How it began
Inspired by their prairie neighbours to the west and driven by a passion for Manitoba’s native prairie grasslands, a small group of enthusiasts initiated a campaign to have Manitoba declare an official Provincial Grass Emblem.
The campaign objective was to celebrate and increase awareness of Manitoba’s native grasslands by engaging Manitobans in the selection of a provincial prairie grass emblem. The formal goal was “By 2010, in time for the 9th Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference being held in Manitoba, Manitobans will declare a provincial grass for Manitoba”.
Manitobans were invited to cast their votes online at the campaign website or in person at booths displayed at various community events. The campaign website included information on the candidates, Manitoba’s grasslands, threats to native prairie, where to see native prairie and how to engage in prairie conservation. Voting was open April15 to December 15, 2009.
- Big Bluestem: 747 or 47%
- Little Bluestem: 427 or 27%
- Blue Grama: 229 or 14%
- Sideoats Grama: 199 or 12%
Total votes: 1602
Selection and Criteria
Manitoba supports at least 117 native grass species. The campaign committee narrowed this list down to 9 prairie grassland species that were both recognizable and charismatic. Over 50 prairie experts and enthusiasts were asked to rank these 9 species based on several criteria, including representativeness, ease of identification, beauty and charisma. The top four species were presented as provincial prairie grass emblem candidates to the public.
Voters were from all regions of the province and included seniors, children, new Canadians, and Aboriginals. Voter awareness ranged widely; many voters expressed surprise upon learning of Manitoba’s variety of grass species and native grassland types. Numerous voters expressed the personal meaning that the prairies hold for them – childhood memories of playing in the pasture, family camping trips at local parks, or admiring the plants growing along the roadside on long drives. Others guessed that Big Bluestem already was Manitoba’s official prairie grass.
In addition to voting online, Manitobans had the opportunity to vote in person at the following 15 locations and/or community events:
- Brandon Earth Day
- Fort Whyte Alive (Earth Day)
- Eco Café & Market (Earth Day)
- Narcisse Snake Dens
- Living Prairie Museum – Crocus days
- Living Prairie Museum – native plant sale
- Carman Potato & Blossom Festival
- Living Prairie Museum – Monarchfest
- Neepawa Lily Festival
- Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve – Prairie Day
- Oak Hammock Marsh – Tallgrass Prairie Day
- Livingston Nature Park Bioblitz (Morden)
- Sage Garden Herbs (Winnipeg)
- Manitoba Conservation Districts Assoc. Annual Convention (Brandon)
- The Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg)
The campaign committee consists of Marilena Kowalchuk, Cary Hamel and Julie Sveinson Pelc. We thank the people, programs and events that invited us to display in their communities, that waived or covered display fees, provided meeting space, contributed photos, promoted the campaign and provided advice. We are especially thankful for all of the people who took the time to vote for Manitoba’s official prairie grass.