Two sections of the Suffield Military Range bordering the South Saskatchewan River have been identified as large, high quality remnants of mixed grassland and sand hills. There are also intermittent saline lakes and springs in the area. The topography here is flat to gently rolling.
The river valley is a major wintering area for Mule Deer and Pronghorn. The nationally vulnerable Ords Kangaroo Rat and Eastern Short-Horned Lizard occur here, as does the Western Hog-nosed Snake and Prairie Rattlesnake.
An adjacent area containing spectacular canyon and coulee formations on the east side of the South Saskatchewan River is under provincial ownership and in the past has been proposed as an ecological reserve. Although not included in the presently proposed area, this adjacent area may be included within the IBA boundaries in the future.
These threatened upland and riparian habitats support an important assemblage of representative and threatened wildlife species. A total of 184 species were recorded during surveys in 1994-95, including 82 species which probably breed in the area. These include many landbird species which are characteristic of the Great Plains biome, including several threatened species.
Four species of birds which have been designated as nationally threatened species breed in this area including Burrowing Owl (endangered), Loggerhead Shrike (prairie population, threatened, detected at 2.2% of 833 survey plots), Long-billed Curlew (vulnerable, 68 sightings in 1994-95), and Ferruginous Hawk (vulnerable).
This area contains a representative population of all grassland species (except Sage Grouse) and most are more abundant than in the general landscape for instance there are numerous Sharp-tailed Grouse dancing grounds. Grassland species with substantial breeding populations (the number in brackets represents frequency of occurrence at 833 survey plots) include McCowns Longspur (5%), Brewers Sparrow (21%), Upland Sandpiper (21%), Bairds Sparrow (22%), Spragues Pipit (51%), Grasshopper Sparrow (62%) and Western Meadowlark (98%). The south Saskatchewan River Valley holds high concentrations of Golden Eagle nesting sites. Prairie falcons are also found here.
The entire 458 square kilometre area is proposed as a National Wildlife Area with negotiations currently being conducted. Other conservation measures that have been taken, are in progress, or are proposed include: removal of feral and domesticated horses, management of cattle grazing, and thorough bioinventories. There is a proposal for a dam that would flood the South Saskatchewan River Valley. If this proposal were carried through, the only forest in the valley would be destroyed, along with snake hibernacula, and wintering habitat for Pronghorn Antelope and deer. Oil exploration using horizontal or diagonal drilling techniques have had severe local impact around the periphery of this site.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
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