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Appreciating Native Prairie: Who, What, When, Why, How?

By: Rachel Turnquist, Regional Forage Specialist Moose Jaw

Watching wild flowers and native grasses dance in the wind in a Saskatchewan summer is nothing short of breathtaking.  Native prairie is an important part of agriculture, the environment and of our history.  The blanket of native prairie formed in Saskatchewan after the last glaciers retreated from the landscape. Over thousands of years a diverse sward of plant species developed that are adapted to the harsh prairie environment.  Fire periodically disturbed and changed the landscape.  Under this regime, our Saskatchewan soils were formed.  Today, the livestock raised and crops produced in these soils help feed the world. 

Saskatchewan’s native rangelands are important to agriculture and to the environment.  They are a valuable grazing resource for livestock ranchers and wildlife.  Healthy native rangelands protect soil from erosion with their extensive root systems and above ground foliage production.   They excel at capturing and slowly releasing water, which is necessary as moisture levels fluctuate.   These are low input systems and are efficient at cycling nutrients.   Native rangelands support a biodiverse plant community.  Having different plants fulfilling different roles adds to the native rangelands ability to perform.

Native Rangelands are valuable to the public.  They are a part of our heritage and our future.  They aid in watershed protection and regulating water quality as well as providing carbon sequestration.  Many recreational activities including hiking and hunting are enjoyed by the public.  Native rangelands benefits are for everyone.

Native Prairie Appreciation Week is June 12 to 18, 2016.  This week has been jointly proclaimed by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment since 1999.  Each year the Society for Range Management hosts an amazing field tour at a different native prairie location throughout the province.  The tour, Blues, Bats and Blue Grama, will be held in the Maple Creek area June 16 and 17th.  Participants will get hands on experience in native prairie in the Cypress Hills.  This tour is a fantastic opportunity to learn about native rangelands in Saskatchewan.  It is family friendly with activities planned for children and adults.  To register go to the Prairie Conservation Action Plan website.  

For more information, contact Rachel Turnquist, Moose Jaw Regional Forage Specialist, at 306-694-3721 or rachel.turnquist@gov.sk.ca, or Nadia Mori, Watrous Regional Forage Specialist, at 306-946-3219 or nadia.mori@gov.sk.ca; or visit the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan website.

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