Alberta’s grasslands are important in so many ways. They’re incredibly rich in both biodiversity and cultural heritage, and provide a range of essential ecosystem services, including carbon storage, soil nutrient preservation and freshwater filtration. Just over 1 percent of Alberta’s natural grasslands are protected, even though these endangered ecosystems contain about 80 percent of the province’s species at risk.
Grasslands education is timely, to say the least, which is why CPAWS Southern Alberta, with support from Alberta Ecotrust and Chawkers Foundation, is creating Why Grasslands? — a pilot education program to increase awareness of grassland conservation in schools throughout southern Alberta.
This fun, hands-on program will follow the same set-up as our other environmental educations programs, and will involve class time plus a field trip to a local grassland. For the pilot program this fall, CPAWS educators will raise awareness about grasslands in the Pincher Creek and Calgary regions, and will be using feedback from those lessons to launch a full grasslands school program for next year.
The program will increase knowledge and awareness about grasslands — everything from keystone species and ecosystem dynamics of these regions to cultural history, traditional knowledge and land management — while developing skills to protect native grasslands for all future generations.