Through partnerships with Government of Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada, a new plains bison herd has been established, renewing cultural, historical and ecological connections for Indigenous community, ensuring the survival and well-being of this iconic and majestic animal.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has been working with The Key First Nation (TKFN) since early 2019. At that time, TKFN was in the planning process for establishing a plains bison herd at TKFN, and NCC was in the beginning stages of the development of a long-term management plan for the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area (OMB) bison herd. A member of TKFN attended an initial Indigenous Advisory Group meeting in Regina in March 2019. As well, members from TKFN attended an NCC-hosted weekend gathering at OMB and participated in discussions on bison conservation and management in May 2019. During the gathering, the TKFN members toured the OMB bison-handling facilities and infrastructure to help inform their plans for setting up pastures and handling facilities at TKFN.
NCC has a long-standing relationship with the steel-production company Evraz, who generously donated steel drill-stem posts that were used in building the bison pasture fences at OMB. In 2019, NCC approached Evraz to see if they could also support bison pasture infrastructure at TKFN. Evraz donated several hundred steel drill-stem posts to TKFN to be used in setting up their bison pastures.
NCC and TKFN partnered on a successful joint funding application to the Community Partnerships Project funding program offered through the Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations. Funding secured through this application will cover Grasslands National Park’s handling fees ($450 per animal) for the 20 bison that TKFN is receiving from the park, as well as the costs associated with transporting the bison from Grasslands National Park to TKFN in December 2021.
NCC will be donating 20 plains bison, including 10 female calves, two to three subadult males and seven adult females, from the OMB bison herd to TKFN herd. Including elder females is important for creating and regulating the social structure of the new herd, and for knowledge transfer to the younger animals.
NCC has shared its long-term Bison Management Plan with TKFN for use in their planning and management strategies.
NCC will be hosting a gathering at OMB in May 2022, if the COVID-19 situation improves by then and it is safe to do so. All of the Indigenous advisors who are part of the OMB Bison Management Plan will be invited to attend, including those involved with the establishment/management of TKFN’s bison herd. This will be an opportunity to continue discussions about opportunities for collaboration around bison management and conservation, as well as a chance to celebrate bison by coming together in ceremony and sharing meals together.
NCC continues to develop its relationship with Parks Canada, and particularly with Grasslands National Park. Staff involved in bison management at Grasslands National Park acted as an external reviewer in the development of NCC’s OMB Bison Management Plan. NCC also acquired 10 female bison from Grasslands National Park as part of its strategy to maintain genetic diversity within the OMB bison herd.
Background information on the Nature Conservancy of Canada:
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain.
We are a private, non-profit group that partners with individuals, corporations, foundations, Indigenous communities and governments at all levels to protect Canada’s most important natural areas, through securement and the long-term stewardship of our properties.
We make conservation happen. As a partner with industry and government, we help expand parks and protected areas. Our planning work, supporting local communities, Indigenous Nations and conservation organizations, helps others achieve their conservation goals.
Since 1962, NCC and our partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares, coast to coast to coast. By investing in conservation, we are ensuring our natural spaces remain a home for wildlife, a haven where Canadians can enjoy nature and a vital resource that cleans the air we breathe and the water we drink. Our mission gives us hope that the landscapes we love today will be here for others to cherish tomorrow.
Grasslands are one of the rarest and most at-risk ecosystems in the world and are a critical part of Saskatchewan. They filter our water, help prevent flooding and droughts, sequester carbon, and for thousands of years have provided sustenance for humans. Over the past 25 years, Saskatchewan has lost more than 809,000 hectares of native grassland and now less than 20 per cent remain intact.
Grasslands and the wetlands they contain benefit migratory birds and imperiled species, and are critical for our own livelihoods. Conserving grasslands is one of the most important things we can do for our province and future generations. To learn more, visit conservegrasslands.ca.