By Joe Schmutz
Recently, without due consultation, the federal government closed the nearly 80-year-old PFRA Community Pasture Program administered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The provincial government was given the land and now struggles to find a transition. In August 2012, Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced boldly that the pastures would be sold to the farmer/rancher patrons who had previously brought their cows to the federally-employed pasture manager for summer grazing. The original plan was: to sell the land at market value (whose market?), require that the pasture remain whole (for how long?) and apply a ‘no-cultivation no-drain’ conservation easement to it (who will monitor/enforce?).
The Saskatchewan Government has since backed away from their initial strategy. The first 10 pastures are currently for sale. Others, are expected to be leased. Why are several conservation groups, and the patrons themselves, not happy with this plan?