The 2020 Documentary Guardians of the Grasslands highlights an endangered ecosystem that you might not recognize. Unknown to many Canadians, the Canadian grasslands are critically endangered, having lost significant area to conversion, both residential and agricultural. The short documentary explores one solution to preserving this natural landscape, cattle.
Amie – “Without a grazer to [cut] the grasses down to different heights, the grasses start to smother themselves. There’s no sunlight, there’s not enough water getting down to the soil. Without [cattle] to trample down seeds and aerate the soil. Then importantly of course is urine & manure that distributes nutrients back into the soil. This helps bring that soil to a healthy state and recycle life back again. Without that we see grassland really going dormant.”
Below is a few more highlights from the full interview with Amie. You can listen to the entire podcast episode on your favourite player or app including Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon and Stitcher. Don’t forget to follow and/or subscribe to hear about all new episodes!
About The Grasslands
The Canadian Grasslands is home to more than 60 Canadian species that are currently at risk. Many reports suggest that up to 74% of this ecosystem is already gone. So why is it important to protect?
The Grasslands are a complex ecosystem that supports animal life and crop growth. This habitat provides a home for a variety of wildlife including birds, mule deer & insects that act as a natural pest control. This environment’s extensive root network is important for carbon sequestration and storage. By storing this carbon the Grasslands contribute to mitigating climate change impacts, including catastrophic weather events. Each of these species plays an important role in keeping the ecosystem healthy, but so do we.
Amie – “[The goal is] not to demonize the people that are converting the native grasslands. They’re trying to make a living for their families and they’re trying to grow food for Canadians and to export, but we need to have regulations in place that make it more economical to keep them as native grasslands and grow crops where that makes sense as well.”
The Role of Cattle
One of the biggest challenges that the film had to work through was providing an understanding that the cattle are part of the ecosystem. This idea often creates a lot of confusion, especially from anyone that may not have a strong agricultural background.
Amie – “when we think about how these prairie ecosystems evolved, [it’s] very much through the pressure of the large herds of bison that were grazing here. Estimates say between 30 to 60 million head of bison were across the prairies and they had these grazing activities that shaped the plants and the wildlife that formed in that ecosystem. And, it might be thought that the bison were just sort of an endlessly wandering the prairie, but really the first nation people were moving them in ways to help the grass and the soil. They were the original guardians of the grasslands.”
These historical grazers helped to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. Without their involvement the Grasslands overall health will continue to decline rapidly.
Created by a diverse group of conservationists, ranchers and Canadian filmmakers, Guardians of the Grasslands is an eye-opening film that everyone should see! The film provides a viewpoint that is unique for many Canadian consumers.
Learn more about the documentary including where to watch it visit their website here.