As another example of the Manitoba’s beef industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship, Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) is pleased to announce a project to promote habitat enhancement for species at risk in southwestern Manitoba.

With $750,000 in funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) initiative, MBP is delivering voluntary, incentive-based habitat enhancement actions with beef producers in areas of southwestern Manitoba to protect important habitats. Working with beef producers in the area, MBP, while contracting experts at Manitoba Heritage Habitat Corporation (MHHC) will encourage producers to undertake practices that both enhance cattle production as well as habitats for specific species at risk. Sound grazing and feeding strategies are proving to be the best way to keep the land productive as well as maintain important grasslands for many species of prairie birds.

“SARPAL projects help Manitoba livestock producers and farmers conserve and enhance grasslands that are home to many species at risk,” said The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Through such collaborative efforts we are able to support sustainable ranching and farming practices that help protect wildlife and their habitats. I look forward to continuing our work with the Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Agriculture and local Conservation Districts on innovative solutions to conserve species at risk across Canada.”

The MBP project is one of four taking place in Manitoba under SARPAL and will be delivered with the expertise of MHHC staff. The three SARPAL projects also underway are:

  • The Turtle Mountain Conservation District and Manitoba Sustainable Development are partnering on a burrowing owl project that focuses on the installation of artificial nests to research and raise awareness of burrowing owls.
  • The West Souris River Conservation District’s grassland birds project will center on mapping, surveying and implementing bird-specific Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) for targeted species in southwestern Manitoba, including the Ferruginous hawk, Chestnut-collared longspur, Sprague’s pipit and Baird Sparrow.
  • Manitoba Agriculture is working to add a species at risk component to its existing Environmental Farm Plan Program process/booklet.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of agricultural land and agricultural producers to the conservation of species at risk. Many Canadian producers steward their land in ways that benefit wildlife and we support their efforts that will directly help species at risk to survive and recover,” said Terry Duguid, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Status of Women.

SARPAL funding supports projects that engage the agriculture sector in preserving key wildlife habitat. Working closely with stakeholders, Environment and Climate Change Canada is exploring a variety of approaches to working with Manitoba’s producers on voluntary agreements that result in effective protection of identified critical habitat for Species at Risk Act-listed species located on agricultural lands, while maintaining the land’s productive value.

“The commitment of Manitoba’s beef producers to being sound stewards of the land is well-documented,” said MBP President Ben E. Fox. “Properly managed pasture land is integral to our business as well as in supporting biodiversity and providing habitat for a range of wildlife, including species at risk. The funds provided by this program will allow producers in the southwest to take their stewardship efforts a step further and implement measures that show how cattle production is part of the solution as we work to support and protect species at risk in that region.”

“The Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program is a non-profit organization that works directly with program partners, Turtle Mountain and West Souris River Conservation District, in southwestern Manitoba,” said Alexandra Froese, Turtle Mountain Conservation District Project Coordinator. “One of the program’s main focuses is to connect with landowners who have habitat suitable for burrowing owls. We work with select landowners to both maintain and improve habitat for returning Burrowing Owls which includes the installation of artificial nest burrows that protect nests from digging animals (predators). Our program runs solely on private and public funding and we are so thrilled to receive this tremendous support from SARPAL for three seasons.”

“The board and staff of the West Souris River Conservation District are looking forward to hitting the ground running with this project,” said WRSCD Manager Dean Booker. “There has already been a lot of interest from landowners in the area.”

SARPAL is focused entirely on commercially-farmed lands containing individuals, residences, or critical habitat of Species at Risk Act-listed species, and has three main elements: agreements/contracts, BMPs, and funding for producers.