• Number of Completed Projects (2013-2014)
  • 9
  • Acres Conserved
  • 1,800
  • Land Value
  • $1,287,100
  • Stewardship Volunteers
  • 110

Rarer than a panda

The Poweshiek is a species of butterfly that was once common, and today it is not found throughout 95 percent of its range.

There are fewer Poweshiek skipperlings than there are pandas. That makes this species three times rarer than a panda, and among the most endangered animals on Earth.

Listed as an endangered species in Manitoba in 2012 and threatened in Canada, the species is only known to inhabit 17 fields in southeastern Manitoba, primarily on NCC’s Tall Grass Prairie Natural Area. In the United States, the closest populations appear in only a handful of sites in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Now, researchers from around North America are trying to understand the Poweshiek’s population collapse and why it happened.

NCC’s Tall Grass Prairie Natural Area is a living laboratory for researchers looking for clues about this declining species. Among them was a researcher from the Minnesota Zoo, who was there to gather eggs from Poweshiek skipperlings as part of a captive breeding program. The researchers hope to establish breeding populations of the Poweshiek skipperling at the zoo as insurance against the risk of extinction.

7,317 students in Manitoba now know a little bit more about the tall grass prairie ecosystem, thanks to the 235 field excursions and presentations we offered through our education and outreach program in 2013-14.


A different kind of flash mob

Recently, 200 cows traveled to the Riding Mountain House Project in the Little Saskatchewan River Valley for a flash mob of a different kind — a stewardship activity called “mob grazing.”

Over 42 days, NCC natural area coordinator Jean Rosset and a producer rotated the cattle through seven paddocks on a quarter section to graze and trample excess vegetation into the soil. The cattle’s hoof action, as well as their urine and manure, helped to disperse important nutrients and moisture into the soil while stimulating new growth in the pasture.

The grazed pasture contains a number of wetlands and is part of a larger Riding Mountain House Project where NCC has restored more than 100 wetlands to their historical water levels. Wetland vegetation has responded positively and colonized the surrounding bare soil. 

Rosset, in cooperation with local producers, plans to continue the various land management techniques with hopes that the vegetation on the property and the health of the soil will start to come back to its former richness.  


Giving monarchs a wing and a prayer

Scientists across North America are increasingly concerned about the status of the monarch, which is listed as a species of special concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada.

In late January 2014, scientists in Mexico reported the lowest number of monarchs since monitoring began in 1993.

In the last few years, Julie Sveinson Pelc, NCC manager of stewardship programs in Manitoba, has led a project in partnership with Earth Rangers and The W. Garfield Weston Foundation to restore tall grass prairie habitat for monarch butterflies. Working with Prairie Habitats Inc., NCC has developed a five-year plan to restore 100 acres (40 hectares) of former agricultural land within the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in southeast Manitoba.

Pelc and her team have been preparing the site and collecting local native seeds that would be distributed in the remaining areas as needed.

The monarch habitat restoration site is located just south of NCC’s Weston Family Tall Grass Prairie Interpretive Centre, first opened to the public in July 2013. NCC is planning a new monarch butterfly hiking trail, which will pass through the restoration site. The centre will also offer workshops and presentations to help visitors learn more about creating their own prairie gardens to help monarch butterflies.