When the job is this big, you need good partners

Many of Canada’s most iconic and vulnerable animals — wild bison, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, Burrowing Owls, Sage Grouse, Swift Foxes — depend on native grassland habitat to survive. Some animals can only live on native grasslands, others need it for a few critical stages in their lives (such as breeding and migration).

But native grassland is disappearing. While we have a few parks that protect them, most remaining native prairie is found on cattle ranches. This is why the Canadian Wildlife Federation is working with ranchers across the prairie provinces with partners like the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation (SSGF) and the South of the Divide Conservation Action Program (SODCAP) to support their way of life and ensure a future for prairie wildlife.

What does ranching have to do with wildlife?

Ranchers safeguard native grasslands as part of their livelihoods, providing essential goods and services like carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, species at risk protection, soil stabilization and soil moisture storage. Without ranchers, most of our native grasslands will disappear, and with them the iconic Canadian wildlife that we love. Some of the hardest working people on the planet are ranchers. Not only are they responsible for their herds 24/7 for 365 days of the year, they are the backbone of biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration on the prairies.

Almost every wild animal on the prairies depends on native grass. The prairie food web starts with native grass, flowing through large grazing animals like deer, elk, bison and cattle as well as the smaller creatures like ground squirrels, voles, grasshoppers and leaf hoppers. Grass is a biodiversity superfood. Cattle ranches are among the very few places where the dozens of grass species that support nature on the prairies can be found. Not where crops are grown nor where cities are built.

This is why we are working with organizations like the SSGF and SODCAP to promote wildlife conservation through cattle ranching. By supporting ranching families in their desire to grow cattle on native grasslands, we are saving a place for the magnificent biodiversity that has thrived on the Canadian prairies for millennia.

Each March, we celebrate World Wildlife Day and the theme for 2023 is Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation. Partnerships with ranchers are one of the most important steps towards saving the last of Canada’s grasslands.

Learn more about the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s work on conserving Canada’s native grasslands >


Tom Harrison: Tom is a cattle producer, a Project Manager for the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation and the former Executive Director of the South of the Divide Conservation Action Program Inc. Tom has a BSc in Animal Science and MSc in Range Science from the University of Saskatchewan.