Archive | June, 2013

For Immediate Release

28 Jun

Celebrated Canadian authors and conservation groups call for transparency, consultation on Saskatchewan’s Plans for Pastures

June 28, 2013

REGINA — This morning, prominent authors and members of BirdLife International, Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, held a joint press conference with representatives of Nature Canada and Public Pastures-Public Interest (PPPI), expressing the need for conservation of Saskatchewan’s remaining grasslands habitat. The Government of Saskatchewan plans to sell or lease 62 former PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) pastures.

Management of the pastures was transferred to the provinces in the 2012 Federal Budget. The lands involved are larger than Prince Edward Island and worth $1 to 2 Billion. The Saskatchewan Government has not produced any official report, much less a conservation management plan for these lands. Alongside both authors, representatives of Nature Canada and PPPI called on the Province for more transparency, meaningful consultation with all stakeholders, and more information on the plan itself.

“I’m concerned for the loss of the PFRA, which promoted grasslands conservation while providing for the ranching community,” said Atwood.  “Maintaining PFRA pastures is our greatest chance to protect grasslands wildlife and local communities. Their loss means the squandering of 75 years of Canadian  citizens’  investment in these pastures, and an iconic way of life.”

“Over 80% of Saskatchewan’s original prairie has been lost,” added Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada. “The Federal Government’s divestment from these pastures puts at risk some of Canada’s most important grasslands, home to numerous endangered species like the Greater Sage Grouse, which is almost gone from the province.”

“This land needs protection and conservation-based management,” said PPPI spokesperson Trevor Herriot. “This means the government needs to guarantee that the land will remain in the public trust and not be sold, and work with conservation groups, pasture patrons, the oil and gas industry, First Nations, and other stakeholders to ensure that the pastures will be managed professionally in a unitary system.”

While the groups welcome the Province’s proposal to strengthen its legislation on conservation easements to provide penalties for activities like breaking original prairie, this is no substitute for the services patrons are receiving now, or for a coherent approach to pasture management and environmental stewardship. Simply strengthening easements without dealing with the other issues still puts us on the track of breaking up the system and these irreplaceable lands with it.

– 30 –

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Ian Davidson, Executive Director, Nature Canada

PPPI Communications, 306-216-0345


PFRA Community Pasture System: Factsheet

27 Jun

ISSUE: In Saskatchewan, management of 1.8 million acres of land in 62 former PFRA community pastures is being transferred from the Federal Government to the Province. This is a land area larger than Prince Edward Island. The Province which intends to sell or lease the land to private users, which may put public benefits at risk.



  • PFRA stands for Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act.
  • The PFRA pasture system was created during the droughts of the 1930s. The pastures were established to rehabilitate and protect the land, to stabilize the incomes of livestock producers, and to support the agricultural economy.
  • These pastures are located across central and southern Saskatchewan, and represent most of the ecosystems in the agricultural regions of the province.

Supporting smaller farmers and cattle producers

  • On average, some 2500 pasture patrons depend on these pastures for summer grazing,
  • Most patrons graze cow-calf pairs. There are about 73,000 cows in the system most with calves at foot.
  • Pasture management ensures that the patrons’ livestock are well looked after, enabling patrons to concentrate on the other parts of their agricultural operations during the grazing season.
  • Many pastures also provide high quality bulls to help improve herd genetics.
  • Pasture patrons pay fees to cover the cost of these services.

Supporting Saskatchewan’s ecology

  • The PFRA pastures include the largest contiguous block of original grasslands in the Great Northern Plains.
  • They preserve landscapes that represent Saskatchewan’s natural ecosystems, from the aspen parkland to the endangered short grass prairie. Pastures are found from Maple Creek to North Battleford in the west and from Kelvington to Estevan in the east.
  • Thirty-one species at risk are found on the PFRA community pastures, and some have only been found on those lands.

 Balancing agriculture and the environment though professional management

  • The number of animals and the length of time on pasture is limited to what the land and the grass can bear in a year.
  • Land management respects the needs of the patrons – and their cattle – and the needs of the other species that depend on the pasture land.

 PPPI: Who are we?

Public Pastures-Public Interest is a citizen-based organization devoted to maintaining all of Saskatchewan’s public grasslands as healthy prairie ecosystems and working landscapes. PPPI was founded on principles of retaining, protecting, and managing the province’s Crown grasslands, including the PFRA community pastures, as vital elements of the public trust every bit as precious as its northern forests and lakes.

Forty-five Saskatchewan, national and international organizations have endorsed PPPI principles for managing PFRA pastures. The Principles are:

Principles for PFRA Community Pastures

  1. Keep ownership of the PFRA pastures in the public domain.
  2. Maintain livestock grazing as a priority.
  3. Utilize professional pasture managers.
  4. Preserve the natural landscapes and ecological integrity of the pastures.
  5. Protect the cultural and historic significance of these heritage rangelands.
  6. Recognize and sustain the investment in the public benefits provided by publicly-owned community pastures.

A Strategy Forward

  • Work with stakeholders to establish an inclusive Transition Plan.
  • Take the time to get it right.

Margaret Atwood Supports Better Conservation for Internationally Recognized Grasslands

26 Jun


For Immediate Release – Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Margaret Atwood Supports Better Conservation for Internationally Recognized Grasslands

REGINA — This Friday, acclaimed Canadian Author Margaret Atwood will be taking part in a media conference alongside Public Pastures – Public Interest as part of a tour of Grasslands National Park and PFRA pastures to raise awareness about the need for better management to conserve grassland habitat.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

Radisson Plaza Hotel Saskatchewan, Victoria Room, 2125 Victoria Avenue, Regina.

Atwood and her husband, Graeme Gibson, two of Canada’s most acclaimed authors, are also passionate conservationists and prominent members of BirdLife Intentional. They arrived in Saskatchewan on June 24 and are bird-watching and touring Grasslands National Park and the PFRA pastures this week. At the conference, Margaret Atwood will speak on what they have learned on their tour, from scientists and from livestock producers affected by the changes, and the international significance of these irreplaceable prairie lands.

PPPI will issue a statement on the current status of 1.8 million acres of former PFRA pastures that were created under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act during the ‘30s. Management of the pastures was downloaded to the Prairie Provinces by the federal government in its 2012 budget. The Saskatchewan Government has stated it plans to sell or lease the 62 pastures — essentially breaking up a system that has taken 75 years to develop. Lack of a strong conservation management system will put the largest contiguous block of unbroken grasslands in the Great Northern Plains at risk.

PPPI will address the current state of the transfer, conservation issues and the 31 species at risk on the pastures, revenues generated by the pastures, government accountability on a decision that affects an area that is larger than Prince Edward Island, and what livestock producers have said about the impact of the changes on their operations.

Management of the pastures has implications in a wide range of areas: livestock production, conservation of species at risk, environmental protection, First Nations’ interests, heritage preservation, oil and gas development and outdoor recreational pursuits.

For more information please contact:

Bruce Rice, PPPI Communications,

Atwood/Gibson tour begins

25 Jun

The Prairie Passages tour launched yesterday in Regina! Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson and the other guests really appreciated the Welcome to Treaty 4 lands and the First Nations University of Canada building and the explanations of the traditions that go with it.

The Leader-Post has coverage of the event at FNUniv here and the Metro covers it here.

A picture is worth 1000 words

24 Jun

What will Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson be experiencing this week? This video gives you an idea of the beauty and wonder of the pastures. Tickets are still available to hear their reflections on their tour Thursday night in Regina.

Welcome at FNUniv for Atwood and Gibson

19 Jun



For Immediate Release – June 19, 2013



 REGINA, SK. First Nations University of Canada and Public Pastures-Public Interest (PPPI) are hosting a Welcome event for Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of Canada’s most prominent authors.

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 1:00 p.m., First Nations University of Canada, First Nations Veterans’ Memorial Tipi. (Open to the public).

 The Regina welcome is part of a four-day “Prairie Passages Tour” of Saskatchewan grasslands, including Grasslands National Park and former PFRA pastures, which have been returned to provincial control. Atwood and Gibson will be birding and touring southern grasslands in the company of other international conservation advocates. A prominent member of BirdLife international, Atwood says the ecological value of these large tracts is internationally recognized, and has called them “undervalued.” The tour is hosted by PPPI and Nature Canada. The purpose of the tour is to raise awareness of the grasslands and the need for conservation, especially in the wake of changes in the management of the publicly held lands.

“First Nations University is honoured to open its doors to celebrated authors Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, who are fostering open discussion of environmental issues through the Prairie Passages Tour,” said Dr. Lynn Wells, Vice President Academic. “We welcome their acknowledgement of the traditional First Nations territory that they are visiting by opening dialogue in a respectful way at our Indigenous post-secondary institute of higher learning.”

“This visit shows how important our grasslands really are to all of Canada, and internationally,” said Trevor Herriot, PPPI Co-Chair. “They are really the jewel of the Great Northern Plains. We are at a turning point in the history of our grasslands and key decisions are being made.  We need to be good stewards and work together or risk losing them forever. ”

Public Pastures-Public Interest is a citizen-based organization devoted to maintaining all of Saskatchewan’s public grasslands as healthy prairie ecosystems and working landscapes. PPPI was founded on principles of retaining, protecting, and managing the province’s 8 million acres of Crown grasslands as vital elements of the public trust every bit as precious as its northern forests and lakes.

The First Nations University of Canada was established in 1976 as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) through a federated partnership with the University of Regina. Thirty-five years after it was founded “to enhance the quality of life, and to preserve, protect and interpret the history, language, culture and artistic heritage of first Nations people”, FNUniv continues to fulfill this shared vision.


Spokespersons from First Nations University of Canada and Public Pastures – Public Interest will be available following the event. Regretfully, Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson and the tour group must depart immediately for the long trip to Southwest Saskatchewan.



Monday, June 24, 1:00 p.m. – Welcome for Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson at First Nations University of Canada, in the First Nations Veterans’ Memorial Tipi. Open to the Public. Free.

Wednesday, June 26, 7:30 p.m. – Lemonade Social with Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson. “Little Brick School House,” Centre Street, Val Marie, sponsored by Prairie Wind & Silver Sage Friends of Grasslands. Open to the Public. Free.

Thursday, June 27, 6:30 p.m. – Prairie Passages Dinner. Fundraiser for grasslands education and research. Radisson Renaissance Hotel Saskatchewan, Regina. Cocktails at 6:30, dinner at 7:30, followed by reflections on the tour by Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson. Tickets are available from Regina’s Globe Theatre Box Office at $100. Phone 306-525-6400 or Out of town: 1-866-954-5623.

Friday, June 28, 9:00 a.m. – Media Conference on the Prairie Passages Tour. Radisson Renaissance Hotel Saskatchewan. With Public Pastures-Public Interest and Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson. Details to follow.

Price vs Value: The Economics of the Pastures

10 Jun

Katherine Arbuthnott and Joe Schmutz have a nuanced look at the economics of the community pastures, here. Excerpts:

“Today, when the profitability of beef production is questioned and the ecological value of grazing is misunderstood, the pastures’ benefits stand firm.

For every $1 spent, the pastures don’t only grow beef. They also generate $2.50 in research, carbon sequestration, watershed protection, specific habitat for species at risk and 12 other documented public benefits.”

“The community pastures are especially attractive for mixed and young farmers. A grain farming family’s small herd went to the federal pasture after calving and before the grain-related workload peaked. In fall ,the cows came home to clean up grain fields, eat non-marketable grain and graze hilly or flooded land.

This integrated approach to ecology, land, time and economics contributed significantly to farm diversification and income. However, it was apparently poorly understood in Ottawa. Does it also need explanation in Regina?”

“What is the solution? If wisdom and democracy are lost in Ottawa, then let’s have a Saskatchewan PFRA community pasture program.”


More Endorsers!

5 Jun

The Saskatchewan Conference of the United Church of Canada has endorsed the six principles for our heritage rangelands at risk, and called for a full consultation regarding the PFRA Pastures and indigenous rights. Our list of endorsing organizations is now at 45!

Benefit Concert for PPPI in Regina

3 Jun

There is excellent support for PPPI’s efforts coming forward from the community in Saskatchewan. A group has come together in Regina to organize a benefit concert on June 21 in aid of the work on pastures. PPPI really appreciates the energy and enthusiasm that has gone into creating this event!


  • What – A benefit concert to support the PPPI initiatives
  • When – Friday, June 21, 2013- doors open @ 7:00 PM
  • Where The Artesian (Regina)
  • Who – (rather than explain each amazing musician/band, check out these links):
  • How/Details?  
    • Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door (hoping to sell out long in advance so don’t delay!).  
    • Tickets can be purchased in Regina at Mysteria Gallery (2706 13th Ave.) and Fresh Air Experience (532 Victoria Ave.).  
    • Fully Licensed Venue
    • All Ages
    • 50/50 
    • Silent Auction

For more info follow the group on Twitter @pasturesregina (#party4pastures) or add/msg them on Facebook (Pastures Regina).