Success at White Butte

27 Apr

by Simone Hengen and PPPI members

The success story at White Butte is one of democracy in action: a group of people ready to express their views about a place they care about, a political party in opposition ready to question and a political party in power ready to listen.

Even before the public consultation came to bear, the swell of public support took the wind out of the sails of a proposal for a golf course at White Butte recreational area near Regina. Why did the public respond so quickly to conserve White Butte?  In the 1.1 million acre ocean of cultivated lands, farmyards, city roads and utility right-of-ways of the Regina plains, White Butte is a tiny island of native prairie. Among its many biodiversity elements, two stand out: populations of the increasingly rare Plains Rough Fescue grass and Sharp-tailed Grouse dancing leks. Skiers, dog walkers, bikers, horse-back riders, bird watchers, nature lovers use White Butte extensively. And, ideal for outdoor pursuits and nature study, it is an established asset for school divisions around Regina.   Supporters may not have known all of the statistics about the area or its multiple uses, but were motivated to voice their opinion for the individual reasons that White Butte was important to them.

How was success achieved? Public opposition to the golf course proposal began with a letter sent to the Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, Mark Docherty, by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation in December 2014. Next, Simone Hengen of PPPI proposed a resolution at the Regina Ski Club’s March 2015 Annual General Meeting, opposing the conversion of White Butte into a golf course and supporting keeping it as a natural area. The resolution passed unanimously.  Then, on March 29, Trevor Herriot, PPPI Co-Chair and well-known Saskatchewan author and naturalist, took two important steps – posting a blog with thoughtful and relevant arguments in his website Grassnotes, and creating a Facebook page: “Don’t be mute. Save White Butte”. Both went viral -with 2100 likes within a few hours of the posting and provoked a whirlwind of media attention.  From Monday, March 30th  to Wednesday, April 1st,  the story received media coverage from CBC Radio, CTV, Global TV, the Leader-Post and the online National Post.

Also on Tuesday, March 31, as more people opposing the golf course gathered at Atlantis Coffee for a letter writing event quickly-organized by Karen Herriot, Trent Wotherspoon, NDP MLA and Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition, raised the issue with Minister Docherty during Question Period in the Legislative Assembly.  Minister Docherty, realizing the valid arguments for preserving White Butte and sensing a public typhoon of opposition to this golf course, listened to the arguments and announced to media that there would be no government support for the golf course. On April 1  Trevor Herriot spoke to Minister Docherty’s Chief of Staff who stated that the Minister had confirmed that in spite of previous statements saying there would be a public consultation, no consultations would be held, since the golf course proposal would not be proceeding,

And that’s democracy in action: people expressing their views, the opposition party questioning and the party in power listening.  On behalf of supporters of White Butte conservation, PPPI thanks the Minister for his thoughtful and direct response to our campaign and the public for taking the time to make their opinions known. We also consider that we will walk (ourselves and our dogs), ride, bike, bird-watch, etc. as a more knowledgeable and appreciative community for our efforts.

“Grasslands” Showing in Saskatoon

6 Apr

Thursday / Apr 16 / 7–9p.m.
Frances Morrison Central Library – Theatre
311-23rd St E, Saskatoon

Ian Toews’ documentary Grasslands is a love letter to the natural grasslands of Saskatchewan. Author Trevor Herriot will provide an update on the state of the province’s grassland ecosystems and the work of Public Pastures – Public Interest. Author Candace Savage will lead the discussion that follows. Refreshments are provided.

Presented by PPPI in partnership with Saskatoon Public Library.

PPPI 2015 AGM

26 Mar

PPPI 2015 AGM and Speakers

Saturday March 28, 2015
1:00 – 5:00 pm
United Way Building, 1440 Scarth St., Regina, Saskatchewan

AGENDA

1:00 Welcome & Introductions

1:15 Report on past year and upcoming focus

1:30 Speakers – What Are Pastures For?

− Philip Brass, Artist and traditional foods harvester: Indigenous peoples’ uses of pastures

− Chris Nykoluk, Retired (former Range Management Specialist, AESB-AAFC): Management of pastures for cattle production and conservation

− Pat Rediger, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Trails Association: Recreational use of pastures

2:15 Highlights of PFRA Pastures Transition Study

2:30 Fred Baran, Councillor, RM of Dundurn: Rural Municipalities and pastures

2:45 AGM business (closed to media)

Campaign: 1000 Letters to the Premier

20 Mar

This is a request to the many people who expressed concern and interest in the future of the PFRA Community Pastures.

We are at a point where a large scale letter writing campaign is needed as we continue to work towards the continued public ownership and conservation of our pastures. Your letters need not be long. We are hoping to generate over 1000 letters in the next few weeks.

We need to get the message out that the public feels that:

  • It is vitally important to keep the pastures public
  • The public should pay for public values
  • The government must take on this responsibility
  • The public wants to know how the government will ensure that the pastures will continue to be managed for the many important public benefits.

Be sure to address your letters to Premier Wall. Be polite and make sure you ask for a reply.  Below are some points you may wish to talk about. There are also some sample letters here. Make your letters personal, explaining why retaining the pastures are important to you.

To write your letter begin by making some (but not all) of the “Important Points” listed below, and then ask one or two specific questions:
 

  1. “How will your government ensure that the pastures will continue to be managed for [choose your public benefit/issue from the points below]”
  1. “We all recognize that retaining land under public ownership is the highest form of protection for the long term. Please explain your government’s willingness to sell Crown lands that are among the most ecologically important and endangered landscapes in Canada.”

IMPORTANT POINTS
 

The following are several points about the PFRA pastures, some of which you may wish to refer to in your letter:
 

  • These grasslands are not merely agricultural land; they are important for grazing but also represent some of the last large protected areas of grassland on the continent. They must be managed with both grazing and biodiversity in mind.
  • Southern Saskatchewan contains one of the most modified landscapes in North America.
  • Some 80% of our natural landscape in southern Saskatchewan has been lost to development.
  • Only 15% of the natural landscape south of the forest fringe is public land, where public oversight can be provided.
  • It is critically important to preserve these vanishing native grasslands.
  • The PFRA Pastures are the most critically important remaining grasslands in Saskatchewan.
  • The PFRA pastures are a major part of this province’s Representatives Areas Network, a network of ecologically important land and water areas across the province.
  •  Canada has commitments to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to preserve a portion of our landscape in its natural condition and the pastures are a major component of this in Saskatchewan.
  • The Prairies have a greater number of Species at Risk than any other region of Canada.
  • Over 30 Species at Risk are found on the PFRA pastures.
  • Carbon sequestration is an important benefit from native grasslands.
  • Soil and water conservation is provided by PFRA Pastures.
  • The pasture lands have many known heritage sites from Indigenous people and homesteaders. Many of the pastures have not yet been assessed for their archaeological potential or sites of a special nature such as sacred sites.
  • Keeping the lands public is the best way to protect these known and unknown sites.
  • The publicly-owned lands are important to enable Indigenous people to continue practices such as hunting and gathering, and practising respect for sacred sites.
  • These pastures are very important to producers for grazing opportunities. The first ten pastures to be transitioned have already lost 50% of their patrons.
  • PFRA Pastures are important for the local economy.
  • Pasture patrons are necessarily concerned first with their private interests as cattle producers. Unless they receive some support, it is not realistic to expect they will also care for the range of public goods that the PFRA pastures always provided to society as a whole.
  • Full time, qualified pasture managers are critical to the long term management of the pastures.
  • The pastures provide important access for hunting opportunities, generating $70 million dollars annually.
  • The total annual cost of operating the 62 PFRA Pastures is $22 million. The total annual benefits to producers and society is $55 million.
  • Keeping the pastures publicly-owned is the best way to protect the many benefits they provide.
  • Some kind of legislative protection is needed for pastures.
  • The many public benefits from public lands must be recognized and maintained with public dollars.
  •  Producers should not be expected to pay for public benefits.

Whatever points you raise in your letter, be sure to ask the Premier for a response to your question.

THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO WRITE A LETTER.

YOUR SUPPORT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED!

GETTING THE LETTER TO THE PREMIER
 

You can mail, e-mail or fax the letter to the Premier.

E-mail: premier@gov.sk.ca, Fax: 306-787-0885, Phone: 306-787-9433

 
A letter sent in the mail carries more weight.

SARM coming around on pasture issues

20 Mar

From the Western Producer:

The turning point was a meeting about the pastureland issue at last week’s convention that attracted about 60 RMs and a few SARM directors.

It became clear at that meeting that SARM would now be taking the issue seriously and would be lobbying the province to come to some sort of agreement with the affected RMs.

 

Lots of news coverage of PFRA Pastures Transition Study

19 Feb

– Leader Post article

Groups wants changes to provincial pasture plan

– Western Producer article

Pasture transition needs changes: Sask report

– Swift Current Online

APAS Calling for New Approach to Pasture Transition

and

Stewart Speaks on Pasture Lease Fees

– Saskatoon Home Page

Pasture Transition Needs Changes

– Grenfell Sun

APAS calls for new approach to PFRA pasture transition

“Grasslands” Film in Indian Head

19 Feb

If you’re in the Regina area and missed Ian Toews’ film the first time around – or want to see it again! – it will be showing in Indian Head on March 1. More information can be found at the Facebook event.

“I wanted to convey that prairie was an expansive, flowing mass of grasslands. And then show people what it is today and what is being done to preserve it,” said filmmaker Toews. “I want people to know that visiting and filming these beautiful places, seeing these animals, was for the most part very easy. Our Grasslands, even as reduced as they are, are still quite accessible to all.”

Joint PFRA Pasture Study Released

10 Feb

APAS Calls for New Approach to PFRA Pasture Transition

February 10, 2015

Regina: Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), Community Pasture Patrons Association of Saskatchewan (CPPAS), Public Pastures – Public Interest (PPPI) and Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) examined Saskatchewan’s approach to pasture transition and found it would adversely affect the livestock industry in Saskatchewan.

“We are asking the Saskatchewan Government to take a hard look at its current approach to the transition of the 62 PFRA pastures which affects 1.8 million acres or 2,500 ranchers,” says Norm Hall, APAS President. “The current process is inefficient, short and long-term costs will rise substantially for patrons, and public expectations and regulations for pastures could prove to be unworkable.”

The study (executive summary here) commissioned by the four partners is anchored in the following principles:

  • Conserving native grassland is critically important;
  • Land use should re-inforce the economic viability of our livestock sector;
  • Natural working ecosystems must be preserved over the long term;
  • Business and governance systems must be efficient and effective;
  • Producers should not be expected to pay for public benefits.

(Full Report can be found here.)

The approach taken by Saskatchewan is to increase revenues at the expense of producers and to offload responsibility for the environment from the public sector to pasture patrons. Pasture patrons are being asked to pay a full Crown land grazing rate. They are required to provide full public access and manage and report on the ecological, environmental and endangered species on native landscapes without required resources. “A level playing field is required,’ says Ian McCreary, CPPAS Chair.

“Preserving a working natural landscape where hunters and naturalists can share the pasture system into the future must be maintained,” says Darrell Crabbe, Executive Director, SWF. “Pasture patrons cannot be expected to shoulder the costs of sourcing the expertise required and providing ongoing public benefits.”

“APAS is concerned over the long term viability of the livestock industry in Saskatchewan,” says Hall. “We have a shrinking beef breeding herd and livestock producer numbers are falling. The current approach leads to a further acceleration of producers leaving the industry. Pasture patrons may fall by one-half. The current approach closes the opportunity for young producers to enter the industry. A different approach is needed if we are to build a strong, sustainable Saskatchewan livestock industry.”

Norm Hall
President, APAS

Ian McCreary
Chair, CPPAS

Darrell Crabbe
Executive Director, SWF

Trevor Herriot
Public Pastures-Public Interest

NCC Partnership with Lone Tree Pasture

21 Jan

A New Partnership to Conserve Saskatchewan Grasslands:

Community Pasture Teams Up with Nature Conservancy of Canada

REGINA, January 20, 2015.  –  The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Saskatchewan and Lone Tree Community Pasture shareholders signed a pilot partnership agreement to work together to develop a guide for future management and long term conservation of community pastures. After more than 75 years of conservation management by Canada`s federal community pasture system, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is transferring these pastures to Saskatchewan.

Under this agreement, NCC staff in Saskatchewan will work with Lone Tree’s community pasture manager and shareholders to develop best practices for pasture management and long term land conservation. In efforts to balance livestock production with long term conservation, it is hoped this partnership will help foster rapport with other community pasture shareholders and NCC staff.

NCC will include the advice and best practices of Lone Tree’s management of the 33,697 acres (13,637 ha) of community pasture along with NCC conservation practices and techniques, and financially assist with the management of the pasture during 2015. This work may also help NCC guide the future conservation of other southern Saskatchewan community pastures and grasslands.

Best practices for pasture management will build on the knowledge that Lone Tree pasture managers and shareholders have gained over many years. Conservation actions and techniques that help sustain the diversity of plant, animal, bird and amphibian species, as well as the economic wellbeing of livestock producers and pasture management groups alike, will be included. The guide will help others conserve and sustain pasture grasslands similar to the Lone Tree pasture.

A management plan will be developed through face-to-face meetings with NCC staff, the Lone Tree pasture manager, and the Lone Tree shareholders prior to the 2015 grazing season. These best practices will be recorded, reviewed, revised and developed into a guide that can be shared with community pastures from Mankota to Midale, Valjean to Nokomis, McCraney to Good Spirit, and beyond.

QUOTES:

“This historical and significant pilot agreement helps pave the way for community pasture patrons and conservation-minded organizations like NCC to work together.” says Mark Wartman, Regional Vice President, NCC in Saskatchewan. “The goal is to conserve grasslands through effective pasture management over the long term across southern Saskatchewan. By working together through this precedent-setting agreement, improved grasslands conservation can be achieved.”

“It’s simple. We both (Lone Tree and NCC) want the same thing.” says Clint Christianson, spokesperson for Lone Tree community pasture shareholders. “We want this land to be at least as healthy and functional well into the future! And I want my kids—and their children—to enjoy this land, just like it is now. Our partnership with NCC is a strong first step in reaching this goal.”

FACTS:         

  • In Saskatchewan alone, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved over 140,000 acres (57,000 ha) of ecologically significant lands through land donation, purchase and conservation agreement, in partnership with governments, corporations and other organizations.
  • 1.8 million acres in 62 of Canada`s federal community pastures are being transferred from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to the Government of Saskatchewan.
  • Lone Tree community pasture involves 15 shareholders who collectively graze 1130 head of cattle.
  • NCC partners with landowners through grazing leases and provides public access on-foot-only on all NCC properties in Saskatchewan.
  • Through its Natural Areas Conservation Program and its Habitat Stewardship Program, the Government of Canada to date has supported NCC conservation of almost 34,000 acres (13,760 ha) in Saskatchewan.
  • NCC is working with the Government of Saskatchewan, SaskEnergy, Encana, K+S Potash, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and now with Lone Tree community pasture and others for long term land conservation in Saskatchewan.
  • Eighty-three per cent of contributions to NCC go directly to on-the-ground conservation of Canada’s natural spaces and wildlife, including species at risk. The NCC conserves land in perpetuity so your gift can literally last for ever.
  • NCC owns and manages properties in many southern and central Saskatchewan communities around Eastend, Swift Current, Weyburn, Assiniboia, Carlyle, Shellbrook, Spiritwood, Mankota, The Battlefords and more.

ABOUT:

  • The Nature Conservancy of Canada works with a broad range of organizations to advance long-term land conservation in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada.
  • The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation’s leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.7 million acres (1.1 million hectares), coast to coast, placing national perspective on great Saskatchewan work.
  • An independent review of Canadian charities by Charity Intelligence Canada awarded top marks to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for charitable private land conservation in Canada (2014).

See the news article in the Southwest Booster.

“Grasslands” video now available!

6 Jan

If you missed the Grasslands video screening on November 6, you can now order a DVD online! Don’t miss this film by award-winning filmmaker Ian Toews.

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