Cows grazing on Tall Grass Prairie. (Photo by Meg Lovett)

Cows grazing on Tall Grass Prairie. (Photo by Meg Lovett)

Protecting Sensitive Wetlands and Endangered Grassland Habitat

Cows grazing at Diamond Lake

Cows grazing at Diamond Lake

Manitoba is home to an incredible diversity of habitats, including grasslands and wetlands. In addition to supporting populations of birds and other wildlife, these habitats also provide ecological and economic benefits to society. This can include food security through activities such as grazing and harvesting. 

Thanks to financial support from Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) was able to install new wildlife-friendly fencing and a portable watering system across two properties, Diamond Lake and Riding Mountain House. These activities protected approximately 18 hectares while ensuring beneficial grazing management continues across 477 hectares. 

Diamond Lake and Riding Mountain House feature a variety of habitats, including wetlands, forests, river, lakes, and grasslands, which are home to wide-ranging mammals, such as black bear, moose, elk and white-tailed deer. The marsh wetlands are home to waterfowl and other migratory game bird species. The grasslands and wetlands provide habitat for upland game species, including sharp-tailed grouse, and northern leopard frog, monarch, American badger and western tiger salamander. 

NCC works closely with many producers on grassland properties that would have historically experienced natural disturbance by grazing animals, such as bison, or by fires. Such disturbances are important for cycling nutrients, maintaining plant diversity and preventing the establishment of shrubs and trees within the grasslands. Historical disturbances have been nearly eliminated from present-day landscapes, so NCC often relies on livestock to maintain these disturbances. Using grazing to manage grasslands on NCC properties also benefits local economies by providing local producers with a source of forage for their herds. 

The use of wildlife-friendly fencing allows increased movement, maintains habitat connectivity and can prevent negative impacts to many species, including those listed above when fencing is required. Moveable water systems, which provide alternate water sources for grazing livestock, to reduce use of wetlands and waterways and maintain habitat and water quality. NCC purchased materials and hired local contractors to install wildlife-friendly fencing along the waterways on Diamond Lake and Riding Mountain House to keep livestock out of sensitive areas and installed a moveable watering system. 

These enhanced wetland and upland grassland habitats reduce impacts to nesting waterfowl and improve wetland water quality, while continuing to support biodiversity. This project is an example of how sustaining biodiversity and habitats for the species that live here also maintains opportunities for local producers. Because when nature thrives, we all thrive.

Wildlife Habitat Canada is a non-profit, conservation organization that conserves habitat, primarily by investing in the funds from the sale of the Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp and Print program, contributed by waterfowl hunters. Since 1985, Wildlife Habitat Canada has provided over $64 million in grants to more than 1,600 habitat conservation projects across Canada, which have helped safeguard important ecosystems and countless wild species. To learn more, please visit whc.org

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