The Canadian Prairies is a region in western Canada, which may correspond to several different definitions, natural or political.
prairieusually to a type of grassland, and true prairies occur only in the far southern reaches of Albertaand Saskatchewan. Contrasted to this are other biomes such as the boreal forestor the aspen parkland.
However "the prairie" may also refer to all of the
Interior Plainsregion within Canada, in contrast with the beside mountains Rocky Mountains and Canadian Shield, and is a continuation of the Great Plainsregion of the United States.
It may also refer to all of the farmland in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and
Manitoba, a definition based on human use, which includes all of the aspen parkland biome.
The prairies may also include the entire area of all three of those provinces — a region known as the Prairie Provinces. The Prairie Provinces are included among the provinces of
Western Canada, and historically this region was called the Canadian Northwest or simply "the West".
Three main grassland types occur in the Canadian prairies:
tallgrass prairie, mixed prairie, and short-grass or fescueprairie. Each has a unique geographic distribution and characteristic mix of plant species. All but a fraction of one percent of the tallgrass prairie has been converted to cropland. What remains occurs on the 6,000 square kilometre plain centred in the Red River Valleyin Manitoba. Mixed prairie is more common and is part of the dry interior plains that extend from Canada south to the U.S. stateof Texas. More than half of the remaining native grassland in the Canadian prairies is mixed. Though widespread in southern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta, because of extensive cattle grazing, it is estimated that only 24% of the original mixed prairie grassland remains.Fact|date=March 2008 Fescue prairie occurs in the moister regions, occupying the northern extent of the prairies in central and southwestern Alberta and west central Saskatchewan ( [http://www.mb.ec.gc.ca/nature/whp/prgrass/df03s56.en.html map] ).
The southern Canadian prairies, supporting brown and black
soiltypes, are semi-arid and highly prone to frequent and severe droughts. The region known as Palliser's Triangle, also classified as the Prairies ecozone, is so arid that farming has never been successful there without government help and irrigation. The zones around the cities of Regina and immediately east of Calgary are also very dry. In an average year, southern Saskatchewan receives between 30-51 centimetres (12-20 in) of precipitation, with the majority falling between April and June. Frostfrom October to April (and sometimes even early May) limits the growing season for certain crops. More than half of the prairies' precipitation falls as snow.
The eastern section of the Canadian prairies in Manitoba is well watered with several large lakes such as
Lake Winnipegand several large rivers. The area also gets reasonable amounts of precipitation. The middle sections of Alberta and Saskatchewan are also wetter than the south and have better farmland, despite having a shorter frost-free season. The areas around Edmonton and Saskatoon are especially notable as good crop land. However, Edmonton and Saskatoon both lie far enough north that they are surrounded by aspen parklandrather than fescue prairie.
Further north, the area becomes too cold for most agriculture besides
wild riceoperations and sheepraising, and it is dominated by boreal forest. The Peace Region in northwestern Alberta is an exception, however. It lies north of the 55th Parallel and is warm and dry enough to support extensive farming. Like the area around Edmonton, aspen parklandis a major biome in the Peace Region. The long daylight hours in this region during the summer are an asset despite having an even shorter growing season than central Alberta. In fact, agriculture plays a major economic role in the Peace Region.
Some of the prairie region of Canada has seen rapid growth from a boom in oil production since the mid-20th century [ [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20061203.watlanticc1203/BNStory/Business/home reportonbusiness.com] ] Alberta has seen a record increase in population, second only to Ontario, and Manitoba has experienced record immigration levels.
Primary industries include agriculture (
wheat, barley, canola, brassica, oats), and cattle and sheep ranching. Also, natural resources such as tar sands( Fort McMurray, Alberta) and other forms of oil production can be found on the plains. Secondary industries in the consist of the refinement of oils and agriculture processing.
Culture and politics
The Prairies are distinguished from the rest of Canada by unique cultural and political traits. The oldest influence on Prairie culture are the
First Nations, who have lived in the area for centuries. The first Europeans to see the Prairies were fur tradersand explorers from eastern Canada (mainly present-day Quebec) and Great Britainvia Hudson Bay. They gave rise to the Métis, working class"children of the fur trade." Not until the Canadian Pacific Railwaywas built did widespread agricultural settlement occur. During their settlement, the prairies were settled in distinct ethnic block settlements giving certain areas distinctively Ukrainian, German, French, or Scandinavian Canadian cultures.
Some areas also developed unique cultures around their main economic activity. For example southern Alberta is renowned for its
cowboyculture, which developed when real open-range ranching was practised in the 1880s. Canada's first rodeo, the Raymond Stampede, was established in 1902. These influences are also evident in the music of Canada's Prairie Provinces. This can be attributed partially to the massive influx of American settlers who began to migrate to Alberta (and to a lesser extent, Saskatchewan) in the late 1880s because of the lack of available land in the United States.
The Prairie Provinces have given rise to the famous "prairie protest" movements, such as the
Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, the first general strikein Canadian history. These political movements (both of the left and right) tend to feed off of well established feelings of Western alienation, and each one represents a distinct challenge to the perceived Central Canadian elite. The Prairies continue to have a wide range of political views. While the Conservative Party of Canadaenjoys widespread support throughout the region, support for the New Democratic Partycan be found in certain areas of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
List of regions of Canada
Dominion Land Survey
Natural Resources Transfer Acts
* [http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-70-1407/disasters_tragedies/drought/ CBC Digital Archives – Devastating Dry Spells: Drought on the Prairies]
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