"We Passed some beautiful scenery and almost opposite had the pleasure of seeing five Mountain Rams, or Bighorns, on the summit of a hill. We saw what we supposed to be three Grizzly Bears, but could not be sure. We saw a wolf attempting to climb a very steep bank of clay. on the opposite shore another wolf was lying down on a sand-bar, like a dog. I forgot to say that last evening we saw a large herd of buffaloes, with many calves amount them; they were grazing quietly on a fine bit of prairie. They stared, and then started at a handsome canter producing a beautiful picturesque view. We have seen many elks swimming the river. These animals are abundant beyond belief hereabouts. If ever there was a country where wolves are surpassingly abundant, it is the one we are know inâ
James Audubon, 1843
The prairies are a place few can envision as something of a masterpiece, to those who wander her valleys, clay ridden hills, and daunting open space there is something that pulls at you, telling you that this place has magic in it. The open prairies of southern Saskatchewan resemble that of the open ocean, vast expanses of seemingly nothing. rolling hills resemble swells in the ocean, one must look a little closer to find the nuances that are hidden within the sage and fescue.
As of 2011, 57 grassland wildlife species are considered at risk in North America, 28 of which are grassland birds (ICUN 2011). With this many species at risk our question then becomes one of why. An estimated 41% of the worlds native template grasslands and 79% of North American grasslands have been lost to cultivation for agricultural production. Food, feeding our hungry stomachs seems to be the prime cause of our fellow vertebrates decline. This is where the interesting journey begins, should we feel guilty for the decline of fellow species, are we obligated to restore depleted wildlife numbers and there associated wild habitat.
There are those who feel strong urges to protect and save wildlife species, there are also those who feel strong urges to feed the country and make a living for there family and community. The battle of wildlife management and especially areas in which promoting conservation means taking land away from other producing ventures creates conflict, much like when one child takes the toy from another, tears, poughting and then fighting arise. This conflict is something that does nothing put stall progress, Progress in what? the idea that progress in wildlife management means one thing, less agriculture and more protected land is simply flawed. our struggle is not one of morals but one of practicality, trying to convince landowners to refrain from farming large pieces of land in the name of wildlife conservation is not a path that will work. Its a different story if the land is government owned (crown land), since this land belongs to the people of Canada, management decisions can represent popular opinion, making it easier to designate it conservation land. My fascination with the grasslands of southern Saskatchewan is a direct result of this, how can wildlife managers and private landowners work together, building a working group that keeps economic, social, and environmental ideas and principles connected and working together in order to formulate a management plan capable of producing results that support both agriculture and proper wildlife management. One thing I would like people to think about is why we manage for wildlife, the reason is not because of you and me, but for the unborn and young, lets let Roosevelt cement this this idea:
Defenders of the short-sighted men who in there greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying that â the game belongs to the peopleâ so it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The "greatest good for the greatest numberâ applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but a insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.
- Theodore Roosevelt, A Book-loverâs Holidays in the Open (1916)