We could lose 2.3 million acres of prairie habitat if we don’t act now

In 2013, Canada made a promise to the world: that we would protect 17 per cent of terrestrial habitat and inland water in our country by 2020. We currently protect 10 per cent of the land in Canada, but we can do so much more – starting with conserving our prairie grasslands.

The federal government is the midst of transferring ownership of 2.3 million acres of critical prairie habitat. This area is known as the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) community pastures. They were created in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba following the drought and economic depression of the 1930s. The goal was to restore and manage fragile grasslands in the region, including preventing the spread of invasive alien plants and monitoring the area for species at risk. Today, these 87 community pastures are being transferred from federal ownership to the provinces without plans for protection.

PFRA Community Pastures
Over 80 per cent of native prairie has been lost in Canada, and the PFRA community pastures represent a large portion of what remains.

Normally, local management would be something to celebrate; however, these provinces have not committed any funding to protect the species at risk relying on community pastures for food and shelter. In fact, Saskatchewan announced early on that they would like to sell the properties.

There are more than 30 endangered species on the community pastures. What’s more, temperate grasslands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. At CWF, we’re very concerned about the fate of our native grasslands and the at-risk species they support if the plan is to sell off community pastures for private interest. These lands must be protected.

Species at risk on community pastures include the Swift Fox, Greater Sage Grouse, Monarch Butterfly, Burrowing Owl, Northern Leopard Frog, and Black-footed Ferret. Many other plants and animals are also in danger of extinction, including pollinators such as the Western Bumble Bee and the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee.
Species at risk on community pastures include the Swift Fox, Greater Sage Grouse, Monarch Butterfly, Burrowing Owl, Northern Leopard Frog, and Black-footed Ferret. Many other plants and animals are also in danger of extinction, including pollinators such as the Western Bumble Bee and the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee.

Last month, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna met with her counterparts from each of the provinces to discuss Canada’s conservation targets. Conserving the PFRA community pastures should be a key part of Canada’s plan to protect biodiversity and species at risk. Conservation of the PFRA pastures can happen in partnership with the ranchers that have grazed cattle on these lands over decades. Grazing is key to maintaining the wild prairie. Placing these lands in protection is possible, and critical to ensuring that they continue to be wild prairie in perpetuity.

Join me in letting environment ministers know that we believe conserving our prairie grasslands is a priority for Canada.

We can protect 2.3M acres of critical habitat for #SpeciesAtRisk by urging provinces to conserve community pastures.

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Together, we can ensure that our wildlife and wild spaces are protected for generations to come.

Carolyn Callaghan

Author: Carolyn Callaghan

Dr. Carolyn Callaghan is a Senior Conservation Biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation. She obtained a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada with a thesis on the ecology of wolf habitat use, survival, and persistence in the Central Canadian Rockies. Dr. Callaghan has also done research on biodiversity on farmland, migratory bird conservation, boreal caribou, and agricultural and environmental policy.

7 thoughts on “We could lose 2.3 million acres of prairie habitat if we don’t act now”

  1. Most of my relatives were born and raised on the Prairies. I am sad to hear that the Prairie Grasslands are
    disappearing and I suspect that the 30 endangered species found on the Prairies are also in trouble.
    Honestly by handing over the precious gift of Prairie land over to the provinces to be cared for is not such
    a great idea. The provinces are responsible for everything that goes on on a daily basis. How will they find the time or the money to look after something as precious as the Prairie Grassland. The Grassland needs to be expanded year after year and the wildlife need to be nurtured and counted on a regular basis.
    You really need someone who loves the Praires who would be able to work with a band of volunteers to
    get the job done. I hope there is a good answer soon.

  2. I often wonder if politicians think about their children and grandchildren and the legacy they are leaving? I am deeply concerned about the destruction of farmland and grazing spaces and its impact on our food source…where will our food be coming from and what will its quality be? Healthy or toxic? Protection of grasslands, agriculture land and species at risk should be mandated.

  3. Hi, Maybe I missed it, but why don’t you start a letter or petition to the appropriate government offices stating your concerns, so we can sign it and send something en masse?

  4. My father, John Law of Beechy, Sask was one of those instrumental farmers who managed to get the Miner Ranch lands (48 sec. I believe) made into the Beechy Com Pasture, The prov govt of the day, was instrumental in its creation, If the present prov govt takes over, I doubt that it will remain available to all the smaller livestock owners of the area. Keith G Law
    walgk05@telus.net

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