Why We Care
The Northeast and Small Swales are miraculous survivors. The rocks that stud the knolls were dropped there by retreating glaciers at the end of the Ice Ages. Some of the largest boulders have been polished and shaped by the bodies of generations of buffalo. The lay of the land recalls a time when these gentle valleys were streambeds, flowing, changing, connecting.
Today, the Swales persist as islands of nature in a sea of disturbance and change. Yet even in this challenging context, these ribbons of native grassland and natural wetlands support an astonishing abundance of life, including at least 28 species so severely threatened by habitat loss and other stressors that they are at risk of extinction. Plants, insects, amphibians, birds, and mammals—they all find a refuge here in the Swales.
Northern Leopard Frog
Species at Risk in the Swales
Did you know…
More than 95% of the original prairie has been lost in the region around Saskatoon. The grasslands of North America are among the most endangered ecosystems on Earth.
Diverse and Connected Habitats
One of the features that allows the Swales to meet the needs of so many species is the mix of habitats they provide, including a variety of natural wetlands (seasonal, permanent, shallow, deep) embedded in a matrix of native grassland. Water is life, especially on the drylands of the prairies, and the persistence of healthy wetlands makes the Swales a haven for biodiversity.
At the moment, the focus of public attention is on the portions of the Small and Northeast Swales that will be directly impacted by the proposed University Heights 3 neighbourhood and the Saskatoon Freeway. Resisting or mitigating the harms caused by these developments is critical. But it is important to remember that the Swales extend beyond the footprint of these immediate threats.
One of the ecological strengths of the Swales is their connectedness. The diverse mix of habitats within the Swales are linked to one another and to their surroundings. Both Swales are connected to the main wildlife corridor of the river valley, creating linkages that permit populations of animals to move, mix, and meet their needs through changing seasons and, potentially, through changing climatic regimes. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that the entire length of both Swales is protected.
The Swales are the conservation opportunity of a lifetime for the people of Saskatoon. In the near future, they could become the crown jewel in our projected National Urban Park. One way or another, we need to ensure these refuges for life are passed on to coming generations in good health as our gift to the future.
Climate Walk & Talk at the Northeast Swale.
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The Swale Watchers gratefully acknowledge that we live and work on Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation.
© 2023 Swale Watchers
Photos By: Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen & Meghan Mickelson