Tallgrass prairies and savannas are some of the most endangered ecological communities in Canada, with approximately 1 percent of their original extent remaining. Tallgrass communities once covered a significant part of southern Ontario's landscape. Owing to degradation and destruction through urban development, agriculture, pollution and mismanagement, less than 3 percent of the original extent remains in the region, with most remnants existing in small, isolated patches. As these highly diverse communities themselves are rare and threatened, so too are many of the wildlife species which depend on these communities for their survival.
Interest in conserving and restoring Ontario's tallgrass communities and their resident wildlife is on the rise in Ontario. However, many initiatives to date have generally been uncoordinated and piecemeal. There is a need for greater coordinated leadership, communication and consolidated information to help direct current and to incite new involvement. To make significant strides toward recovering tallgrass communities region-wide, a larger, more coordinated and strategic approach is required.
A species-by-species approach to recovering tallgrass communities is unrealistic for the task at hand. Because of this, this Recovery Plan deals with recovering tallgrass communities as a whole across their range in Ontario. The overall goal of this Recovery Plan is to recover, reconstruct and conserve a representative network of tallgrass communities, and to recover and protect the full complement of plant and animal life that makes up these diverse ecological communities. To do this on a region-wide scale in a strategic and comprehensive manner, the following eight goals for recovery provide key direction:
1. Improve communication, coordination and information-sharing among those involved in tallgrass
2. Amass complete information regarding all tallgrass community remnants in southern Ontario.
3. Establish and expand a network of protected tallgrass community remnants.
4. Encourage protection of tallgrass remnants through sound management.
5. Encourage restoration and habitat creation initiatives where appropriate to enlarge existing remnants,
make linkages and create new habitat.
6. Raise public awareness and appreciation of tallgrass communities.
7. Reduce significantly the number of tallgrass community species at risk.
8. Encourage basic and applied research relevant to tallgrass community conservation.
The Recovery Plan lists objectives and specific action items necessary to achieve each of the eight goals. These action items are laid out in a five-year implementation schedule. This implementation schedule should be used to gauge progress toward the overall goal of securing tallgrass communities across southern Ontario, and reducing significantly the number of tallgrass species at risk. Annual progress reports should be prepared, and the findings used to shape the next year's work plans for participating organizations. The Recovery Plan should be revised and updated after five years.
Key to the successful implementation of the Recovery Plan is the development of a Tallgrass Prairie and Savanna Association, which will provide leadership and support for the recovery of tallgrass communities across the region. This association will be instrumental in coordinating the completion of the Recovery Plan actions, and will develop a region-wide communications network.
The writing of this Recovery Plan is an important first step toward recovering southern Ontario's tallgrass communities it provides a basis for action and will help to lay out specific tasks. However, success will not be realized unless the Plan is implemented. This will require the efforts of many people, all cooperating to complete necessary actions. All sectors all levels of government, non-governmental organizations large and small, private landowners, businesses and industries have a part to play. It is vital both to coordinate the organizations and individuals already engaging in recovery activities and to "expand the circle" by getting others involved. Leadership, monetary and other resources, as well as cooperation, creativity and commitment are all needed to achieve the goals.
Download Tallgrass Communities of Southern Ontario Recovery Plan (pdf)