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Cattle in Prairie grasslands (Photo by NCC/Leta Pezderic)

Cattle in Prairie grasslands (Photo by NCC/Leta Pezderic)

Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative

Cattle on prairie grasslands (Photo by Tamara Carter)

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. 

Grassland stewards

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 Peoples, 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)

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 Conservancy (MHC), 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)

Burrowing owl on prairie grasslands (Photo by Jason Bantle)

Program eligibility

Landowners of native grasslands with conservation easements 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:

  1. improve range use
  2. increase native range
  3. improve wildlife habitat
  4. support species at risk
  5. reduce fencing impact on wildlife movement
  6. improve water management
  7. manage weeds and invasive species
  8. educate grassland stewards
  9. 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, MHC, SALTS and/or WSLT
  • renters of NCC-owned land
  • elgible community pastures and their patrons

Project examples

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.

Map of ecoregions

Click to view the 14 priority ecoregions.

Criteria for prioritizing projects

  • impact on native grasslands
  • within 14 prioritized ecoregions
  • species at risk or high biodiversity areas

    *Projects will be screened and prioritized based on biodiversity outcomes and priority ecoregions.

Timing

Accepting applications from January 3 to June 30, 2024. Projects must be completed by November 30, 2024.

Application form

To view the application form, click here.
 

For more information, contact:

Nature Conservancy of Canada – Manitoba Region:
Kristi Stebanuk, Conservation Biologist, NCC Manitoba Region
204-880-1182 or kristi.stebanuk@natureconservancy.ca

Nature Conservancy of Canada - Saskatchewan Region:
Shianne Harrison, Project Coordinator, Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative
306-540-9976 or shianne.harrison@natureconservancy.ca

Nature Conservancy of Canada
Jeremy Hogan, Director of Prairie Grassland Conservation
403-813-2552 or jeremy.hogan@natureconservancy.ca

Ducks Unlimited Canada - Alberta:
Kassia James, Rangeland Specialist, DUC Alberta
780-499-0239 or k_james@ducks.ca

Ducks Unlimited Canada - Manitoba:
Charlotte Crawley, Agrologist, DUC Manitoba
204-868-5599 or c_crawley@ducks.ca

Ducks Unlimited Canada - Saskatchewan:
Caleb Sutter, Project Lead, DUC Saskatchewan
306-621-1331 or c_sutter@ducks.ca

Manitoba Habitat Conservancy:
Jenna Wiebe, Stewardship Program Coordinator, MHC
204-574-7686 or jwiebe@mhhc.mb.ca

Southern Alberta Land Trust Society:
Cody Spencer, Stewardship Project Manager, SALTS
403-632-7159 or cody@salts.land

Western Sky Land Trust:
Tara Shackleton, Project Lead, WSLT
403-993-6519 or tara.shackleton@gmail.com
 

Need additional information? Check out the following videos for examples of stewardship projects:


Require more information about the program? Check out this following webinar: An introduction to the Weston Family Prairie Grasslands Initiative:

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Funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada