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Accommodation - The West as Home

Convert the Landscape

The federal government's role in turning the Prairie landscape into a more productive economy began with the introduction of a network of agricultural research stations. From the two experimental farms that were initially set up by the Department of Agriculture at Indian Head and Brandon in 1886, the number of research facilities was expanded systematically over the first decades of the twentieth century to cover all of western Canada's soil types and climatic regions.

Federal assistance to the agricultural sector was also provided in the form of irrigation projects, most of which were concentrated in southern Alberta where minimal rainfall had to be supplemented if desirable crop yields were to be obtained. Irrigation works were undertaken initially by private corporations (including the Canadian Pacific Railway and its investment companies), with the federal government providing assistance in the form of land grants, surveys, and research on water containment and hydrography.

Mounting public concern over the loss of vast tracts of original landscape to the agricultural economy forced the federal government to use its powers under the Dominion Lands Act to set aside reserves for the preservation of wildlife and forests, and to augment its national parks program. The first national parks in western Canada were limited to the mountain regions, but in the early-twentieth century the program was expanded to include Elk Island (1913), Wood Buffalo (1922), Prince Albert (1927), and Riding Mountain (1929). Through the combined marketing skills of the National Parks Branch, the Natural Resources Intelligence Branch, and the transcontinental railways, the western parks became favourite holiday destinations for a growing and profitable tourist industry.

Federal scientists also continued their work in support of the petroleum and mining industries. Geologists with the Geological Survey of Canada actively mapped the substrata underlying the Prairies and helped to find the first natural gas field at Medicine Hat (1904) and the first oil field at Turner Valley (1910).

Further Readings

See also

Casting the Die of Agricultural History

> Next Theme: Western Protest



Irrigated sugar beet field, Raymond, Alberta, ca. 1904
Irrigated sugar beet field,
Raymond, Alberta, ca. 1904

Early road map of Alberta, 1922
Early road map of
Alberta, 1922

Motor roads in western Canada, ca. 1928
Motor roads in western
ca. 1928


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