|Parks and Protected Areas
Suffield National Wildlife Area Information
Department of National Defence (DND)
Environment Canada (EC)
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Other government participants in the Suffield environmental assessment process:
In 1992 the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of the Environment signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a National Wildlife Area on a portion of the Canadian Forces Base Suffield near Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Establishment of this NWA was intended to contribute to DND and EC’s environmental objectives and reflect the federal government’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The area within the NWA has been out-of-bounds to military training since 1972 and was precluded from deep rights access for petroleum development by the DND-Alberta Deep Rights agreement of 1999. Public access is prohibited. Although the core area of the base has been zoned for military training, both DND and EC have recognized the environmental sensitivity and importance of the NWA and have been active in its management since 1971.
In March 2003 the Suffield NWA was officially declared and responsibility for its management and protection was delegated by Environment Canada to DND, the first case where the delegation of responsibility for an NWA was transferred.
The national significance of this area as a northern refugium for endemic prairie wildlife has been substantiated by recent wildlife studies on invertebrates, birds and mammals, reptiles and amphibians. As one of the few extant large blocks of unaltered Dry Mixed-grass Prairie, the CFB Suffield NWA hosts over 1,100 catalogued species including 244 vertebrate, 462 plant, and 436 invertebrate species. Of this rich species assemblage, 14 are listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as species at risk and 78 species of animals and plants are listed in the Status of Alberta Wildlife 2000 as “at risk” or otherwise “sensitive” because of their declining abundance.
Natural grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems in prairie Canada. Development by urbanization, livestock grazing, and rangeland conversion to croplands continue to threatened the survival of the prairie ecosystem. As a result it is estimated that only 6% of this important sub-region of the Grassland Natural Region remains unaltered by human disturbances. In western Canada, NWA Suffield is the sole large block of intact prairie grassland where the ecological integrity remained noticeably unimpaired and where the diversity and abundance of native plant and animal species have not declined.
Suffield NWA is 458 km2 of unploughed prairie grassland blanketing rare landscapes of national significance including sand hills, ancient glacial coulees, and the riverbank and breaks along the South Saskatchewan River valley. This is a result of three factors unique to the area: its location near the northern limit of the mid-continental grasslands, the eolian grasslands contained therein, and its relatively unaltered vegetation.
The protection of key prairie habitat this NWA provides for migratory birds and other species is an important contribution towards Canada’s international agreements, including the Migratory Birds Convention, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.