What Landholders Can Do (to help Species at Risk)

What Landholders Can Do (to help Species at Risk)

There are many actions that landholders can take to help grassland Species at Risk. Some may require little to no effort, while others may need a greater investment of time and other resources.

Keep What You Have


The single most important thing that landowners can do to help Species at Risk is to hang on to remaining native prairie habitats. This includes grasslands, badlands, coulees, riparian areas, wetlands, shrublands and sandhills.

Tweak Your Land Management

There are a variety of small tweaks or adjustments to agricultural operations that can have big benefits to Species at Risk. There are many of these “Best Management Practices”, and MULTISAR helps landholders select those that are the most appropriate for your situation.

Here are some Top Tweaks to consider on your land (more details below):


Keep Your Grasslands Under Cover


Grasslands that are uniformly grazed down to the soil are no good for Species at Risk or for the long-term health of the range and livestock. Fortunately, sound range management practices that benefit livestock production usually benefit Species at Risk.

Here are some examples of range management practices that are good for Species at Risk:

Provide adequate rest from grazing to enable grasslands to recover and produce reliable forage year after year. This benefits many grassland birds, including the Sprague’s Pipit, as they need adequate amounts of litter (last year’s growth) for nesting and foraging.

Use the location of water, minerals, trails and feed to encourage patchy grazing (different grass heights). Several species, such as the Long-billed Curlew and Burrowing Owl, favour patchy habitats.

More Beneficial Management Practices useful for grasslands can be found in these Fact Sheets:

Pay Special Attention to Slumps, Slopes, Badlands and other Rocky Areas


There are several Species at Risk that rely on steep, sparsely vegetated rocky areas. These areas make up a small portion of the landscape, but are critical to the survival of species such as the Prairie Falcon, Ferruginous Hawk, Western Small-footed Bat, Prairie Rattlesnake and Short-horned Lizard.

If you have river cliffs, badlands, sandhills, coulees, slumps or sandstone outcrops on your land, here are some Beneficial Management Practices that can be implemented:

Steer industrial activity away from these areas in your negotiations with oil and gas companies (e.g. well sites, access roads, seismic lines). See our Industrial Guidelines Fact Sheet (below) for set-back distances.

Limit off-road vehicle use and other human disturbances in these areas, especially in spring and early summer.

More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to these areas can be found in these Fact Sheets:

Wood Can Be Good


Lone trees, wooded groves and naturally occurring shrub patches in grasslands provide nest sites for several Species at Risk. Ferruginous Hawks use trees for their nest sites and Loggerhead Shrikes rely on shrubs such as Thorny Buffaloberry and Willow. Both shrikes and hawks species provide excellent prey-control services!

Here are some Beneficial Management Practices that can be implemented when you have shrubby areas or a few trees on your land:

Protect trees and shrubs so that you can reap the benefits of having hawks, shrikes and other predators on your land. Consider fencing them from cattle, if they are being damaged. Leave dead or dying trees standing, as they may also be used as nest sites and perches for hunting.

Consider installing an artificial nest pole, but this should be done in consultation with a wildlife biologist to ensure that it doesn’t impact other Species at Risk in the area.



More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to trees and shrubs can be found in the following Fact Sheets:

Riparian Health = Wealth


Healthy riparian areas along rivers, streams, wetlands and lakes are rich with wide-ranging benefits to landholders, Species at Risk and our watersheds. The Trumpeter Swan, Northern Leopard Frog and Western Small-footed Bat all rely on riparian habitats.

There are many Beneficial Management Practices that will help keep riparian areas healthy and functioning:


Refrain from draining and cultivating permanent wetlands and seasonal ponds and where possible, consider reclaiming previously drained wetlands.

Leave a buffer zone around wetlands, limit the use of pesticides near them and try to steer industrial and road developments at least 100m away.

Cottonwood Forests

Distribute salt, off-stream water and feed away from riparian forest zones to attract cattle elsewhere. This will also improve use of the adjacent range.

If a flood occurs, avoid grazing your cottonwood forest for two years to allow seedlings to establish and grow strong enough to withstand grazing pressure, if possible.

More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to trees and shrubs can be found in the following Fact Sheets:

Nip Exotic Plants in the Bud


When non-native, invasive plants move into native prairie habitats, they often exclude native plants and cause a loss of diversity, health and function which affects range productivity and Species at Risk habitat.

A couple of important Beneficial Management Practice relating to non-native plants are:

Monitor your land for weeds and take action as soon as you spot a new invader. It is much easier to deal with a few weeds early on than a large, spreading patch a couple of years later.

Use sound grazing practices that limit the amount of bare ground, as this is often where invasive species get a foot in the door.


Japanese Brome (identifiable by the dark seed heads) spreading into native grasslands in the Milk River watershed.

More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to invasive species can be found in this Fact Sheet:

Do Not Disturb!


Quite a few Species at Risk came to be at risk because they are sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon nest sites and other important parts of their habitat if disturbed. Ferruginous Hawks, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Sage-grouse and Trumpeter Swans are examples of species that are sensitive to human disturbance.

setback-distances-NEWMinimize disturbance of nesting and breeding sites during the breeding season. This includes driving and walking in the area.

When negotiating with oil and gas companies, try to steer such activities away from these areas.

More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to disturbance can be found in the following Fact Sheets:

Prey for Species at Risk


Ground squirrels (gophers), mice, voles and grasshoppers are vital food sources for many predatory Species at Risk, such as Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcons and Swift Foxes. Ground squirrels also provide burrows that are used by other species, such as Burrowing Owls, Tiger Salamanders, Prairie Rattlesnakes and a variety of invertebrates, including bumblebees.


Ground squirrels are a keystone species that support many Species at Risk


Beneficial Management Practices that help to ensure healthy prey populations include:

Have some tolerance for prey species on your land and remember that they will attract predators that will help to keep the prey in check.

If you must control ground squirrels, choose non-toxic methods of control, such as trapping or shooting. Poisons can end up killing non-target species and in some cases, Species at Risk.

More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to prey animals can be found in the following Fact Sheets:

Cultivate your Relationship with Prairie Birds


There are some practices that will benefit Species at Risk in cultivated areas, as species such as the Loggerhead Shrike and Long-billed Curlew will use cropland and tame pasture in addition to native prairie habitats.


Maintain spring nesting cover and delay harvesting and haying until after the breeding season if possible (May and mid-July).

Use zero or minimal tillage to reduce disturbance and provide stubble for winter shelter and foraging.

More Beneficial Management Practices relevant to cultivated areas can be found in the following Fact Sheets:

Restore the Range


Converting cropland back to native prairie is no small task, but it can be done and more landholders are starting to realize the benefits of converting marginal cropland back to native cover. Not surprisingly, this can have big benefits for Species at Risk and also for agricultural operations.

Seeding success

In May 2008, J Bar J Ranch, with the assistance of MULTISAR, re-seeded a 241 acre field with native prairie grasses. The seed mixture used for the project was; 17% Needle and Thread grass, 16% June Grass, 27% Northern Wheatgrass, 20% Western Wheatgrass, and 20% Blue Grama Grass. After seeding, the landowner added fencing to keep cattle out and allow the grass to establish.

Follow-up surveys by MULTISAR in 2011 found healthy rangeland with high production (average of 555lbs/acre of the previous year’s growth). Wildlife surveys revealed Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, Vesper Sparrows, Sprague’s Pipits, Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Sharp-tailed Grouse and Richardson’s Ground Squirrels using the site.

This cultivated field was re-seeded with native grasses in 2008 (left). Three years later a variety of prairie wildlife had moved in (right).

Contact MULTISAR  if you would like more information on converting cropland to native cover.

There are several organizations that can help with advice, seed sources and provide funding assistance:

Foothills Restoration Forum 

Canadian Native Plant Materials Exchange  helps to connect people looking for native plant materials with those that have some available.

There are many resources available on our “Learn More” page.