Manitoba program provides incentives for producers to improve native grassland health
By Kaitlynn Anderson
When you think of farming, grassland birds may not be the first thing to come to mind.
However, these species are in need of attention, according to a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Living Planet Report Canada: A national look at wildlife loss details the population decline of grassland birds across the country.
While overall bird populations increased by an average of 7 per cent from 1970 to 2014, the grassland bird population declined an astonishing 69 per cent over the same period.
Much of this decline can be attributed to a loss in habitat.
“Grassland birds, such as meadowlarks, bobolinks, vesper sparrows and many others, live and nest in grassy prairies, meadows and other grassy fields,” the report says. “Natural prairie grassland is considered the most heavily degraded terrestrial habitat in the world.”
So, the WWF is encouraging people across the country to make a difference.
"The study as a whole demonstrates that the question of conservation of wildlife populations nationally is a Canadian problem and that we collectively need to take action to reverse that decline," James Snider, vice-president for science research and innovation at WWF-Canada, said in a CBC News article on Friday.
However, there is good news.
With the help of funding from the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP), provided by the federal Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Land (SARPAL) program, cattle producers can receive information and incentives to “enhance pastureland with the goal (of) improv(ing) grass quality and maintain(ing) a healthy habitat,” according to the MBP website.
"MBP is very proud to lead this SARPAL project in southwest Manitoba," Brian Lemon, general manager of the MBP, said in an interview today with Farms.com.
"SARPAL recognizes that preserving these important habitats isn't about making a decision between cattle production and conservation," said Lemon. "SARPAL focuses on ways to keep beef cattle productive on the land while enahcing the habitat for species at risk."
The program is set to run until March 2019, according to the MBP project overview.
“Cattle producers in Manitoba are part of the solution to protecting this valuable component of the ecosystem,” the overview says.
Some of the funding will enable cattle producers to implement:
· Fencing that supports improved grazing
· Watering systems designed to improve cattle distribution
· Management of woody, invasive plants encroaching on grasslands
· Additional pastures that help to relieve grazing pressure on native grassland
· Native pasture establishment
So far, the MBP has received a positive response from producers, according to Lemon.
"Having our members as stewards over properly maintained pastures will protect and enhance these grassland habitats, (which will allow) these important bird species to have their nesting areas - all while (allowing farmers) to use the land as productive cattle land," said Lemon.