Grasslands in British Columbia

Did you ever ask yourself, why are grasslands needed? The Grasslands Primer discusses the ecosystem services provided by grasslands and summarizes the status and trends of grassland ecosystems in BC. It also discusses work that is being done and what legislation is being used in the different parts of BC to protect grasslands.

The focus of the Toolkit is HOW to protect grasslands, other sensitive ecosystems, and the green infrastructure in general.


Grasslands are open landscapes where grasses, or grass-like plants are the dominant vegetation.

They cover less than 1% of our province, but provide habitat for over 30% of our species at risk. Therfore these grasslands are very significant for the maintenance of our environment and as well for humans.

In grassland areas we find aspen and coniferous stands, ponds, wetlands, lakes and streams, cliffs and rocky outcrops. Thats why the grasslands support a rich variety of plants and animals.

Grasslands reduce the risk of flooding and debris flows during storm events.

Why we should protect grasslands

Grasslands play an integral role in improving air, water and human health.

A few important roles that grasslands provide include erosion protection, water regulation, filtration and supply and protection from drought and flood. Grasslands also ensure healthy soil. Layers of dead debris and living plants protect soils that have taken centuries to develop. Root systems hold soil particles together, preventing both water and wind from eroding topsoil. Perennial grass and other plant cover slow the flow of water over the ground also reducing erosion.

Grasslands are a habitat for wildlife, including at-risk species and we need them for pollination for agriculture to support local food supply. Grassland habitats support and maintain a wide diversity of linches, mosses, forbs, grasses and shrubs. The peerless structure and composition of grassland plants provide cover and food for a lot of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Grasslands are also important for tourism, providing recreation and cultural opportunities. Grasslands provide diverse recreational opportunities such as hunting, horseback riding, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, backpacking and a lot more.

When a grassland is once lost, its very difficult to replace. Often the service is lost forever. The best way to restore a grassland is to let it rest, a process that takes several decades.

Grasslands: A Vanishing Resource

No ecosystems on earth have been more dramatically affected by humanity than native grasslands.

One time native grasslands covered 40% of the North American continent. The vast majority of grasslands have been transformed into agricultural lands, urban settings, and other settlement uses. Today there are less than 1% of native grasslands remaining and 39% of grassland ecosystems in British Columbia have been lost since 1800. Williams Lake, Oliver and Lillooet have lost more than 80% of their grasslands. Similarly Kermeos, Armstrong and Chase have already lost 100% of their original grasslands!

Low elevation grassland communities are the rarest land cover in British Columbia.

Climate change projections indicate, that the warming of British Columbia may result in expanded grasslands but these habitats are projected to be weedy grassland of much lower quality and productivity than native grasslands.

How local Governments are protecting grasslands in BC

Local governments need to take action to maintain sustainable communities. Some local governments are beginning to do so, including: Official Community Plans (OCP) and Regional Growth Strategies (RGS). They start through parks, natural areas policy, also with open space areas in respect of grassland ecosystems such as mature forest and old growth forst.

Local governments and the conservation community in the South Okanagan Similkameen are working in partnership to share know-how and resources for environmental planning.

Kamloops created an Aberdeen Area Plan, which is a plan for the area to implement grassland management. This plan includes containing growth, protecting areas deemed high priority for conservation and compression areas that are of low ecological value with higher density development.


The grassland project’s high priority is to conserve, restore and protect grasslands in BC. It’s not just because they are important for tourism, they also have a high priority for habitat conservation for wildlife species and consequently for our food source.

  • Source Wetland Stewardship Partnership. 2010. Grasslands in British Columbia: A Primer for Local Governments. Wetland Stewardship Partnership. 16 p. Available at : [Accessed 03/2021].