Efforts to protect the grasslands of this area and its native species have been going on for over 50 years by various individuals and groups. During the 1950's and 60's prairie conservationists promoted the protection of a significant area of natural grasslands. In October 1963, members of the Saskatchewan Natural History Society passed a resolution urging the federal government to establish a national park in south-western Saskatchewan. A study of potential park areas was conducted in 1965 in southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, concluding that the Killdeer Badlands-Frenchman river area was the most suitable.
In 1975, a Memorandum-of-Intent setting out some of the terms and conditions for establishment of Grasslands National Park of Canada (GNPC) was signed by both governments. In accordance with the Memorandum, an independent Public Hearings Board was appointed in 1976 to determine the degree of support for the proposed Grasslands National Park. The Board reported that the Park proposal had the public's support and should proceed.
On June 19, 1981, Canada and Saskatchewan signed an agreement to establish the Park. Subsequently, Parks Canada purchased two ranches totaling 140 km 2 in the Frenchman river area. Acquisition of additional park lands ceased when the conditions in the agreement pertaining to oil and gas exploration and water resource management proved unworkable. Negotiations to resolve the impasse went on for five years.
In 1988, with help of a coalition of non-governmental conservation organizations , an agreement was reached between Canada and Saskatchewan to revise the 1981 accord and proceed with establishment of Grasslands National Park of Canada. The proposed park boundary encompasses approximately 900sq.km. in two blocks. Currently, Parks Canada has acquired approximately 80% of the land. The agreement allows Parks Canada to acquire land on a willing-seller, willing-buyer basis: allows Saskatchewan to uphold existing water use agreements and uphold international commitments: and, allows Parks Canada 30 years before Saskatchewan can terminate its obligations to the 1988 agreement. Grasslands National Park of Canada was officially proclaimed a national park under the new Canada National Parks Act on February 19, 2001.
The Saskatchewan Natural History Society (now Nature Saskatchewan) has played a significant role in advocacy of the park and in pro-active conservation measures. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has also assisted with establishment of the park. In 1991, Amoco Canada sold its title to mineral rights to Parks Canada.
Grasslands National Park of Canada has been established to preserve and present a representative portion of the Canadian mixed grass prairie ecosystem.