Massive tract of globally rare grasslands now protected
Property in Interlake represents successful conservation of grasslands in Manitoba
Tall grass prairies are globally rare, iconic to Manitoba and quickly disappearing. That’s why the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has conserved one of the largest, privately owned tracts of land supporting this endangered ecosystem in the province.
At nearly 2,700 hectares, Lake Ranch represents a large contribution to efforts to ensure that this emblematic and ecologically critical grassland continues to feed and foster the prairie lives that depend on it.
Grassland birds listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, such as the Sprague’s pipit and bobolink, breed in the large expanses of grasslands, while migratory wetland birds, like western grebes, flock to the expansive wetlands along the lake, which makes up part of the globally significant North, West, and East Shoal Lakes Important Bird Area.
The size of this conservation project, less than an hour from Winnipeg, in the Interlake region, will allow NCC to maintain the landscape-scale disturbances that are necessary to maintain grassland ecological integrity, such as compatible grazing, prescribed burns and other stewardship actions that will help maintain productive and healthy habitats.
The previous owners, The Lake Ranch Ltd. Group from Germany, recognized the global importance of these grasslands and had a vision of creating an ecological preserve and eco-lifestyle area. While past flood events in the area prohibited use of the property as a "natural neighbourhood," they recognized NCC as the group who could bring to life their vision where "nourishing and caring for nature is as important as nourishing and caring for the soul."
The previous owners also wanted to support local economy through Lake Ranch’s continued agricultural use. The property has been managed as a livestock operation for nearly 100 years. Grasslands still exist on the property because of the relationship between compatible livestock grazing and healthy grasslands.
With the close connection to the nearby Woodlands Community Pasture, there’s an even greater understanding of the importance that healthy grasslands provide to economic security, biodiversity and a connection to past and future generations living in these iconic landscapes. Community pastures are community-owned or government lands, which have a long history of supporting livestock farmers by providing high-quality grazing in balance with biodiversity and other ecosystem services.
The property will serve as an accessible conservation area for engaging local residents, providing ecotourism opportunities and connecting visitors to nature. The conservation of this project also provides opportunities to foster and steward a relationship with Manitobans and raise awareness that temperate grasslands are the most endangered terrestrial ecosystem on the planet, and of the important role that a grazing-based economy plays in maintaining this ecosystem.
This project was made possible by the Government of Canada, through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. NCC also thanks Lake Ranch Ltd. who donated over 20 per cent the value of the Lake Ranch property, MapleCross Fund who made a lead gift to the project, and others who contributed to conserve these lands, including the Richardson Foundation and Jim and Leney Richardson.
Coming together for grasslands
The Lake Ranch project marks the start of NCC’s grasslands campaign in Manitoba. In the next five years, we aim to conserve thousands of hectares of one of the world’s rarest terrestrial ecosystems and invite everyone to discover their connection to nature. Together, through purposeful actions, we have the opportunity to build toward a great good — a thriving world. To secure the natural future of projects such as Lake Ranch and other iconic grassland landscapes in the province, NCC is looking to raise $25,000,000.
Grasslands and their associated habitats in Manitoba can sustain our food industries, offer healthy habitat to endangered species such as Dakota skipper, and grow nature-based solutions to some of the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.
It’s only by working together that we can save Manitoba’s grasslands.
This project showcases how NCC is accelerating the pace of conservation in Canada. In the past two years alone, NCC has influenced the protection of more than 1 million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing Canadians and delivering permanent, large-scale conservation.
In the face of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change, nature is our ally. There is no solution to either without nature conservation. When nature thrives, we all thrive.
- Lake Ranch contains intact prairie, forest, wetlands and portions of the East Shoal Lake complex.
- Lake Ranch is one of the largest privately owned tall grass prairie tracts in Manitoba.
- 112 bird species, including eleven shorebird species, have been documented at Lake Ranch and the adjacent lakes.
- The property is home to eight federally-and/or provincially-listed species, including:
- barn swallow
- eastern wood-pewee
- northern leopard frog
- red-headed woodpecker
- Sprague’s pipit
- trumpeter swan
- western grebe
- Grasslands store carbon, slow flooding and help filter groundwater.
- Grasslands have evolved to thrive under disturbance, such as grazing and fire.
“Every single project that we do, big or small, is an act of hope, and personally reminds me that we’re not in this alone. It’s not just one ecologist against the world, it’s not the Nature Conservancy of Canada against the world, it’s the world with us wanting these prairie landscapes as part of its future. It just a matter of connecting people to the opportunities to support us.” – Cary Hamel, Director of Conservation, Nature Conservancy of Canada Manitoba Region
“The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin, and we must tackle them together. By working with partners such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we are helping to protect the natural environment in Manitoba and across the country. Protecting lands plays a vital role in helping to halt and reverse biodiversity loss, and contributes to the recovery of species at risk. Through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, the Government of Canada is making progress toward its goal of conserving a quarter of lands and oceans in Canada by 2025, working toward thirty percent of each by 2030.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
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