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Back to the land for the Calgary Stampede

The Gift: $11-million worth of ranch land

The Cause: The Calgary Stampede Foundation

The Reason: To protect a historic ranch

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When the historic OH Ranch in southwestern Alberta became available a couple of years ago, Bill Siebens moved quickly to ensure much of it would never be developed.

The Calgary businessman bought the main ranch and has now donated half of it to the Calgary Stampede Foundation. The donated portion is worth about $11-million and includes 8,000 acres, a 127-year old ranch house and a replica North-West Mounted Police cabin. Mr. Siebens also donated the OH brand, one of the oldest brands in Western Canada.

It's the largest private gift to the foundation, which plans to use the land mainly to graze horses.

"I was concerned about what would happen to it 100 years from now," said Mr. Siebens, who owns a neighbouring ranch. "That's the main reason that I gifted it to them."

The ranch's history dates back to the late 1870s when Orville Hawkins (OH) Smith started cultivating a small piece of land in the area and registered the OH brand. The property later fell into the hands of Patrick Burns, one of the co-founders of the Stampede in 1912. The ranch had several subsequent owners and expanded over the years.

When part of it was slated to become a military training ground and an artillery range in the mid-1980s, Alberta businessman Daryl Seaman bought it to ensure it remained undeveloped. After Mr. Seaman died in 2009, Mr. Siebens stepped in.

The ranch technically consists of four separate properties and each was each sold to a separate buyer. Mr. Siebens bought the main ranch, called the OH Longview.

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"I bought it last year and made it a gift as a 100th year birthday present to the Stampede," he said.

The land has been protected from development and oil drilling, he added. "It will stay in its natural state."

Mr. Siebens has been attending the Stampede for 54 years and he'll be at much of this year's event, which started Friday. "The Calgary Stampede has celebrated Alberta's culture for the past 100 years, and this gift will encourage that for the next 100 years."

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