Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative
Cattle on prairie grasslands (Photo by Tamara Carter)
Stewardship Investment Program
Grasslands are one of the most at-risk ecosystems in the world, and they have been declining steadily during the last century. Grasslands support wildlife, filter our water, help prevent flooding and droughts, sequester carbon, and protect soil from wind and water erosion.
The Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative – Stewardship Investment Program is a multi-year collaboration (2021–2024) to celebrate, steward and protect one of Canada’s most ecologically valuable and threatened ecosystems: native prairie grasslands.
Through this initiative, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will bring together a diverse group of individuals and organizations to accelerate the adoption of sustainable approaches to help conserve grasslands and improve on farm sustainability and viability.
For thousands of years, grasslands have provided sustenance for wildlife and humans. These relationships continue to have ecological, cultural and economic significance, and we proudly collaborate with a broad base of grassland stewards across the Prairies. This includes partnerships with local communities, Indigenous Nations, other conservation organizations and livestock producers, helping them to achieve their conservation goals.
Cow and sharp-tailed grouse at NCC's Mackie Ranch (Photo by Jason Bantle)
Many of the remaining grasslands are owned or managed by livestock producers, with the majority being cattle ranchers. NCC works with livestock producers to graze prairie grasslands and ensure that the grasslands, and the plants and animals that depend on them, thrive. By working together to support best management practices on these lands, we can help protect biodiversity while supporting a strong livestock industry.
NCC, together with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation (MHHC), Southern Alberta Land Trust Society (SALTS) and Western Sky Land Trust (WSLT) will work with landowners and land managers across the three prairie provinces to accelerate the adoption of sustainable approaches in protecting and restoring native grasslands and the species they sustain.
Burrowing owl on prairie grasslands (Photo by Jason Bantle)
Landowners of native grasslands with conservation easements of over 40 hectares and renters of NCC land are eligible to apply for Stewardship Investment Program incentive payments. Community pasture groups that have agreements with NCC may be elgible. Lands must be located within 14 priority ecoregions that have been identified across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The land trusts (mentioned above) will use conservation prioritization tools to examine the occurrences of species at risk and rare or endangered plant, bird or wildlife species when considering project approval.
The land trusts will work with applicants to screen and prioritize projects according to the hectares of land that can be improved and the impact that can be achieved through these nine categories:
- improve range use
- increase native range
- improve wildlife habitat
- support species at risk
- reduce fencing impact on wildlife movement
- improve water management
- manage weeds and invasive species
- educate grassland stewards
- reduce predator conflict
One grant per landowner, with a maximum grant award of $10,000 for eligible projects, is permitted. Funds will be made available upon project completion.
Who can apply?
Livestock producers that are:
- landowners who have conservation easements with NCC, DUC, MHHC, SALTS and/or WSLT
- renters of NCC-owned land
Stewardship Investment Program projects include activities such as removing unnecessary fences, incorporating wildlife-friendly fencing, installing remote water systems, conducting range health assessments, species surveys, weed control, and workshops or classes to improve grassland stewardship.
Criteria for prioritizing projects:
- over 40-hectare easement*
- impact on native grasslands
- within 14 prioritized ecoregions
- species at risk or high biodiversity areas
*high priority areas that fall short of the 40-hectare requirement may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Accepting applications from January 3 to June 30, 2023. Projects must be completed by November 30, 2023.
To view the application form, click here.
For more information, contact:
Nature Conservancy of Canada – Alberta Region:
Leta Pezderic, Grassland Stewardship Manager, NCC Alberta Region
403-634-7454 or email@example.com
Nature Conservancy of Canada – Manitoba Region:
Ashley Greenley, Conservation Biologist, NCC Manitoba Region
431-804-8886 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nature Conservancy of Canada - Saskatchewan Region:
Shianne Harrison, Project Coordinator, Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative
306-540-9976 or email@example.com
Ducks Unlimited Canada - Alberta:
Morgan Stromsmoe, Head of Habitat Asset Management, DUC Alberta
403-461-7286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ducks Unlimited Canada - Manitoba:
Charlotte Crawley, Agrologist, DUC Manitoba
204-868-5599 or email@example.com
Ducks Unlimited Canada - Saskatchewan:
Caleb Sutter, Project Lead, DUC Saskatchewan
306-621-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation:
Jenna Wiebe, Stewardship Program Coordinator, MHHC
204-574-7686 or email@example.com
Southern Alberta Land Trust Society:
Cody Spencer, Stewardship Project Manager, SALTS
403-632-7159 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Western Sky Land Trust:
Tara Shackleton, Project Lead, WSLT
403-993-6519 or email@example.com
Need additional information? Check out this following video for an example of a stewardship project from the Val Marie Community Pasture:
Require more information about the program? Check out this following webinar: An introduction to the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative: