ATCO Heritage Grassland

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ATCO Heritage Native Grassland in Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek Provincial Park is in the Foothills Fescue ecoregion and was once predominantly a native grassland ecosystem. Prior to settlement Foothills Fescue covered around 3.8 million acres in Southwestern Alberta but today less than 17% of the original landscape remains intact (Adams et al, 2003).

There are a few small remnant patches of native grassland left in the park but these have mostly been heavily invaded and can best be described as ‘mixed’ or ‘modified’ systems and do not accurately represent the pre-disturbance grassland systems that were present.

As part of the ATCO Gas, Fish Creek Provincial Park Environmental Operations Plan-Addendum 3.2.1 (May 12, 2016) the concept of restoring the North Pad Site to a native fescue grassland interpretive feature was described. A functioning foothills fescue grassland system is of great value to the park as an educational and interpretive tool and constitutes a very important component of ongoing native grassland conservation efforts. To be able to show the public and students from schools and universities the beauty and diversity of the native grasslands that once existed here will enable us to inspire current and future generations to seek out and support conservation of our remnant grassland and support future restoration efforts.

Friends of Fish Creek worked with local Botanist Ian MacDonald to create a representative seed mix from analogue sites in the park to recreate a ‘pre settlement’ grassland community.

In order to obtain the best outcome the native plant community will have to be carefully monitored and managed to ensure a high percentage of germination and strong growth, and elimination of invasive species, this is a key component to ensure long-term survival of the project. I am preparing a plan to work with a partner organization to harvest and propagate native plants from the few small remaining pockets of historic original vegetation in the park to augment the seeding program with original stock and to enhance the genetic diversity of the project in the long term.

Below is a species list for the original seeding of the project.

  • Sand Reed Grass
  • Northern wheat Grass
  • June Grass
  • Plains Rough Fescue
  • Western porcupine grass
  • Needle and thread grass

Learn more about the ATCO Grassland at Parks Day & Creekfest on July 21