Nature Conservancy of Canada and Parks Canada Fire Crew 2017

Nature Conservancy of Canada and Parks Canada Fire Crew 2017

2017 — what a great year!

Fish Lake Drain Parklands, Interlake, MB (Photo by NCC)

Fish Lake Drain Parklands, Interlake, MB (Photo by NCC)

Thank you for helping us to make 2017 a great year for the Manitoba Region. Below are just a few of the highlights.

If you'd like to learn more, please give us a call.

Saving the world's most endangered ecosystem: grasslands

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NVV) held a NatureTalks speakers event on October 18 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The discussion explored the value of grasslands — as a resource, an inspiration and a place that sustains life. Approximately 200 people were in attendance to hear five different speakers on why grasslands matter. The event showcased why we need better and faster conservation to save such an important landscape.

People often think of rainforests and coral reefs as the planet’s most critical habitats in need of conservation. In fact, grasslands, including those in Manitoba, are the world’s most endangered ecosystem. More than 50 per cent of the world’s grasslands have been converted to crops and other uses, and there are few protected areas. More than 70 per cent of Canada’s prairie grasslands have been converted. The endangerment of grassland habitat in Canada has led to the endangerment of many grassland species.

Grasslands are a working landscape that support a wide range of animals and economies, from large grazers like cattle, which are an integral land management tool for NCC, to the critically endangered Poweshiek skipperling. Grasslands are also important for carbon storage. They are critical in preventing flooding by allowing water to infiltrate the ground and hold it. Grasslands are important for carbon storage. Intact native prairies are particularly effective at carbon sequestration and long-term storage, with their deep and extensive root networks.

Working together to restore healthy ecosystems with prescribed fire

Fire is a natural part of ecosystem dynamic. It plays an important role in the development, maintenance and restoration of fire-dependant ecosystems and wildlife habitat.

NCC and Parks Canada have partnered to carry out prescribed fires in Manitoba, to restore long-term ecosystem health. The partners share resources and expertise on prescribed fire planning, training, communications and implementation in Riding Mountain National Park and on NCC properties.

A prescribed burn in early May provided an excellent opportunity for the fire crews from both organizations to build capacity and improve operations for future prescribed fire activities. The goal of the fire was to reduce potential wildfire fuels. It also aimed to maintain the size of rare fescue prairie grasslands, by thinning encroaching woody species, such as trembling aspen and willow. Last, the fire helps to improve the conditions of the prairie.

Prescribed burns are conducted under controlled environmental conditions in a safe and professional manner, to manage the health of the grassland landscape.

Graham Potholes: Home to many

As fall came to the prairies, NCC closed a 312-acre (126-hectare) project in the West Souris Mixed-grass Prairie. The project, known as Graham Potholes, is a mixture of grasslands, wetlands and related riverbank areas. Graham Creek meanders through the northern portion of the property. It creates a natural divide between the habitat types.

The property is home to many animals, including moose, coyote, white-tailed deer, mule deer, American beaver and raccoon.

A portion of the property is used as a working landscape, with grazing used as a land management tool. Grazing can be used to create suitable habitat for grassland birds. Birds that live in the Graham Potholes include bobolink, blue-winged teal, mallard, American wigeon, northern pintail, green-winged teal, northern shoveler, Canada goose, sandhill crane and red-winged blackbird.

The securement of Graham Potholes was made possible in part by the Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP). The program is a unique public-private partnership to accelerate the pace of land conservation across southern Canada. NCC manages the NACP. Federal funds are matched by contributions raised by NCC and its partners. Habitat conservation under the NACP enhances natural corridors and other protected areas.

Bioblitz records more than 400 species observations

To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, NCC and the Manitoba Conservation Data Centre hosted a bioblitz to survey alvar communities in the Interlake. Alvars have been designated as an endangered ecosystem in Manitoba. This globally rare community has thin to no soil over unbroken limestone and supports a unique group of plant species.

This bioblitz was undertaken with support from the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Government of Canada as a Canada 150 Signature Project, and was just one of many across the country that saw experts and interested members of the public join forces to document Canada’s species across a diverse range of communities and habitats.

More than 440 observations of species were collected, many of which were documented for the first time in Manitoba alvars, and included a number of rare and threatened species:

  • Three bird species designated as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada were observed, including the eastern whip-poor-will, common nighthawk and bank swallow.  
  • Provincially endangered Gastony’s cliffbrake and nationally uncommon western dwarf cliffbrake, small ferns found only on limestone outcrops, were both observed.
  • Hoary bat was also detected during the bioblitz. This migratory species is both globally and provincially uncommon. Searches for bat caves also revealed a few locations that may serve as hibernation spots for other bat species that overwinter in Manitoba.

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