The first Prairie Conservation Action Plan (PCAP) was released by the World Wildlife Fund – Canada and the provincial governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta late in 1988. It was a five-year blueprint (which concluded in 1994), aimed at prairie-wide efforts to conserve and manage native prairie species, communities, and habitats.

The Prairie Conservation Forum (originally named the Prairie Conservation Coordinating Committee), was established in 1988 by the Government of Alberta in response to the original PCAP. The PCF has grown since its inception, and today is comprised of some fifty member organizations. These organizations represent all three levels of government, non-government organizations, industry, academia, and agricultural and environmental interest groups.

Following the conclusion of the first prairie-wide PCAP in 1994, provincial successor PCAPs were developed in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Alberta and Saskatchewan PCAP groups continue to remain active today. The 2011-15 PCAP is the fifth generation offspring of the original PCAP. The roots of commitment to prairie conservation go deep and are enduring in Alberta, sustained by the ongoing work of the PCF and other like-minded organizations and individuals. The Prairie Conservation Forum continues to exist to promote the conservation of native biodiversity in prairie and parkland environments in Alberta and to provide an ongoing profile for prairie and parkland conservation initiatives.

Photo By Katheryn Taylor

Summary of Prairie Conservation Forum Achievements and Initiatives

The PCF has undertaken various initiatives over the years to achieve objectives contained in the original PCAP (1989-1994) and Alberta’s successor PCAPs (1996-2000, 2001-2005, 2006-2010, 2011-2015). The following list, although not exhaustive, profiles some of the activities that the Forum has been involved with:

Achievements and Initiatives 1980-1989

Prairie Conservation Action Plan 1988

In 1988, the first Prairie Conservation Action Plan (PCAP) was released by World Wildlife Fund Canada and the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In 1989, Alberta established the Prairie Conservation Coordinating Committee (which was subsequently renamed the Prairie Conservation Forum). Since then, the Alberta PCF has produced four additional 5-year action plans.

PCF member agencies took up ERCB challenge

PCF member agencies took up the challenge issued by the ERCB as a result of a 1989 decision report respecting a shallow gas well on rough fescue in the Special Areas which urged affected agencies to collaborate more effectively in providing direction to minimize the impacts of petroleum and natural gas exploration and development on native prairie. The result was ERCB/EUB information letters in 1992, 1996 and 2002, a PCF Occasional Paper in 2002, and an extension publication aimed at industry, government and the general public, “Prairie Oil and Gas: A Lighter Footprint” in 2001.

Environmentally Significant Areas Inventory

The PCF was the catalyst for much of the work with Regional Planning Commissions and the Alberta Government in getting Environmentally Significant Areas inventories commissioned for all municipalities in prairie and parkland Alberta in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Achievements and Initiatives 1990-1994

National Wildlife Area on Canadian Forces Base – Suffield 1991

In 1991, the PCF stimulated discussions that led to the creation of a 45,800 ha National Wildlife Area on Canadian Forces Base – Suffield. The agreement between the Department of National Defence and Environment Canada to establish the refuge was signed in 1992, and after a long gestation period, the National Wildlife Area was formally designated in 2003.

PCF worked with the MD of Acadia 1992 – tax recovery land

In 1992, the PCF worked with the MD of Acadia with regard to a sale policy affecting 84 quarter sections of tax recovery land to ensure that opportunity for land sales proceeded while minimizing impacts on native prairie and ensuring consolidation of native prairie parcels in viable blocks.

Rumsey Declared Natural Area 1993

In 1993, PCF member agencies took a leadership role in developing the local land use plan to reconcile oil and gas activity with the nature conservation values of Rumsey. Subsequently, this area was declared a Natural Area under the Special Places program.

Occasional Paper Series 1993

In 1993, the PCF launched an Occasional Paper Series that was designed to provide a forum for Albertans to publish non-technical essays on prairie conservation issues. Five occasional papers have been published to date.

    • 1993 – Occasional Paper No. 1
      – The Rules of the World. Francis Gardner.
    • 1996 – Occasional Paper No. 2
      – Prairie Ecosystem Management: An Alberta Perspective. Cheryl Bradley and Cliff Wallis.
    • 2000 – Occasional Paper No. 3
      – The Prairie Landscape: Perceptions of Reality. J.F. Dormaar and R. L. Barsh.
    • 2002 – Occasional Paper No. 4
      – Minimizing the Effects of Oil and Gas Activity on Native Prairie in Alberta. Heather Sinton and Christine Pitchford.
    • 2005 – Occasional Paper No. 5
      – Southern Alberta’s Watersheds: An Overview. Kim Lalonde, Bill Corbett, and Cheryl Bradley.

Achievements and Initiatives 1995-1999

Native Prairie Reconnaissance Inventory – Mid 1990’s

In the mid 1990’s, the Native Prairie Reconnaissance Inventory was produced in an effort to identify where and how much native prairie remains in Alberta. Ten years later, an effort to determine how much change has occurred since the original inventory was conducted led to the development of the specifications for the Grassland Vegetation Inventory.

Topics in Prairie Conservation 1998

A PCF Work Group developed a senior seminar university course called ‘Topics in Prairie Conservation’, which was first offered at the University of Lethbridge in the fall of 1998. The course is still being taught at the University today.

PCF works on choosing the provincial grass for Alberta 1999, Rough Fescue

In 1999, the PCF helped to design and implement a process to choose a provincial grass for Alberta. On April 30th, 2003, Rough Fescue was officially proclaimed the new provincial grass emblem of Alberta.

Achievements and Initiatives 2000-2009

Grassland Vegetation Inventory (GVI)

The Grassland Vegetation Inventory (GVI) was initiated by the PCF PCAP 2006-2010 to assess change in the native vegetation characteristics of Alberta’s prairie landscape. It represents Alberta’s newest vegetation inventory for the Grassland Natural Region.

MULTISAR PROGRAM 2009

In 2009, the PCF agreed to assist Alberta Sustainable Resource Development in sustaining the successful MULTISAR program, assuming responsibility for managing the programs funds in the stewardship of habitat for species at risk.

Achievements and Initiatives 2010

Cumulative Effects Management

Cumulative Effects Management had its origins in the PCF in a “Grasslands Cumulative Effects” pilot in 1999-2000, which provided the underpinnings for the Southern Alberta Regional Strategy in 2002 (which over time has become the SSRP) and early ‘Place-based Environmental Management System’ discussions in Alberta Environment in 2004 (which over time has evolved to the current Cumulative Effects Management System (CEMS) which is being developed by Alberta Environment and is a central component of the Land Use Framework).

Partnering for Youth Grassland Education and Field Trips 2010

In 2010, the PCF education committee partnered with the Helen Schuler Nature Centre of Lethbridge to pilot a project that offers youth the opportunity to experience Alberta’s prairies first-hand by taking them on a two-day field trip to various locations throughout the prairies. In 2011, PCF will be helping to organize two more of these field trips, and will be offering a distance-learning broadcast to take the prairies to schools, groups, etc. that can’t participate in field trips.

PCF partnered with the Foothills Restoration Forum 2010

In 2010, the PCF partnered with the Foothills Restoration Forum on a project to define guidelines for minimizing surface disturbance of native prairie from wind energy development. Work is ongoing, with the intent to define beneficial practices more fully and raise awareness of those practices among wind energy developers, landowners, land use planners and industry regulators as well as the general public.