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.
WHY DO THESE PASTURES MATTER?
- 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
- Keep ownership of the PFRA pastures in the public domain.
- Maintain livestock grazing as a priority.
- Utilize professional pasture managers.
- Preserve the natural landscapes and ecological integrity of the pastures.
- Protect the cultural and historic significance of these heritage rangelands.
- 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.