Immediate Action Urged for Species at Risk on Prairie Grasslands

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swift fox

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is appealing to the Canadian government to prairie grasslands by conserving the final remaining Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) community pastures as habitat for species at risk.

The PFRA community pastures are in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and total 2.3 million acres of native prairie grassland.

These 87 pastures that make up the grasslands were formed after the Depression-era 1930s dustbowl and were controlled by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada with the purpose of restoring and managing fragile grasslands.

“There are more than 30 endangered species on these community pastures,” said CWF senior conservation biologist, Dr. Carolyn Callaghan, in a release. “We must act now to ensure the survival of species at risk such as the Swift Fox and Burrowing Owl, but also to ensure the protection of the most endangered ecosystem in the world, the temperate grasslands.”

Agriculture Canada earns fees from the land from 2,500 beef producers with 220,000 head of livestock that graze on the properties.

Government staff manage the pastures for species at risk and prevent the spread of invasive alien plants.

The federal government announced in 2012 that these pastures would be transferred to the provinces’ control and that title transfer is ongoing.

However, according to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, those provinces have not committed funding for managing species at risk on the pastures and the province of Saskatchewan has indicated an interest in selling the properties.

“Over 80 per cent of native prairie has been lost in Canada, and the PFRA community pastures represent a large portion of what remains,” said terrestrial wildlife specialist, Dr. Carolyn Callaghan. “We’re very concerned about the fate of our native grasslands and the species at risk they support if the last remaining pastures are sold off to private interest. There remains an opportunity to see these lands protected and to ensure continued stewardship in partnership with cattle ranchers.”

Species at risk on the land include Greater Sage Grouse, Swift Fox (seen above), Monarch Butterfly, Burrowing Owl, Northern Leopard Frog and Black-footed Ferret.

Also in danger of extinction are pollinators such as the Western Bumble Bee and the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee, as well as some plant life.

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About the Canadian Wildlife Federation:

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a national, not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to fostering awareness and
appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, carrying out research, developing and delivering education programs, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending changes to policy and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature.

Photo (Swift Fox): U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region (cc)