Preserving Native Ecosystems

Saskatchewan's Grasslands

In the 1930s, during the “dustbowl” drought years, the Canadian government protected about 7000 km2 of Saskatchewan’s grassland habitat in a federal community pastures program, managed for conservation and to provide grazing for farmers and ranchers.

Saskatchewan’s prairie is part of a huge continental ecosystem called the Great Plains Grassland. But Grasslands are now one of North America’s most threatened ecosystems.

The Great Plains is a mosaic of different grassland communities extending from southern Canada to Texas. In Saskatchewan, those who live and travel on the prairie know the land to be rich in varying landscapes ranging from the flat or gently rolling grasslands, to lush coulees (wooded valleys), wide river valleys, aspen bluffs, delicate and shifting sand hills, beautiful badlands and seasonal wetlands (sloughs) cradled in low spots everywhere and filled by spring runoffs. It is a land pulsating with life, endless in its moods. Grass is the foundation of the prairie with eighty percent of the prairie land made up of different species of grass. The roots of these tenacious plants hold the soil in place and protect the land against erosion. Dozens of varieties of wildflowers bloom in their midst. An array of different birds, mammals and insects, live in harmony on the landscape.

Today, with the province’s remaining native grassland at somewhere below 18 per cent of the original total south of the boreal forest, the Prairie Pastures Conservation Area (previously Govenlock/Nashlyn/Battle Creek Community Pastures), represent some of the most ecologically significant pieces of grassland in Canada. The three pastures span 85,000 hectares, support several species at risk and provide critical habitat for Greater Sage Grouse, one of Canada’s most endangered birds. It forms the core of the Govenlock/Nashlyn/Battle Creek Important Bird Area designated by Bird Studies Canada.


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Protect Our Grasslands

Saskatchewan’s prairie is part of a huge continental ecosystem called the Great Plains Grassland. But Grasslands are now one of North America’s most threatened ecosystems.

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Threats to the Prairies

Habitat Encroachment and Fragmentation

Industrial Development

Oil and gas development as well as other industrial activities continue to expand into untouched native grasslands.

Depopulation of Native Species

In June 2017, the federal government confirmed it will seek to maintain ownership and conservation-focused management for the Nashlyn and Battle Creek community pastures, in addition to the Govenlock Pasture, which include the best remaining habitat in Canada for the endangered greater sage grouse and many other grassland species at risk.

Saving the Grasslands


Today, temperate grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet. Only fragmented patches remain in Saskatchewan and ranchers are today’s stewards of these grasslands. Well-managed ranch lands can harbor a diverse community of wildlife, and plant populations, and act as a barrier and carbon sink to the effects of accelerated climate change.

CPAWS continues to monitor the protection and management of grasslands at Govenlock, Nashlyn and Battle Creek. While protection of these lands has been achieved and is now known as the Prairie Pastures Conservation Area we remain committed to ensuring this permanent protection focuses on conservation-based management, including grazing and allowing Indigenous and public access to these pastures.

CPAWS Saskatchewan works actively with many interested parties and key stakeholders to ensure that proper management practices are followed in our national and provincial parks systems. As a voice for the wilderness, CPAWS speaks on behalf of those who have no voice at the negotiation tables, like the greater sage grouse, the plains bison, or the woodland caribou. These species find refuge in the many forms of protected lands in Saskatchewan and will continue to do so forever so long as their habitat is rightfully protected and effectively managed.

Preserving the Prairies

The first in a series of short documentaries looking at the interplay between and critical importance of agriculture and conservation working together to protect and conserve this imperiled ecosystem.

Stewardship of the prairie grasslands here in Saskatchewan can conjure up uncertain ideas about what is being done to conserve this significantly threatened ecosystem. While ranchers and farmers have been regularly categorized as non-conservation allies, this could not be further from the truth.

The agricultural community plays a significant role in the conservation of this imperiled ecosystem, by ensuring their management practices provide space for - and work in harmony with - nature. “Look after what we got. ‘Cause once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

We are excited to share with you a few voices of the prairies, from the Great Sandhills area of southwest Saskatchewan. Listen to firsthand stories of how conservation can and does exist - and thrive - in agriculture.