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NCC Magazine - Spring 2017

BOOTS ON THE TRAIL

BOOTS ON THE TRAIL Learning about prairie skinks Visitors to this Manitoba property may still be able to catch a glimpse of a historic trade route. Yellow Quill Prairie Preserve This native mixed-grass prairie area in Manitoba conserves nature and our shared history of the land Ruffed grouse Long before European explorers and settlers arrived in North America, indigenous peoples had defined the most convenient routes to travel the landscape. Among them, the Yellow Quill Trail (named for Chief Yellow Quill of the Saulteaux First Nation during the late 1800s) connected Portage la Prairie, west of Winnipeg, with the Boundary Commission Trail, just past the western Saskatchewan border. Later, these trade routes were adopted by European settlers. Today, the Yellow Quill Prairie Preserve, south of Brandon in Manitoba, still bears faint traces of the Yellow Quill Trail. Here, the trail passes through a rolling, sandy prairie of mixed grasses, such as big and little bluestem, green needle grass and porcupine grass, interspersed with hazelnut, juniper, aspen, bur oak and white spruce. A NATURAL FAMILY LEGACY The Mooneys, fourth-generation descendants of the European pioneers who settled in the area in 1885, were the original owners of most of the lands: 1,440 acres (580 hectares) within the Yellow Quill project area. The family has leased the remaining 960 acres (390 hectares) from the provincial government. Over time, conversion of the neighbouring native grasslands all but eliminated these once-large tracts of native grasslands. But the Mooneys knew the ecological value of their lands. After being approached by NCC, they decided to fulfill the wishes of their departed father by selling the land to NCC in the hopes that their mixed-grass prairie would not be lost. NCC purchased the lands from the Mooney family in 1999. Shortly after completing the purchase, NCC developed a management plan that incorporated traditional cattle grazing practices to maintain biodiversity. LANDSCAPE: NCC. SKINK: NCC. GROUSE: ROBERT MCCAW. 6 SPRING 2017 natureconservancy.ca

BACKPACK ESSENTIALS Today, these areas continue to shelter native mixed-grass prairie. In 2016, NCC’s Manitoba Region expanded the original project with the addition of a further 320 acres (130 hectares). A UNIQUE LANDSCAPE These lands, nestled along the western boundary of the Assiniboine Delta in south central Manitoba, are representative of the vast prairies that once extended across southern Manitoba. The landforms resulted from the deposits of sediment in the delta, where the Assiniboine River flowed into glacial Lake Agassiz. As the waters receded about 10,000 years ago, the sediments were shaped into sandhill complexes, which remain the dominant feature on the landscape today. The unique sandhill landscape and occasional open dunes are some of the last refuges in the province where rare sandhill species exist. Over time, lack of disturbance has caused the historically open dunes to stabilize with the roots of plants and grasses. NCC staff are working to implement management programs that promote the stewardship and recovery of dune complexes, an important and increasingly rare ecosystem type in Manitoba. Visitors to the property may spot elk, coyote, moose, deer and fox. The Yellow Quill Prairie Preserve is a preferred site for birdwatchers wishing to see red-tailed hawk, ruffed grouse, sharp-tail grouse and mountain bluebird. It’s also important habitat for the endangered prairie skink. 1 5 4 Scout’s honour Caitlyn Piton, national youth commissioner & chair of Scouts Canada’s National Youth Network, shares her backpack must-haves 3 2 ITEMS: JUAN LUNA. CAITLYN PITON: SCOUTS CANADA. TRAILS Length: approximately 4.5 km of access trails Difficulty: easy Terrain: rolling sandhills and native grasslands GETTING THERE The property is located 20 kilometres southeast of Brandon and two kilometres north of the junction of the Souris and Assiniboine rivers. It abuts the western boundary of the Canadian Forces Base Shilo. Visitors are asked to call 1-866-683-6934 prior to visiting to ensure land management activities are not active on-site.A DOWNLOAD THE TRAIL MAP Visit natureconservancy.ca/yellowquill to download a trail map and directions. 1. BEEF JERKY I tend to get hungry fairly easily, so a quick snack is a must or I might get grumpy (as my team knows). 2. WATER FILTER This is much easier than having to carry around bottles of water, if there are streams along your way. 3. LOOSE LEAF TEA I don’t think I could go a day without tea. It’s nice to have something comforting, especially if it’s raining (which it does a lot in Vancouver, where I’m from). 4. FIRST AID KIT I’m a klutz, so this is an absolute must. 5. KNIFE I have a knife that I absolutely love. It has engraving on it from some of the work I’ve done with Scouts Canada and is the most useful thing I’ve ever received!1 natureconservancy.ca SPRING 2017 7