Written by Katheryn Taylor, MULTISAR Coordinator
MULTISAR is a voluntary stewardship program that is focused on achieving multi-species conservation at a landscape level by collaborating with ranchers to find management solutions that mutually benefit the native grassland ecosystem, designated species at risk, and the ranching operation itself. We recognize that many of the species and habitats found in Alberta’s grasslands exist because of the positive practices of the ranching community. Our aim, as a program, is to give landholders the tools required to continue this tradition, and when the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan approached MULTISAR about partnering with them on a Species at Risk initiative, we thought it would be a great idea to give landholders another tool in the toolbox, so to speak (read more about EFP’s species at risk initiative here: http://www.albertaefp.com/species-at-risk).
Some of the programs and tools that MULTISAR offers to landholders (based on location, resources, and specific interests of the landholder), can be seen below:
Habitat Conservation Strategies (HCS’s) are our most in-depth inventory, and include detailed wildlife and range surveys of the entire ranch. The wildlife and range health data collected during field work form a baseline inventory for each ranch, and a detailed report of the findings is produced for each member of the HCS team (which includes the landholder/manager). Detailed maps provide all wildlife observations made and their locations, range and riparian health scores by pasture, plant communities present on the ranch and their location, and suggested stocking rates for each plant community type and pasture. From this, general and pasture specific management recommendations, suggested habitat improvements, and a monitoring and evaluation program is discussed and agreed upon by all members of the HCS team. Funding may be available for habitat enhancement projects under this program, and can include funding for such things as establishment of upland watering sources, portable watering units, wildlife friendly fencing, native grassland restoration, ferruginous hawk poles, and so on.
Because HCS’s are so labour intensive, the MULTISAR team is only able to complete a few of these every year. Our current focus areas for HCS’s can be seen in Figure 1, which shows both our traditional core area of work (in yellow), and our expanded area of work as of 2016 (in green).
Our Species At Risk Conservation (SARC) Plans are designed as a rapid assessment of a landholder’s property for species at risk habitat. These can be conducted anywhere in Alberta’s grasslands that have the potential to contain species at risk. For these plans, a MULTISAR wildlife biologist works with the landholder to determine potential habitat for species at risk on their property.
Beneficial Management Practices (BMP’s) are management actions that reduce the risk of species disappearing from the landscape. MULTISAR has BMP’s for many species at risk, as well as for other ‘important’ species that may not be at risk in Alberta. These BMP’s can be found on our website at: http://multisar.ca/learn-more/. Landholders working with us on HCS’s or SARC plans will get recommendations based on BMP’s for species that may be on their land or have potential to be on their land. MULTISAR will also meet with landholders that are interested in a specific species and would like to initiate a management practice geared toward that species. Because different species have different BMP’s, and to ensure that a BMP is appropriate for the area, the operation, and the local species at risk, a MULTISAR biologist will meet with the landholder to assess the land.
Aside from the above mentioned tools, we also have many resources available that you can access on our website: http://multisar.ca/learn-more/. Our ‘At Home on the Range’ Guide and fact sheets can also be mailed directly to you if you are interested in having printed copies.
MULTISAR has also just released a short video showcasing the program. Please go to the following link to see the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhRoRkAG_kk.
If you would like to read more about MULTISAR, please visit our website at www.multisar.ca.
*MULTISAR not only stands for ‘multiple species at risk’, it also stands for ‘multiple partners’ and ‘multiple disciplines’. Partnership within MULTISAR has grown from the original three partners that included the Government of Alberta, Alberta Conservation Association, and Prairie Conservation Forum, to include the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Alberta Beef Producers, Cows and Fish, and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Key to this partnership, and at the centre of MULTISAR’s success, is the role that the landholder/manager plays, as this program is entirely voluntary and it is ultimately up to them to decide what types of management changes or habitat enhancements they would like to make on their land.*
Prairie Conservation Forum