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Grassland Projects

The Save Ontario Savannas project was initiated in 2001 to fulfill key objectives of the Tallgrass Communities of Southern Ontario Recovery Plan:
  • To encourage tallgrass habitat conservation and maintenance by identifying and supporting landowners of tallgrass and savanna remnants to commit to and take action to protect, enhance and expand their sites. A remnant/community approach is designed to benefit multiple species at risk and prevent other associated species from becoming at risk.
  • To enable landowners and their neighbours and community to become actively involved in stewardship of tallgrass and savanna sites in their geographic area.
  • To develop a comprehensive database of tallgrass and savanna sites, providing benchmarks against which the remnant can be evaluated and tracked over time. Such information will allow provision of support and intervention to help maintain and expand sites.

The first phase (SOS I) consisted of amassing data on landowners and site information, including maps and legal property descriptions. The sites were then ranked and analyzed based on threat to the tallgrass community.

SOS II initiated landowner contact. An introductory letter and information about tallgrass prairie and savanna were sent to the complete list of landowners. Media releases were sent to news organizations in target counties. Landowners and local conservation authorities and stewardship committees were contacted. Telephone calls were then made to landowners of the highest ranked prairies and savannas. Visits were made to sites by invitation of the landowner, where the site was evaluated, management techniques recommended and stewardship support requested.

SOS II recommendations for the next phase of the project included:

  • Development of management template for landowners
  • Development of management guide geared for rural landowners of remnants and recreations
  • Improved mapping and property information for adjacent landowners
  • Ongoing contact via newsletters, Open House activities, and special mailings
  • Species specific fact sheets to help with identification and management

SOS III was initiated in January, 2003 to carry out the next phase based on the recommendations. A prototype GIS was constructed and approved by March 2003, and a landowner visit program initiated based on previous methodologies. Several open houses were conducted, and a landowner’s manual commissioned. A report on the “state of the prairies” and management templates, as well as species specific fact sheets are currently in development and scheduled for completion in Spring 2004. To date, all landowners have been contacted by mail, receive quarterly newsletters and have received two targeted mailings of specialized material. Over 100 visits have been made to sites, and an ACCESS database created, which includes information on remnant sites as well as adjacent property owner sites.

SOS IV is the wrap-up phase of the project and will include fine-tuning of the GIS and completion of data input to the ACCESS database. The methodology will be consistent with the steps outlined in SOS III above. The geographical focus will be the remaining parts of Essex, Lambton and Elgin counties, Huron and Prince Edward Counties, as well as sites in Northwestern Ontario - a new area of interest for us.