With more than 3,000 animals left in Canada’s savanna, many are already at risk of extinction.
The population is so large, some biologists say, that the government has only begun to count the species in its natural habitat.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need to protect the habitat.
The federal government has launched a national wildlife corridor, and now a new project called the Sagebrush Conservation Act aims to help manage some of the wildlands that make up the Canadian prairie.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, wildlife biologist and author Tim McBride says the law will provide more protection to wildlife in the wild than the current legislation.
“We’re seeing a rapid decline in sage groues, and a number of other species, in the prairie,” McBride said.
“It’s a very vulnerable landscape and so there’s a lot of people who need to step up and do a lot more.”
McBride said that he has seen the need to do more in the last few years with the federal government’s reintroduction program.
“What’s happened in the past few years is that a number, if not all, of the species that were in captivity and protected for some years, are now being reintroduced to the wild, and they’re at risk.”
The reintroduction effort is an important step in conserving wildlands, and it’s important for the population of the western sage groue, said biologist and conservationist Rob Johnson.
The eastern sage groupe population is not yet fully recovered and is now under pressure to be able to thrive.
“The eastern sage is actually quite vulnerable, and I think the western is going to be quite vulnerable,” Johnson said.
The eastern species of the eastern sage are not native to the prairies and have been on the decline for centuries, said Johnson, a co-founder of the Canadian Sagebrush Research Network and the president of the Prairie Sage Council.
Johnson said the new law will ensure that the eastern and western sage will have a place in the Canadian landscape.
“I think it’s a good step to protect both species and we will continue to do so,” he said.
“It’s been the case that we’ve had the eastern species in captivity for over 150 years and they’ve been at risk.
I think that the reintroduction is a good thing and a positive thing.”
Sagebrush habitat is not the only wildland area that needs to be protected.
Some animals like wolves, bears, and bison are also in need of protection.
And a number that are protected in Canada are not, because they’re not native.
The western sage is protected under the Wildlife Act, but it has also been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
But under the law, it can only be considered endangered if it has an estimated population of fewer than 10,000 individuals.
“What we are doing is looking at species, including species that are federally listed as endangered, that are under threat, but we’re looking at those species as being protected under our Endangered Wildlife Act,” said biologist Robert McLeod.
That means, for example, a species like the western red fox is considered endangered because it is only a fraction of its native range, but is protected because there is an estimated 10,500 individuals.
The prairie sage is not listed under the ESA, but McLeod said that is a possibility if the species continues to recover.
“When you get to 10,600, then you can say that we have the best protection that exists for that species,” he explained.
“There’s nothing stopping you from taking a western redfox in a trap and trapping it in the west and putting it in your backyard or your garden and trapping them.”
If you do that, then it’s not protected under federal protection under the Species at Risk Act, because it’s no longer federally listed.
So that’s the challenge that we’re facing.””
The question is: How do you manage that in the future when we know that it’s going to have a much greater density of predators and less of its natural prey?
So that’s the challenge that we’re facing.”