Grasslands National Park is an extensive area of mixed-grass prairie. This IBA is the portion of the park that lies near the Montana border and encompasses a 10 km wide area on either side of the Frenchman River valley. The site is characterized by numerous eroded gullies in association with the Frenchman River drainage system and the upland grasslands that surround the valley. The park is one of the largest pieces of undisturbed mixed-grass prairie in North America.
Several rare mammals and reptiles occur or may occur in this park. The list includes: Swift Fox (listed as extirpated from Canada in 1978) which has been recently reintroduced, possibly Black-footed Ferret (also listed as extirpated), Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Eastern Short-horned Lizard, Eastern Yellowbelly Racer and Prairie Rattlesnake.
This grassland site is highly significant for hosting greater than 50% of the nationally endangered Sage Grouse population. A total of 403 Sage Grouse were recorded, out of a total Canadian population estimate of about 800 birds. Additionally, one pair of the globally vulnerable and nationally endangered Mountain Plover was documented breeding here in 1987, and could be found again. Since the Canadian population estimate for this species has only been as high as 11 in recent years, this is nationally significant. Fifteen to twenty-five Burrowing Owl nests are known from this western area of Grasslands National Park, representing as much as 2.5% of the nationally endangered Canadian population.
Other birds of interest that breed at this site include: the nationally vulnerable Ferruginous Hawk (8 nests, half active each year), Golden Eagle (3 nests, not all active), Long-billed Curlew (nationally vulnerable) and Common Poor-will.
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Grassland National Park was identified as a potential national park via a 1988 agreement between federal and provincial governments. As of 1996, the national park was comprised of a total of 4502 km, divided between the east and west blocks. The remainder of the land will be purchased on a "willing seller/willing buyer" basis. Tourists are drawn to this site from near and far, but the park's relative isolation and the fact that there are few roads through the region result in a relatively pristine prairie environment. The park permits random camping but the potential for disturbance from this is low since few people camp due to the parks remoteness, high number of biting insects and lack of tourist amenities.
The Saskatchewan Natural History Society established a quarter section prairie dog sanctuary in the Frenchman River valley adjacent to the park in 1965.
Drought in this arid region could be considered a threat, although vegetation is well adapted for these dry conditions and the highly variable climate of the prairies. Prairie vegetation is adapted to variable rates of grazing so, without grazing and fire occurring within the park, the vegetation growth is reduced and species succession will occur differently than under natural conditions.
The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife
International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada.