“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.

Update on the Pastures and Grasslands: Threats, Current Status, What’s Next

28 Nov

Thanks to everyone who came out to the sold-out Grasslands premiere last Wednesday! If you’d like to see another excellent short film on the topic, check out Megan Lacelle and Kaitlyn Van De Woestyne’s video featuring a former PFRA cowboy.

In the meantime, an update on Saskatchewan’s Crown Grasslands and the PFRA pastures from Trevor Herriot, who spoke at the Grasslands premiere:

The Priceless Value of our Crown Grasslands

• Saskatchewan has lost a lot of its native prairie, as we all know—we have less than 21% of the old-growth grassland that was here with the buffalo and plains people for thousands of years.

• But we still have roughly 5 M hectares left—the trouble is most of that is in small bits of ten to fifty hectares here or there in isolated parcels; and most is privately owned. The good news is that around 30% of our grassland receives some kind of conservation or public oversight—either because it is owned by government or private conservation agencies.

• The very best public management of our grassland was done by the federal PFRA community pastures system. 728,000 hectares in 62 parcels in Sask., representing a big piece of our remaining native prairie, and some of the largest contiguous blocks that are big enough to function ecologically as grassland.

• It is widely accepted that our forests in the north need to remain under the Crown so we can ensure that we have at least a chance to serve the public interest in maintaining healthy forests.

• It should be the same with our Crown-owned grasslands—they are not just pastures for cattle production any more than a forest is only standing lumber.

• PPPI believes that our publicly owned grasslands are much more than merely grazing lands, though they are vital to the wellbeing of Saskatchewan’s cattle industry and have helped farmers stay diversified and helped the next generation of cattle producers get started.

• These grasslands are our shared heritage, stewarded for millennia by Indigenous people who, along with our ranchers and the rest of the public, deserve to have a voice in how they will be managed and used into the future.

Threats

• But in recent years, there has been increasing economic pressure to privatize our grasslands and reduce public oversight and regulation of how they are managed.

• It started with the threat in 2010 to sell off Saskatchewan’s Wildlife Habitat Protection Act lands, which have for decades been protected as important grassland and wetland habitat.

• Saskatchewan’s Lands Branch is now selling 738,000 hectares that were protected under the Act, retaining another 688,000 that they have determined to be of the highest ecological value.

• After that, in 2012, the Harper government announced that the Federal PFRA pastures would be transferred back to Saskatchewan. At first the Province said they would sell them.

PPPI’s formation

• The conservation community and many of the grazing patrons using the pastures objected strongly. And out of that concern, Public Pastures—Public Interest was formed–in fact it was this week, Agribition Week, two years ago when we were founded at a forum we held with conservationists, First Nations people and cattle producers.

• Since then, 46 organizations in Canada and the United States have endorsed our guiding principles of keeping our public grasslands in the public domain and advocating for ecologically sound management that will protect their natural and human heritage into the future.

• Our membership and the thousands of people who support our endorsing organizations believe that protection under the Crown will be placed at risk if we allow the land to be privatized OR if we allow the land to be managed in ways that do not serve the interest Saskatchewan people share in maintaining healthy grassland places.

Current status of PFRA grasslands

• So where are things at right now for those 62 pastures being transferred to the province?

• The good news is that the Province has listened to people’s concerns and shifted from selling the lands to leasing them out to the groups of grazing patrons. But they say that the pastures are still available for the patron groups to purchase. So far no takers and not a single acre has been sold.

• So we must remain vigilant to ensure that these ecologically critical grasslands are not removed from the Crown.

• The first ten pastures were transferred to the province this year and the responsibility for management was handed over to the grazing patron groups who will lease each pasture. After the initial difficulties of adjusting, most groups did well this year we are hearing.

• With lots of grass in a wet year like this and record prices for cattle, though, one season is not enough to measure the success of the transition. Only time will tell.

• For now, each pasture is using a paid manager, but with the financial arrangements they are working under that may be difficult to maintain over time.

• Experienced range managers and grassland conservationists are worried that in the long run the organizations of grazing patrons may for convenience sake or to cut costs just decide to cross-fence their pasture into smaller paddocks to let each patron graze according to his own plan. You get this piece and I get this piece, we all manage our own cattle.

Ecological Benefits of management for the public interest

• There are ecological benefits and long term range management values served by keeping the whole pasture managed together in a coherent system where all the patrons’ animals are co-mingled. That was the strength of the PFRA system and it ensured that the conservation values were maintained over the long run.

• Grassland ecologists will tell you that a wider array of native grassland dependent birds, for example, tend to do better on larger pastures that are not over-stocked or cross-fenced. When fenced pastures are small and the stocking levels high, some bird species will decline and the few that like short, heavily grazed land will survive.

Public access issue

• As well, the whole issue of public access remains to be seen. The patrons are being told they only lease the land during the grazing months. In fall and winter their lease does not apply. That provides access for hunters, but not for other uses.

• But they feel this is unfair because they are paying the same lease rates that individual leaseholders pay for Crown grassland that they control access to year round. So, understandably, the former PFRA patrons are saying “if we don’t get to control year-round access like private leaseholders do then why should we have to pay the same lease rates?”

• But for now at least, as I said, these wonderful expanses of native grass will remain in the public domain.

• But that also means that the public interest in the wellbeing of these lands and in having access to them—for research, for indigenous peoples’ hunting and medicine gathering, for recreation, birding and hunting—is still there and if anything stronger than ever.

• Which is also good news—the conservation community, our First Nations and Metis organizations, and heritage groups remain committed to ensuring that these lands are managed as well as they have been for the past 75 years under the PFRA.

• Managing land for these interests—and all the others such as the hundreds of archaeological sites, the 31 species at risk that use these lands, the soil and water conservation—is a responsibility that must be shared.

Manitoba approach is better

• By contrast, in Manitoba, where they also are putting their PFRA pastures through a transition, an entirely different approach is being used.

• The pastures are being handled together as a unitary system and they must follow rangeland management prescriptions (for invasive species, species at risk, grass management, aspen encroachment, etc.).

• A “Range Management Implementation Group” has been established with representation from provincial govt Ag and water and conservation agencies, the new Manitoba Association of Community Pastures, as well as from Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), and Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation has been established.

• This Range Mgt Group is currently designing the criteria, monitoring and reporting procedures that will be used for pasture management prescriptions in the future. When complete, these protocols will be applied by Manitoba Agriculture to prepare and administer the rangeland prescriptions for each pasture to ensure the ecological integrity of lands in the system is sustained.

• This is the direction we believe Saskatchewan should go, with the addition of bringing Aboriginal people to the table as well.

Public investment

• The public—you and I and all Canadians—invested our tax dollars into the good public stewardship of these lands for 75 years, so that the soil would be protected, the creeks and wetlands managed well, and the rare prairie plants, birds and other animals would have some refuge in habitat where the grazing would be applied in a unitary system of range management for long term ecological values.

• Of course, as we are regularly reminded, private leaseholders and landowners are often just as good at stewarding grassland. True, and public ownership is no guarantee of good stewardship. But good stewards get old and die. The cattle industry is, like much of modern agriculture, struggling to maintain its traditional stewardship values and to help younger producers get started—and of course community pastures, if they are run right, could help with that generational hand off.

• Public ownership can be a buffer against market forces and changes in land use that can threaten our native grasslands and the stewardship traditions of cow-calf ranching culture.

What’s next for PPPI?

• We must continue to monitor what happens to our community pastures to prevent any sales from taking place.

• As well, PPPI is looking for ways to connect the public interest in healthy well-managed grasslands with the ranchers desire to steward the land well—and to work government, with agricultural organizations and conservation groups to make that happen without undue levels of regulation and oversight.

• The public interest in supporting good stewardship practices may ebb and flow over time but, as long as land remains in the public domain, we have recourse as citizens to participate in the public process of how that land and its ecological values and heritage will be sustained and accessed.

• With your support PPPI intends to continue participating in that process to work on your behalf and on the behalf of those who do not have any representation or way to voice their interest in the health of our remaining grasslands.

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