A Cochrane conservation group is applauding efforts to get the Canadian government to protect prairie grasslands by conserving the last remaining Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Adminstration's community pastures as habitat for species at risk.

Clio Smeeton, the President of the Cochrane Ecological Institute thinks protecting grasslands should be of importance to all Albertans.

"Once it's gone, it's gone.  You can't put it back, just like you can't put boreal forest back, you can re-plant with other trees, but it won't be boreal forest.  You can re-plant grassland habitat, but it won't be the native grasslands."

The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) initiated the call to conserve the remaing PFRA community pastures saying that there are more than 30 endangered species on them.  They include the Swift Fox, Sage Grouse, Monarch Butterfly and Burrowing Owl.  Pollinators like the Western Bumble Bee and Yellow Banded Bumble Bee are also in danger of extinction.

The CWF is calling on the federal government to act to protect prairie grasslands from being sold off to private interests, something the province of Saskatchewan announced their intention to do.  

The government of Canada managed the grasslands until 2012 when they were transferred to the provinces of Alberta, Saskathcewan and Manitoba.  The provinces have not committed funding for managing species at risk on the pastures.

There are 87 pastures in total.  About 2,500 beef producers graze around 220,000 head of cattle on the lands for a fee.

The Cochrane Ecological Institute have a vested interest in protection of the grasslands as they helped bring the Swfit Fox back from the brink of extinction.  Smeeton says there are many species to preserve by protecting the grassland. 

"It matters to bees, it matters to swift fox, it matters to toads, it matters to pronghorns, it matters to all these unique species for our province." 

Canada has promised to protect 17 per cent of terrestrial habitat in the country by 2020.  Currently, 10 per cent of our land is protected.  

For more information of the Canadian Wildlife Federation click here

For more about the Cochrane Ecological Institute click here