Grassland restoration in Elk Island National Park

What’s the issue?

Parks Canada field staff identifying vegetation in a rangeland health assessment plot.
Parks Canada field staff identifying vegetation in a rangeland health assessment plot.

The grasslands of Elk Island National Park cover a small area yet they play a large role in supporting the overall health of the park. Monitoring shows that the health of grasslands within the park is declining. Key disturbance processes like fire are missing on the landscape, allowing weeds and shrubs to grow in. Remaining fields and meadows are heavily grazed by wildlife like bison and elk. Conservation work to restore grassland habitats in the north area of the park focuses on reversing these trends. Carefully planned weed control and prescribed fires will reduce dense shrubs, open up natural grassland pockets and stimulate plant growth in high-use bison meadows.

What’s our approach?

  • Collaborate with local Indigenous communities and scientific experts to reverse the declining health trend of the grasslands in the park
  • Control key invasive plants in grassland areas
  • Restore prescribed fire as a process on the landscape to reduce shrub presence and open up grassland habitat
  • Engage Canadians through outreach and education to increase awareness of the importance of grassland health and the benefits of fire on the landscape

What’s been accomplished?

  • Hosted workshops and continue to engage Indigenous partners, grassland experts and neighbours in discussions about grassland health
  • Gathered data about the health and use of grassland areas and modeled wildlife presence in these areas
  • Worked to remove invasive plants using a variety of methods
  • Conducted a volunteer weed pulling event with the Friends of Elk Island Society
  • Prepared plans for prescribed fire to increase the size and health of grassland areas
  • Engaged visitors through interpretative programs inspired by grassland health and bison, and the benefits of fire on the landscape