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Thursday, 23 June 2011 12:57

Native prairie appreciated

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By John R. Statton — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The provincial government proclaimed Native Prairie Appreciation Week (NPAW) June 19-25.

“Saskatchewan’s farming and ranching families play an integral part in preserving our native prairie landscape,” said Bob Bjornerud, Sask. Agriculture Minister.

“This is a week to recognize their efforts as stewards of the land, and the importance of native prairie to our agriculture industry.”

The Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (SK PCAP) established NPAW in 1999. It is the only week dedicated to the appreciation of native grasslands in North America.

“The native prairie is not stable,” said Michelle Clark, of the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (SK PCAP).

“Less than 17 per cent of native prairies remain in Saskatchewan, and it is continuing to decline, but to a lesser degree in some part so of the province than others.”

SK PCAP consists of 32 partners, and represents producer groups, industry, and government, non-government, research and educational institutions. Including Nature Saskatchewan and Ducks Unlimited.

“The major loss of native prairie occurred during the European settlement, but other reasons for the loss is due to cultivation, urbanization, wood encroachment – the growth of shrubs and trees – invasive plant species, oil and gas also have an effect but there are a lot of factors.”

The southwest region has the most native prairie in Saskatchewan, and the Grasslands National Park accounts for most it.

Clark noted that credit for much of the preserved lands is due to the efforts of ranchers that use the prairies for their livelihoods, and conservation through voluntary stewardship agreements.

“Ranching is an excellent example of sustainable development, and there are several examples of multi-generational ranch families in Saskatchewan,” said Dustin Duncan, Sask. Environment Minister.

“By using native prairie sustainably, ranchers have been able to contribute to the long-term social and economic health of their communities while maintaining habitat for wildlife.”

SK PCAP conducted a literature review to determine the amount native prairie in existence. The group estimated approximately 19.4 per cent to 26.6 per cent remains. The current estimates were based on data collected in 1994.

Despite not having an accurate figure, Clark indicated native prairie was on the decline.

“It’s a cultural heritage, there’s an economic aspect, and also a bio-diversity aspect,” she said.

“The idea of native prairie is very drought tolerant, the more species you have available will be healthier, it helps to reduce run-off of soil and pesticides, and it was here before us so we should preserve it.”

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