A report on the PFRA Pasture Transition by Dave Phillips.


A map of the three prairie provinces and the AESB community pastures on all three.

Saskatchewan’s federal pastures with the first ten pastures to be transferred highlighted in red.

Government Sources

Program description: Canada Community Pasture Transition Program

FAQs and news releases on pasture transition

Transition schedule

Academic Articles

Information on the Community Pastures

1) Arbuthnott, K., and Schmutz, J. 2013. “PFRA Community Pastures: History and Drama of a Prairie Commons.” SaskNotes, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

1) Nasen, L.C., Noble, B.F., and Johnstone, J.F. 2011. “Environmental effects of oil and gas lease sites in a grassland ecosystem.” Journal of Environmental Management, 92.

“This paper examines the spatial and temporal extend of PNG development infrastructure from 1955-2006 in a grassland ecosystem in southwest Saskatchewan [the Swift Current-Webb community pasture]…Impacts of PNG develolpment persisted for more than 50 years following well site construction and extended outward 20-25m beyond the direct physical footprint of PNG well infrastructure.”

2) Kulshreshtha, S.N., and Pearson, G.G. 2008. Estimation of Cost Recovery Levels on Federal Community Pastures under Joint Private and Public Benefits, Rangelands, 30(1).

“The Community Pasture Program is a unique grazing land management program in that it provides full care for livestock during the grazing season, and recovers the costs associated with providing grazing and breeding services from those clients. Recognizing that there are  multiple users and benefits to Canadian society, a study was undertaken to examine the costs and benefits associated with these uses, and the  relationship to setting grazing and breeding service fees….It is evident that public rangelands have a variety of benefits to livestock producers, other direct users, and society as a whole.”

3) Kulshreshtha, S.N., Pearson, G.G., Kirychuk, B, and Gaube, R. 2008. “Distribution of public and private benefits on federally managed community pastures in Canada.” Rangelands, 30(1), 3-11.

4) McCartney, D. 2007. “Seventy years of pasture rejuvenation research.” Rangelands, 29(5), 25-27.

“…an international research centre was established at the Matador Pasture as part of a world-wide attempt to collect data on representative ecosystems and to develop computer models of them…The results were published in approximately 25 volumes.”

5) Noble, B.F., and Kulshreshtha, S.N. 2007. “Saskatchewan Community Pastures.” In Saskatchewan Geographic Perspectives, ed. B. Thraves, M. Lewry, J. Dale, and H. Schlichtmann. CPRC Press.

“The benefit of community pastures extend beyond pasture patrons to society at large…In addition to their economic, recreational and other benefits, community pastures provide many, often unrecognized, ecological benefits to the people of Saskatchewan.”

6) Balkwill, D. 2002. The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration and the Community Pasture Program, 1937-1947. MA Thesis, University of Saskatchewan.

“In practice, the community pasture program reflected the understanding that broadly-based land use policy had to be flexible in order to accommodate the ecological and social diversity of the prairies.”

7) Vaisey, J.S. and Strankman, P. 1999. “Prairie Grasslands: An Undervalued Resource. Grass, Cows and Environmental Management on the Canadian Prairies”. Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences. Paper 464.

“These grasslands support agriculture, through grazing of livestock, and recreation, such as hunting and ecotourism. These grasslands are also environmentally significant, providing habitat for native plants and animals. The economic and environmental significance of these grasslands should not be undervalued. Economic opportunities and environmental policies and regulations affect the management of these lands. Current issues that may affect how the prairie is used include the: potential species-at-risk legislation, other initiatives for biodiversity enhancement, greenhouse gas regulations or incentives, carbon sequestration opportunities, and economic diversification to support economic growth. Decisions on these issues will affect the way prairie grasslands contribute to the region’s economic and environmental sustainability.”

8) Weins, T. W. 1993. “Wildlife-agriculture-integrated Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration activities.”  Proceedings of the Third Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Workshop.  Natural History Occasional Paper No. 19, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton: 65-68.

This paper describes a selection of PFRA’s present activities which are mutually beneficial to agriculture and wildlife: Canada-Saskatchewan agreement on environmental sustainability, integrated range management on PFRA pastures, PFRA-DU “Demo” dugouts, Rare and endangered wildlife species, Shelterbelts for wildlife – save our soils (SOS) program, Rafferty-Alameda mitigation plantings.

9) Chu, G. C. C. 1993. “Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, community pasture rangeland inventory, and range site benchmark establishment.” Proceedings of the Third Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Workshop.  Natural History Occassional Paper No. 19, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton: 69-70.

“An ecological reference area such as the establishment of a range site benchmark for a specific ‘potential natural plant community,’ is in our view an important attribute of PFRA ongoing rangeland inventory activities to assess, measure, and monitor the ecological status of our natural grasslands under certain livestock grazing management practices.”

10) Nykoluk, C. 1993. “Working towards multiple use management on Praire Farm Rehabilitation Administration community pastures.” Proceedings of the Third Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Workshop.  Natural History Occassional Paper No. 19, Provincial Museum of Alberta, Edmonton: 71-73.

Research Making Use of the Community Pastures

1) Fortney, A.N., R.G. Poulin, J.A. Martino, D.L. Parker and C.M. Somers. (in press). Proximity to hibernacula and road type are key factors influencing road use and mortality of snakes in southwestern Saskatchewan. Canadian Field Naturalist.

2) This article discusses a snake found only in three places in Canada, one of which is the Val Marie community pasture.

Martino, J., Poulin, R., Parker, D., and Somers, C. 2012. “Habitat Selection by Grassland Snakes at Northern Range Limits: Implications for Conservation.” The Journal of Wildlife Management 76(4):759–767;  DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.313

“Animal populations at northern range limits may use habitat differently from those at range cores, requiring distinct conservation plans. Snakes are ectotherms that often have very specific requirements, but few studies have focused on the effect of northern latitudes on habitat selection by grassland snakes….Considering the need for winter dens and summering areas, our data suggest that snakes in northern latitudes should ideally have much larger protected areas compared to snakes near the core of their range. An alternative strategy is to conserve corridors linking wintering dens and summer habitats. Retreat sites such as burrows and shrubs are critical components of local habitat and should be included in conservation plans.”

3) White, A.J., R.G. Poulin, B. Wissel, J.L. Doucette and C.M. Somers. (2012). Agricultural land use alters trophic status and population density of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) on the North American Great Plains. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90(7): 868-874.

4) Poulin, R.G. and D.T. Schowalter. (2011). First record of Preble’s Shrew in prairie Canada.  Blue Jay 69(3) 117-119.

5) Gardiner, L.E., J.A. Martino, R.G. Poulin, and C.M. Somers (2011). Eastern yellow-bellied racer populations on the Canadian prairies. Blue Jay 69(2): 70-74.

6) Poulin, R.G., L.D. Todd, E.A. Haug, B.A. Millsap and M.S. Martell. (2011). Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

7) Kwiatkowski, M.A., C.M. Somers, R.G. Poulin, D.C. Rudolph, J. Martino, T.D. Tuberville, C. Hagen and S.L. Lance. (2010). Development and characterization of 16 microsatellite markers for the Louisiana pine snake, Pituophis ruthveni, and two congeners of conservation concern.  Conservation Genetic Resources 2:163-166.

8)Floate, K.D., P. Bouchard, G. Holroyd, R. Poulin and T.I. Wellicome. 2008. Does doramectin use on cattle indirectly affect the endangered Burrowing Owl?  Rangeland Management and Ecology 61:543-553

9) Todd, L.D., R.G. Poulin, R.M. Brigham, E.M, Bayne, and T.I. Wellicome. 2007.  Pre-migratory movements of juvenile Burrowing Owls in a patchy Landscape.  Avian Conservation and Ecology 2(2): 4.  [online]

10) Poulin, R.G., L.D. Todd, T.I. Wellicome, and R.M. Brigham. 2006. Assessing the feasibility of release techniques for captive-bred burrowing owls.  Journal of Raptor Research 40(2):142-150.

11) Poulin, R.G. and L.D. Todd. 2006. Sex and nest stage differences in the circadian foraging behaviors of nesting burrowing owls. Condor 108:856-864.

12) Poulin, R.G., L.D. Todd, K.M. Dohms, R.M. Brigham, and T.I. Wellicome. 2005.  Factors associated with nest- and roost-burrow selection by Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) on the Canadian prairies.  Canadian Journal of Zoology 83:1373-1380.

13) Fisher, R.J., R.G. Poulin, L.D. Todd, and R.M. Brigham. 2004.  Nest stage, wind speed, and air temperature affect the nest defence behaviours of burrowing owls.  Canadian Journal of Zoology 82:707-713.

14) This article explains decreased Swainson’s Hawk productivity in grassland regions.

Houston, C.S. and Zazelenchuk, D. 2004. “Swainson’s Hawk Productivity in Saskatchewan, 1944 – 2004.” North American Bird Bander, 29(4). 174-178.

15) Todd, L.D., R.G. Poulin, T.I. Wellicome, and R.M. Brigham. 2003.  Post-fledging survival of burrowing owls in Saskatchewan.  Journal of Wildlife Management 67:512-519.

16)Poulin, R.G., T.I. Wellicome, and L.D. Todd. 2001.  Synchronous and delayed numerical responses of a predatory bird community to a vole outbreak on the Canadian Prairies. Journal of Raptor Research 35:288-295.

17) This article tracks the precipitous decline of the burrowing owl in Saskatchewan,  a species at risk found in some community pastures.
Skeel, M. A., Keith, J., and Palaschuk, C. S. 2001. A population decline recorded by Operation Burrowing Owl in Saskatchewan. Journal of Raptor Research, 35 (4):371-377.

18) This article addresses the value of native vegetation to bird species richness and diversity.

Sutter, G.C., and Brigham, R.M. 1998. “Avifaunal and habitat changes resulting from conversion of native prairie to crested wheat grass: patterns at songbird community and species levels.” Canadian Journal of Zoology, 76(5): 869-875, 10.1139/z98-018

“Many North American grassland songbirds are experiencing significant population declines, partly because of land-use practices associated with agricultural activity. The aim of this study was to compare the habitat correlates of songbirds breeding in native mixed-grass prairie with patterns found in introduced vegetation dominated by crested wheat grass (Agropyron pectiniforme).”

Nykoluk, C. 1995. “Biodiversity and livestock grazing.” Proceedings of the SERM Biodiversity Conference, Regina, SK.

“During the last 100 years of livestock production, markets have been cyclical; producers must be involved for the long term to realize economic benefits, or be lucky to hit the right cycle.  When good range management practices are employed, livestock grazing acts as a good example of sustainable agriculture.”

Forum Presentations

Faller Presentation – Pastures Forum Nov 2012. Historical context of Saskatchewan agricultural land and the need for PFRA pastures.

Blog Posts

Laura Stewart on Prairie Pastures.

…To those of us who know and love the pastures, it was a stunning announcement. We began to realize that we are few; that we have not spoken of what we know; we have assumed that others know and understand. As we began to talk and question, we discovered that we are now even fewer: any federal or provincial employees with any connection to the issue have been ordered not to talk. This is a profound injustice, when the issue is already rooted in disconnection, ignorance, and silence. The public does not know its own interest in these lands….

Blue Duets: Time and the Land. Perspective from a poet and concerned urban Saskatchewanian.

…What was I doing sitting behind a very tall man in a large black cowboy hat with a notebook tucked into the back of his jeans listening to the history of the PFRA?…I found myself in room full of ranchers and farmers, environmentalists and poets and artists, civil servants and psychology professors, considering what it means for the province to sell off the fragile pastures that have been protected since the 1930s when farming practices that didn’t take the quality of the soil or the possibility of drought into account led to huge clouds of prairie top soil falling into the Atlantic Ocean….


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