Parks Canada

Parks Canada

May 24, 2006 13:56 ET

Plains Bison Reintroduced to Grasslands National Park of Canada as Part of 'Prairie Persists' Initiative

VAL MARIE, SASKATCHEWAN--(CCNMatthews - May 24, 2006) - Seventy-one plains bison have been released into the West Block of Grasslands National Park of Canada today as part of an innovative project to enhance the park's ecological integrity. The Prairie Persists project, which includes the reintroduction of bison to the park, was officially launched today by the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada.

"This vast, wind swept prairie was home to millions of free-roaming bison prior to European settlement," said Minister Ambrose. "With the re-introduction of bison - an icon of the prairie - the park will restore grazing to this mixed-grass prairie ecosystem, enhance the long-term integrity of the park and once again give Canadians the opportunity to view these symbols of the prairie after over a century's absence in this area."

The 71 bison were transported to Grasslands National Park in mid-December 2005 from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, and wintered in a 16.2-hectare (40 acre) holding facility to allow them to adapt to their new surroundings. Minister Ambrose and local school children opened the facility's gate today following her announcement of the Prairie Persists initiative, releasing the bison into the largest parcel of the Grasslands National Park's West Block, which totals approximately 181 square kilometres (44,800 acres).

The Prairie Persists project, one of 11 ecological integrity projects that Parks Canada is undertaking across the country, also includes the launch of the Prairie Learning Centre educational initiative. Formally established in the summer of 2005, the centre represents an innovative federal effort to create learning opportunities for youth through a formal partnership between the Chinook School Division No. 211 and Grasslands National Park. The centre will provide unique opportunities for youth to experience place-based learning and to explore the native northern mixed-grass prairie from a variety of perspectives.

Other elements of the four-year, $3.6 million Prairie Persists project include partnerships with other educational institutions, the enhancement of the park's visitor centre and Ecotour trail interpretation, the acceleration of its re-vegetation program and large-scale, multi-partner research initiatives to assess how grazing impacts on prairie biodiversity.

"We are grateful for the stewardship of our neighbours that preserved this land so that Grasslands National Park could be created for Canadians, and so that we may today implement many of these exciting initiatives," added Minister Ambrose. "Today would not have been possible without the support of local communities, First Nations, stakeholders and visitors."

Grasslands is the first national park of Canada to preserve a portion of the mixed prairie grasslands, and offers both Canadians and international visitors memorable opportunities to experience our rich natural heritage. Through this project, Parks Canada is enhancing those opportunities, protecting the park's unique ecosystems for future generations, and offering Canadians a chance to see and learn about bison.

Grasslands National Park of Canada is part of a system of national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites that is recognized as one of the finest and most extensive systems of protected areas in the world. Parks Canada works to ensure Canada's cultural and natural heritage are presented and protected for the enjoyment, education and appreciation of all Canadians, today and in the future.

(Also available on the Internet at www.pc.gc.ca under What's new.)

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of the Environment
    Ryan Sparrow
    Associate Director and Press Secretary
    (819) 997-1441
    or
    Parks Canada
    Saskatchewan South Field Unit
    Cheryl Penny
    Superintendent
    (306) 298-2257