Manitoba's tall Grass Prairie is now officially an endangered ecosystem.
Manager of Biodiversity, Habitat, and Endangered Species in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department of Manitoba Conservation Nicole Firlotte says only about 1% of tall grass prairie still remains.
The Tall Grass Prairie Perserve between Tolstoi and Gardenton is one of the few patches of the ecosystem left in Manitoba.
Firlotte says the endangered species legislation in Manitoba was expanded to include ecosystems in 2012. She says Manitoba is the first Jurisdiction in North America, and the first jurisdiction outside of Australia and New Zealand to classify whole ecosystems as endangered.
Firlotte says listing an ecosystem as endangered is the first step. Once that is done then they have the ability to protect specific areas by designating an ecosystem protection zone or E.P.Z.
“We currently have no plans to designate what we call an E.P.Z. For Tall Grass Prairie because the majority of the tall grass lands in that area are privately held, and are already being managed very well to maintain the tall grass ecosystem. So really the designation of tall grass as endangered is more of a recognition of the significance of that ecosystem in Manitoba.”
Firlotte says the way that ecosystems and species are protected is different.
“If we list a species under the act the species is protected wherever they occur in Manitoba on private land or crown land. Ecosystems are only protected on crown land and only when we designated an ecosystem protection zone.”
Firlotte says the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve is governed by a management committee that is made up of a number of land owners and Manitoba Conservation. She adds there are lots of ways that people can experience the prairie preserve. There are trails on a number of different sites, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has a interpretive centre there, and there is the prairie day full of programs on the site.
Firlotte says they also declared Alvars, which are found in the Interlake, as an endangered ecosystem alongside tall grass prairie.
Firlotte says its exciting to be leaders in this way of protecting endangered habitats in Manitoba.