Keeping our Native Grasslands

Manitoba’s mixed-grass prairie is a habitat that is under threat. Native prairie habitats are some of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada. While this habitat may be dismissed as “just grass” on a quick pass through on the highway, it is a complex, diverse and beautiful ecosystem. This habitat is under threats such as conversion to crop agriculture and segmentation by linear features (roads, train tracks, etc.).

Threats to the habitat, also mean threats to the species who call this habitat home. There are many bird species that specialize in a variety of habitats in the mixed-grass prairie that are listed as Species at Risk in Manitoba and Canada. These include species like the Burrowing Owl, Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collard Longspur, Ferruginous Hawk, Baird’s Sparrow and Loggerhead Shrike. It also includes birds that specialize in grasslands that are not currently classified as at risk, but who still have declining populations, such as the Upland Sandpiper and Grasshopper Sparrow. The sights and sounds of these species are ubiquitous to those who live on the prairies. Unfortunately, sometimes we only know how dear to us the sights and sounds of these birds are when they are gone.

Sprague’s Pipit. This species is known for hovering high in the air while singing a musical, downward swirling song. Photo by Christian Artuso.

Almost all of the remaining native mixed-grass prairie habitat left in Manitoba is privately owned land. Nature Manitoba is one of many conservation groups working with cattle producers and landowners in Manitoba’s southwestern corner to keep this land in grass. Supporting cattle producers and other landowners who have a strong connection to, and depend on healthy mixed-grass prairie for their livelihoods is key to continuing to hold on to this threatened habitat, and the species that call it home.

Nature Manitoba is working with Birds Canada to engage landowners with grassland habitat that would like to keep or restore native mixed-grass prairie on their land. We are especially interested in working with landowners or groups of landowners wish to work together to conserve continuous portions of habitat on working landscapes.

Native mixed-grass prairie habitat in a cattle pasture near Broomhill, MB. Photo by A. Shave.

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities for incentives to keep or improving your grassland please contact Amanda at or Ian Cook at

Manitoba IBA and Birds Canada have produced several publications to help landowners, cattle producers and conservation groups who are interested in working together to keep land in grass. You can find the links below:

Summary of Southwester Manitoba Landowner and Cattle Producer Engagement Activities in 2019

Grassland Conservation Incentives Guide: A Guide to the Incentives and Programs Available for Prairie Working Landscapes