What is Governance?
Land governance is the control or administration of BC’s grasslands. Governance of BC’s grasslands is varied due to land ownership. In BC, the majority of grasslands are under private ownership, with the remainder held by First Nations or the Crown. The recently completed BC Grasslands Mapping Project – A Conservation Risk Assessment identifies 43.6 percent of BC’s grasslands as privately owned, 46.2 percent as Provincial Crown, and 10.2 percent as Federal, of which the majority is First Nations’ Reserve.
For further information on the BC Grasslands Mapping Project, click here.
Approximately 43 percent of BC grasslands are privately owned. Most of these properties areheld by working ranches. They are critical areas to the economical vitality of the operation, providing fall, winter and spring forage for grazing. In recent years, landowners are under increasing pressure to subdivide large tracts of grassland parcels for urban and ‘ranchette’ development. Subdivision of the grasslands results in the loss of agricultural support to the operation, as well as fragmentation of wildlife habitat and permanent loss of natural values.
With a significant portion of the grasslands existing as privately owned rangelands, ranchers are stewards over a considerable amount of area. In order to ensure the conservation of grasslands, support must be given to the ranching community to achieve the sustainability of large tracts of working rangeland.
Privately owned grasslands are typically concentrated in the valley bottoms. These lands are under increasing pressure from growing communities for residential and commercial development. Of the 43% of BCs grasslands that are privately owned, almost 32% lie within the Agricultural Land Reserve. Less than 1.0 % of privately owned grassland in BC has been acquired by non-government organizations, such as Nature Trust, The Land Conservancy of BC and the Canadian Wildlife Service, for conservation.
The approval process for subdivision generally lies with the municipal and regional governments. Rather than impose further legislation and regulations limiting subdivision, it is ideal to provide local government with the tools and strategies for land use planning that recognize the values of grasslands. In addition, priority must be given to keep working ranches economically viable to continue operation with ranchers as stewards of the land.
Grazing management in interest of land owner or manager to ensure maintenance of a healthy ecosystem for long-term productivity.
First Nations Land
The majority of grasslands in BC that fall under federal jurisdiction are Indian Reserves. Indian Reserves encompass 9.7 percent of BC's grassland in total; however, in the Okanagan and Similakameen Valleys, nearly 25 percent of the grasslands occur on Indian Reserves, the highest percentage of all grassland regions in the province. Less than one percent of BC’s grasslands are under Federal jurisdiction that are not Indian Reserves than these are parks and protected areas.
The grasslands have significant value to the First Nations in BC. Historically, the climate of the grassland ecosystems provided easier winters, earlier springs, and a great diversity of plants, which in turn supported traditional root crops and healthy populations of ungulates. Currently, First Nations communities are undergoing pressure similar to other municipalities and local governments to realize the economic rewards that can be obtained from commercial or residential development and intensive agriculture on grasslands.
As with other grassland stewards, First Nations are aware of the consequence of ecosystem loss to their communities. A unique value of grasslands to First Nations is the archaeological sites that exist as physical evidence indicating use of a greater surrounding area. Plants such as bitterroot (lewissii redivivia) that are considered important to aboriginal cultures are generally not recognized as being important by many other resource managers. In 2002, the Osoyoos Indian Band began implementation of a range restoration plan in which riparian areas on reserve land will be protected for Yellow-Breasted Chat.
For more information on Ranching and Grassland Stewardship, click here.