Three groups collaborating to establish Grasslands Conservation Initiative

A collaborative effort is being made to conserve grasslands across the country.

The Canadian Cattle Association, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada created the Grasslands Conservation Initiative (CGI).

Vice President of the CCA Tyler Fulton says it’s geared to the ranching community.

“The way it would kind of work is there’d be short-term agreements, medium-term agreements, and long-term agreements with ranchers to support them in their operation, and really paying for the bio-diversity and the habitat conservation outcomes that perfectly correlate with cattle on the landscape.” said Fulton.

He says they want the federal government to get involved with the initiative. The ask is about $175-million per year over 5 years with a pilot program “that really addresses the issue” according to Fulton.

“The real difference maker here is that the plan includes a short-term agreement, so it could be 3 to 5 years that says if you maintain the pasture in its current form – you’re not draining it and not breaking it – we know that there’s great conservation outcomes that come from that. As a result, we’re willing to pay you to maintain that great habitat.” added Fulton.

He also says it makes sense Ottawa should join because they’ve been public about preserving grasslands.

Paul Thoroughgood is the National Manager of Sustainability with Ducks Unlimited Canada, and also farms in the Moose Jaw area.

He says grasslands have several environmental benefits -its the primary food source for the Canadian beef herd, is home for many insects, and helps with carbon sequestration.

“One of the ranchers in a webinar that we had did a great job in explaining how the grass you see above ground, there’s two or three times that amount of biomass below ground, which is where the carbon sequestration occurs that helps us address some of our climate challenges.” Thoroughgood said.

The announcement of this initiative comes in advance of the COP28, or the United National Climate Change Conference, set for November 30-December 12 in Dubai. Thoroughgood says now is a good time to put this on the radar of world leaders.

 “When you think about threatened ecosystems, probably the first thing that pops to mind is rainforest, and not to diminish that at all but our grasslands in Prairie Canada are also incredibly important and it’s something we wanted to make sure that industry and political leaders, when they got together, had that on their mind and considered it as a nature-based solution for climate challenges.”

The groups note in a news release about 74 percent of Canada’s native grasslands have been lost, so the urgency to address the issue “cannot be overstated.”

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