Grasslands are one of Canada's most endangered ecosystems. In British Columbia, there are approximately 5 million ha of grasslands, which represent a mere 1.5% of the land base. Grasslands support a wide range of wildlife including 25% of threatened and endangered species in the province.
Grassland mapping, as part of this Biodiversity Atlas and other initiatives, will help to prioritize specific grassland ecosystems most threatened by human activities. This information will contribute to developing specific conservation and stewardship recommendations for action on priority grassland areas. For in-depth information on grasslands across the province—as well as here in the Basin—visit the Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia.
Biodiversity Interactive Maps - Grasslands
Animal species supported
Open Grasslands, found mostly in the East Kootenay region of the Basin, are home to many species of animals. As well as species NOT in trouble and existing in healthy numbers, this ecosystem supports several species at risk (SAR) including the following featured here on the Biodiversity Atlas: American badger, western skink, Townsend's big-eared bat, sharp-tailed grouse (currently extirpated from the region) and the yellow-breasted chat. Species at risk not yet featured here on the atlas include the: white-tailed jackrabbit, pallid bat, burrowing owl, peregrine, prairie falcon and numerous others.
- Grasslands, or ecosystems dominated by herbs and forbs, form where forests are prevented from growing due to soil, climate, or ecosystem conditions.
- Increasing pressures on British Columbia's grasslands from urban, expansion, noxious weeds, abusive recreation including ATV impacts, agricultural conversion, inappropriate grazing practices, forest encroachment and subdivision development are impacting the long-term sustainability of this critical habitat.
- Very little grassland area is protected. Much of the grassland area in the Rocky Mountain Trench is on private land and is considered to be a rare or at risk ecosystem.
- Fire was once common enough to prevent dense forest growth over much of the lower elevation valley bottom terrain in drier parts of the region
- Fire suppression efforts, beginning around the middle of the 20th century, have been so successful that there is much less open grassland now than was reported by the earliest European visitors to the region, even though much clearing has occurred due to agricultural, urban, and industrial development.
- A three-year British Columbia Grasslands Mapping Project, spearheaded by the Grasslands Conservation Council, brought existing information from around the province, including the Columbia Basin, to build a grassland Geographic Information System (GIS) with associated maps encompassing all provincial grasslands. www.bcgrasslands.org
- The resulting map of British Columbia's grasslands, with key information layers, is an important component of the Columbia Basin Biodiversity Atlas.
Learn more about Grasslands