The Critical Wildlife Habitat Program (CWHP) is a cost-shared initiative involving Manitoba Conservation, the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation and a variety of other agencies, which are involved on a project specific basis.
The CWHP goal is to identify, preserve and manage remaining critical habitats, especially native grasslands and habitats of unique, rare and endangered species. CWHP supports mixed and tall-grass projects which are also funded by the federal Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP) and the Wildlife Branch.
The Mixed-grass Prairie Habitat Stewardship Project promotes agricultural activities and prairie management that incorporate wise land stewardship and biodiversity conservation. This project raises landowner awareness of the value of native grasslands and guides future management and stewardship activities by providing inventory information to focus conservation efforts. The project implements, monitors and evaluates sustainable prairie management techniques: twice-over rotational grazing, burning, brush mowing and invasive species control.
This project is delivered in the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve area of southeastern Manitoba. This area is the largest intact natural tall-grass community in the province and contains several endangered and threatened species. Through a multi-agency partnership the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve Management Committee develops an annual work program that focuses management efforts for the area. The goal of this project is to ensure that the management done at the Preserve is effective in maintaining ecosystem viability as demonstrated through monitoring, and that the monitoring program is tracking the impacts of all major local and landscape-scale threats to species at risk.
Mixed grass prairie once covered approximately 24 million hectares in Canada from Alberta to southwestern Manitoba.
Mixed grass prairie occurs in areas that receive between 25 and 50 cm of precipitation annually and where soils are sandy or well drained. Typical species include grasses such as little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius), spear grass (Stipa comata), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and wildflowers such as prairie crocus (Anemone patens), dotted blazingstar (Liatris punctata), and lily (Lilium philadelphicum).
Today less than 25% of mixed grass prairie remains in Canada, generally in areas unsuitable for cultivation.
The Critical Wildlife Habitat Program embarked on an inventory to identify and rank the remaining areas of mixed grass prairie in Manitoba.
Prairie was graded from "A" to "D". A grade of "C" or higher indicates a good quality community with the potential to improve over time. A grade of "D" indicates poor quality sites that require extensive management to improve.
From 1992 to 2011, 78,127 ha were inventoried, with 60% considered in good condition, grade of "C" or higher. Four major threats to Manitoba's mixed grass prairie were identified: cultivation, trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) encroachment, exotic species invasion and inappropriate grazing management.
For more information about the Mixed Grass Prairie inventory project contact the Manitoba Wildlife Branch in Winnipeg (204-945-7774).