Sask. grasslands among the world’s most endangered habitats, conservation group says
Published Wednesday, September 25, 2019 7:01PM CST Last Updated Wednesday, September 25, 2019 7:04PM CST
The race is on to protect Saskatchewan’s ecosystem.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada says the province has less than 20 per cent of native prairie grasslands left and that it's among the most endangered habitats in the world.
Across the Saskatchewan wilderness, Matthew Braun continues to study how the province is losing its grassland ecosystems.
“It’s land conversion that is the biggest threat to the loss of native prairie in Saskatchewan,” said Braun, a scientist and manager of conservation science for the non-profit organization.
Braun's work as a scientist requires him to collaborate with existing property owners in order to establish designated areas of conservation within their property boundaries.
“We're using something called the open standards method of planning and that means that you're continuously learning,” said Braun.
“So you're getting people together. It's generally a six-month process of getting people together, getting information together. And once we've got what we're happy with and we've run it by as many experts as we can, we monitor the results of that plan.”
Braun is focused on the effects that the diminishing grasslands have on existing species within the province. He returns every few years to check on the ecosystem. If the landscape changes over that time, Braun’s organization will change its conservation approach. In a site near Dundurn, the tiger beetle, bees, songbirds, the American badger and mule deer are just some of the species dependent on the life of this ecosystem.
The site, near Dundurn’s military base, was purchased in 2017. Braun says what makes the 160 acre property unique is that it consists of rolling hills made from old sand dunes, which are covered by aspen trees, shrubs, wet meadows and native grasslands.
“In this part of Saskatchewan, grasslands are being converted to acreages and developed for housing, recreational housing,” said Braun. “That's the big threat in this particular area. They really do need the variety that comes with these types of grasslands.”
In Saskatoon, the neighborhood of Aspen Ridge remains adjacent to the existing Northeast Swale. The North Ridge Development Group say they value their customer input with regards to respecting the boundary between development and nature.
“I think it's a big concern because people tend to value and migrate to those lots,” said Karl Perrington, sales manager for North Ridge.
“However I think it’s a great balance between customer viability and what they want to spend and then also getting some of the more positive attributes of being that close to nature. And knowing that the nature and ecosystem will always be there.”
Braun hopes conservation sites in the future will be able to co-exist between farms and cities.
The NCC’s goal is to protect 200,000 hectares over the next four years under the federal government's natural heritage conservation program.
Within Saskatchewan, the NCC has worked to protect 61 thousand hectares of Saskatchewan's most sensitive lands and waters since 1982.