April 18, 7-9 pm at the Frances Morrison Central Library Theatre
Join speakers Candace Savage and Larry Beasley after a viewing of the film “Division Street”.
Is conservation an issue in the provincial election? Trevor Herriot argues, in the Leader-Post, that it should be:
In 2012, the federal government cut the PFRA community pasture program, placing the lion’s share of our protected grasslands in limbo. The Saskatchewan government chose to pass on management responsibility for these ecologically rich lands to private grazing corporations, offering to lease or sell them. By any application of the IUCN criteria for protection, you can no longer count conservation land stripped of its biodiversity programming, then leased or sold primarily for cattle grazing.
So where is Saskatchewan at then, once we remove the WHPA lands for sale and PFRA pastures from the tally of protected areas? Our protected area percentage drops from 8.7 to 6.34 per cent — nowhere near the 17-per-cent commitment under Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity Targets and Goals and half our original RAN commitment.
Andrea Olive, expert on Species at Risk legislation, has an editorial in the Star-Phoenix questioning the claims of Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister that species at risk are protected in this province. This is an important issue as federal community pastures containing species at risk are transferred to provincial control.
“Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart has been telling the people of Saskatchewan that the provincial government cares about endangered species and will protect them. He has assured everyone that the sale of the PFRA lands will not affect the protection of grassland birds…
If Saskatchewan is doing as good a job as Stewart has been telling us, then why does Environment Canada need to step in on provincial land? What is the Saskatchewan government doing? Why has the sage grouse declined 98 per cent since 1988 if Saskatchewan has two laws in place to protect species at risk? This is a big deal Saskatchewan. This is the first time the federal government has ever used emergency protection for an endangered species.”
PPPI has argued for the importance of the Species at Risk legislation and worries that there is no equivalent protection for provincial lands. However, it is acknowledged that even SARA has limited powers. This article goes into more detail.
“…The law states clearly that the government has nine months to make a decision about listing the species under SARA. The law also states that if no decision is taken, the species is automatically listed. This timeline was intended to prevent species at risk from being lost due to unintentional or willful government inaction.
However, recent ministers have decided to leave many of the files in limbo, not transmitting them to cabinet and so not starting the nine-month stopwatch. Indeed, over the last four years, 92 of the 141 COSEWIC assessments have never been officially transmitted. The result is that many endangered species in Canada are being put on hold, neither accepted as being at-risk nor officially rejected….”
Pasture Patrons in an untenable position as deadline looms
The Community Pasture Patrons Association is today issuing a public call for pastures slated for closure this fall to be given the option of a one year delay allowing for outstanding issues to be resolved.
Pasture patron groups are being asked to develop business plans and structure which must be approved by government by the fall of this year. To date there are many central business questions the two levels of government have not resolved leaving patrons with too many unknowns to make sound business decisions. Many of the first 10 pastures set to close have land classified as Federal non reversionary land of which the future is not determined. Federal non reversionary lands are those land which will not be turned back to the province and may not be available as part of the pasture in the future. For a number of the first ten pastures in Saskatchewan it has been determined that the headquarters are on non reversionary land. It is not reasonable to expect patron groups to build a business case without knowing what land will be available.
In addition to not being certain which lands will be available, many other asset and liability questions remain unanswered. Governments have not determined the future of all assets which are non fixed assets, including bulls, machinery and other equipment. Patrons wishing to develop a business plan do not know if they can include these assets in their planning.
Government ministers have assured the public that species at risk will be enforced on these lands. To date there has been no information as to whose responsibility it will be to fulfill this guarantee. Invasive and noxious weeds represent a large potential liability and there has been no progress on determining how these costs will be covered. In many pastures, decommissioning of old water wells remains outstanding with the associated liabilities. Patron groups are being asked to submit proposals without all of the associated risks and liabilities being understood.
“Farmers and ranchers are being asked to put their money and time on the line to save their pastures from sale to a third party while governments are not in a position to provide the information needed to develop a plan”, said Ian McCreary, chair of CPPAS .
“Pasture Managers and PFRA staff who are key to the long term sustainability and management of these pastures have been given layoff notices by government. Patron groups will need these managers to be successful yet governments are making it impossible to provide these people any assurance that a job will be available.” said Clint Christianson of Bracken Sask
“The community pasture system has been in place for three generations. It is not reasonable for governments to expect patrons to pull together business plans during the four busiest months of the growing season especially in light of the list of outstanding issues yet to be resolved by governments. said Joanne Brochu a cattle producer and patron from Colonsay.
The Community Pasture Patrons Association of Saskatchewan (CPPAS) is a newly formed patrons organization representing the majority of pasture patrons working together to develop viable long term plans for the sustainable future of community pastures.
And an article on the issue from the Leader-Post.
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
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.
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.”