolling in the program, Guichon said it is exciting the program will combine hands-on ranch experience and time out on the land with classroom time and learning the technology.
It will give them the opportunity to understand the complex relationships on the land.
“In fact I have an application for the program here in front of me and I was thinking I could take this program. It would be a lot of fun.”
Her own experiences with ranching have taught her that ultimately people learn not to manage the land but to manage themselves.
“I realized when I stood on the land many years ago and looked out and thought the land can manage itself as long as I manage how I interact with it.”
For information on the event contact 250-319-2367.
The event is being sponsored by TRU GRIT, a group of local community members committed to fundraising to support students.