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.
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For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Ian Davidson, Executive Director, Nature Canada
PPPI Communications, 306-216-0345