Tuesday, November 29, 2016

WWF report: 53 M acres on Great Plains converted since 2009

a page from the just released WWF "Plowprint Report" for the Great Plains
According to The Washington Post, a report just out from the World Wildlife Fund "argues that the continued expansion of cropland in the region may be threatening birds, pollinators and even drinking water, while releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year."

WWF data shows that 53 million acres of land in the Great Plains have been converted to cropland since 2009. From 2014 to 2015 alone, approximately 3.7 million acres were lost. 
when native grass is plowed as this was in the summer of 2015, tons of carbon are released

According to the WWF's annual "Plowprint Report" ,published annually to show the loss of grassland habitat, "in 2014, the Great Plains lost more acres to conversion than the Brazilian Amazon."

Where is this happening? Right here in Saskatchewan. In fact, Saskatchewan's White Valley Rural Municipality (Eastend area in the southwest of the province) had the highest rates of habitat loss among regions where there is important grassland bird habitat.

In general, though, as the report says, "the highest rates of loss occurred in the Prairie Potholes Region and specifically in the Canadian portion of that region. The rate of loss in this region is about twice that of the larger study region."

Here are the maps from the WWF Plowprint Report for 2016 (pdfs here for general info and here for facts and figures). Red areas in the map on the left show regions where the rate of grassland loss is highest (Saskatchewan is among the worst) and green in the map on the right shows what remains of native cover on the Great Plains:

Areas of greatest grasslands loss on the Great Plains, courtesy of WWF 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grassland Matters--talking to the Canadian Forage & Grassland Association

Baird's Sparrow in a hayfield

Next Wednesday, November 16, I have the privilege of addressing a national gathering of men and women who manage grass.

The Canadian Forage and Grassland Association is hosting its 7th annual conference next week in Winnipeg, Nov. 15 to 17. This is Canada’s only national forage-based conference and will highlight how the forage and grassland sector is a critical foundation for sustainable growth and development throughout the Canadian agriculture industry.

This year's theme is "Grass and Green in 2016" and begins with an optional pre-conference tour to Brandon on Nov. 15 to SG&R Farms and the Manitoba Beef & Forage Initiatives research farm. The main conference includes a trade show, several virtual farm tours, a banquet where the organization presents its New Holland-sponsored CFGA Leadership Award, and a full line-up of speakers on such topics as environmental protection, research at work, sustainable agriculture systems and forage export development.

During my presentation, "Grassland Matters: Some Thoughts on Grassland, Native and Tame, and Why We Need More of It," I will speak about why perennial grasslands, both native and tame, are important not only to the animals that graze them but for everyone; why they are overlooked as lands that must be conserved and fostered; and how producers and consumers, rural and urban, Indigenous and settler people, can work together to conserve, and expand, Canada's grasslands.

While our native grasslands are in trouble, there is an important role for the tame forage community to play in addressing at least some of the issues associated with losing our old growth prairie.

So I will be talking about how not to give up on the life of the prairie that underlies the land no matter what is growing on top—and how the livestock and forage and grassland management world can be part of restoring health to the land.

Looking forward to meeting grass people there!

Bobolink on Smooth Brome

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"The world's most endangered ecosystem"

landscape courtesy of Hamilton Greenwood

"The loss of Canada’s prairies is also a loss for the world."
That is a line from a terrific essay recently posted by Dan Kraus, the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Weston conservation scientist and senior director of conservation program development.

My favourite line in the piece amounts to the strongest statement in favour of publicly owned community pastures that I have seen NCC make to date:

"There is also a key, and immediate, opportunity to conserve large areas of prairie and maintain local ranching economies by protecting community pastures in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — public lands that are managed to protect both biodiversity and sustainable grazing in local communities."
Anyway, just read the essay. Dan says it all and says it well.


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