A recent report from the North American Bird Conservation Intiative (NABCI) indicates many bird species in coastal, grassland, and dry prairie habitats are declining steeply.
Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) vice-chair Henry Nelson says this decline in bird populations is an indicator of the health of our landscapes and environment. He says forages and grasslands help support biodiversity, but also have larger impacts on the environment.
"They help us in terms of clean air, clean water," he says, "and they're very actively growing plants, in most cases they're perennials... so they sequester carbon, which is very important to us in terms of climate change. And, you know, putting carbon in the soil helps improve the soil health."
Nelson says the report from NABCI confirms that MFGA's work in keeping Manitoba's grasslands in tact is important. But Nelson also says we are losing grasslands, and he understands this can often be because of economics.
"You know, the landowners have a lot of money invested in the land, so it's got to pay, so they have to follow their economic signals," he says. "Farmers are well aware of the benefits of well-managed grasslands, and they're as close to nature as any of us. When we're out there we see nature first hand, but we also have to make a living."
Nelson says it's critical that all Canadians understand the importance of grasslands, particularly on a policy level.
According to an MFGA press release, the group is currently in discussions with other organizations, like the International Institute for Sustainable Development and Canadian Forage and Grassland Association, about how to better understand grassland values and policy action implications.