The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.
Plains Bison roamed their natural prairie habitat for the first time in almost 100 years, when 50 young bison arrive at the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) Old Man on His Back prairie preserve conservation area near Eastend, Saskatchewan on December 12. The reintroduction is one of the first in Canada and represents a significant contribution to the conservation of Plains Bison. Once widespread on the Canadian prairies and numbering in the millions, genetically pure, disease-free Plains Bison are now so rare that a recommendation is being made by the World Conservation Union to put the animals on the endangered list. "Reintroducing bison to the Old Man on His Back natural grassland will help us meet our goal of maintaining and enhancing the ecological integrity of the preserve, as bison are the natural grazers of the prairies," said Bob MacFarlane, NCC's Saskatchewan Regional Director. "We're also delighted to be able to make a contribution to this international conservation effort. This also represents a major contribution to the international conservation effort around plains bison, which are now thought to be much rarer than before." The bison are coming from Canada's original 1907 Plains Bison herd at Elk Island National Park in Alberta. The Elk Island herd is the only Canadian source of Plains Bison that is genetically pure and disease free, which meets NCC's conservation criteria. The reintroduction program is being financed by a number of partners. Fencing, handling, acquisition and transport of the bison were supported from contributions from IPSCO Inc., The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Saskatchewan Environment and individual donors. Nexen Inc. was also a key supporter in funding the acquisition of the property. "The Government of Saskatchewan is pleased to be part of this bison reintroduction program," said David Forbes, Saskatchewan's Environment Minister. "Not only are we promoting the grazing of the area in order to maintain its ecological health, we're doing so with a species that evolved for thousands of years with such ecosystems. I applaud the efforts of everyone involved." The 13,100-acre Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area is one of Canada's last remaining tracts of mixed grassland. Home to many imperiled species such as the nesting Ferruginous Hawk and Burrowing Owl, the property offers a spectacular haven for wildlife and also has significant cultural and historic values. Sue Michalsky, Senior Land Conservation Representative at Eastend will be responsible for managing the property. She says the bison reintroduction is part of a long-term stewardship plan for the property that includes restoring original native species, returning 1,000 acres of cultivated land to natural prairie, restoring the Butala homestead, re-introducing bison to the property, working with neighbouring landowners to conserve and restore native prairie, carrying out an archaeological and biological inventory, and ultimately constructing a visitor centre.12/22/2003