Spiers Lake National Wildlife Area

Spiers Lake National Wildlife Area (NWA) is located in south central Alberta. This 64 ha parcel is situated in the transition zone between aspen parkland and prairie grassland, and thus hosts diverse flora and fauna communities.

Description

Spiers Lake NWA is an example of plains rough fescue grassland on hummocky disintegration moraine. It also contains an alkaline lakebed that periodically fills and dries in response to climate patterns. When precipitation is adequate, several small wetlands are found in the depressions of the knob and kettle topography of this landscape. The topography and soils limit cultivation; native upland habitat types are also present in much of the surrounding area. The plains rough fescue grasslands within Spiers Lake NWA are remnants of a once expansive grassland ecosystem that has since been reduced to isolated fragments. Together these comprise only a small fraction of their historic extent; plains rough fescue grassland communities are considered rare in Alberta. The NWA is also home to three plant species that are considered provincially rare:

  • marsh alkali aster
  • marsh felwort
  • pale blue-eyed grass
Landscape view of Spiers Lake
Spiers Lake NWA. Photo: Todd Kemper

The Spiers Lake NWA is an important historic breeding site for the endangered Piping Plover, and is used by other shorebirds and prairie songbirds such as:

  • willet
  • marbled godwit
  • western meadowlark
  • savannah sparrow
  • vesper sparrow
  • red-winged blackbird
  • chestnut-collared longspur (historically were observed nesting in the grasslands of the NWA but have not been seen in recent years)

The shoreline and wetlands provide good habitat for species that rely on alkaline flats and wetlands, such as:

  • American avocet
  • wilson's phalarope
  • alkaline wing-nerved moss (Endangered)  

The following dabbling ducks nest within the NWA and forage in the shallow waters of the lake and nearby wetlands:

  • blue-winged teal
  • pintail
  • northern shoveler
Red-winged blackbird perched on a branch
Red-winged blackbird

Mammals observed in the area include:

  • meadow voles
  • ground squirrels
  • badgers
  • skunks
  • coyotes
  • white-tailed deer
  • mule deer

No comprehensive surveys of wildlife in the NWA have been conducted in the past decade, and little is known about the contemporary species composition.

Originally, this federal parcel of land was granted as a Homestead Land to an individual in 1910, which was later reserved under the Soldier Settlement Act, 1919 until 1938 and administered as unpatented Crown land by the Department of the Interior and its successors until 1973. Parks Canada undertook administration of the land in 1973, and eventual transfer to Canadian Wildlife Service was completed in 1982.

More information on Spiers Lake NWA is provided in the summary table below.

Management

Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to Spiers Lake NWA is not restricted and activities may be permitted in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan. Public notices listing the authorized activities within the wildlife area are posted at access points. There is currently no activity authorized, unless under permit.

No use or disturbance of the native vegetation is permitted. Spiers Lake NWA is managed primarily to maintain or enhance the native rough fescue plant communities and shoreline habitats as well as their associated wildlife populations. In particular, efforts are devoted to maintain the area for Piping Plover, other shorebirds, and grassland songbirds that presently use the area. Management activities involve monitoring of wildlife populations and habitat conditions, fencing of boundary and posting of signs.

More information on access and permitting for Spiers Lake NWA can be obtained by contacting the Environment Canada regional office.

Map of the area

Map of Lake Spiers area
Map of Spiers Lake area
Long description

Map showing the area around Spiers Lake in south-central Alberta. The boundaries of Spiers Lake NWA are indicated. The protected area covers the northern tip of Spiers Lake and a portion of the land surrounding it. The wildlife area is located north of Township Roads 342 and 341A and to the west of Range Road 164. The scale on the map is in kilometers. Permanent water, intermittent water, roads and highways are all indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Summary table
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/Territory Alberta
Latitude/Longitude 51°57' North / 112°30' West
Size 64 ha
Reason for Creation of protected area To protect a representative parcel of native rough fescue grassland habitat
Date created (Gazetted) 1982 – Legal Description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Habitat/Species Management Area – (IV)
Additional designations
Keystone or flagship species Plains rough fescue grasslands (rare ecosystem); habitat for Piping Plover and Chestnut-collared Longspur.
Main habitat types Primarily grasslands, and alkaline lakebed and shoreline. Some shrubby uplands and woodland, and a small area of tame pasture (previously cultivated).
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
  • Piping Plover (endangered) regularly used Spiers Lake until the mid 1990s but have not been reported from the site since 1994. The area still provides suitable habitat and may continue to be used infrequently
  • Alkaline Wing-nerved Moss (threatened) has been found in other parts of the lake basin and likely occurs within the NWA as well
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur
Invasive Species Several non-native plant species are present and established, many of which were intentionally introduced for agronomic uses. Problematic species include:

  • smooth brome
  • Canada thistle
  • perennial sow-thistle
Additional links Birds: Mammals:
Main threats and challenges Small size limits management options and makes the site vulnerable to surrounding landscape change. Exclusion of natural processes (fire and grazing) has resulted in declining condition of grassland habitats. Spread of non-native and invasive species.
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Service)
Public access and usage No activities allowed except by permit.

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Prairie and Northern Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship Unit
Eastgate Offices
9250 - 49th Street NW
Edmonton AB T6B 1K5

Toll-free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)
Email: ec.enviroinfo.ec@canada.ca

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