Tag Archives: PFRA

Saskatchewan Election: Protecting our Grasslands

22 Mar
With the Saskatchewan provincial election in full swing, and an election date of April 4, 2016, we have created some material for bringing forward the concerns about the PFRA Community Pastures and publicly-owned grasslands.
A handout to give candidates, with recommendations for things they can do. It is a thumbnail sketch of the complexities of the Community Pastures and grasslands issues, but we hope it conveys the essentials.
There are many ways to influence direction at at the time of an election.
  • Talk to the candidates that knock on your door or that you meet at events.Take courage – you have the right to present your views and even a short conversation has an effect.
  • Attend all-candidate forums and ask about the environment, agriculture, public pastures and grasslands, even though other issues seem to be dominating the airwaves.
  • Write a letter or email or make a phone call to your local candidates. Drop by their constituency office and have a chat about  your views.
  • Write a letter to the editor to the newspaper, or local community paper.
  • Put forward your views on social media.
  • Talk to your neighbours.
  • Do a creative video, or just a short simple interview on your camera or smartphone, and post it on You-Tube.
  • Send a message via Twitter
Grasslands could become an election issue!

Protected Areas: Saskatchewan’s “Geography of Hope” at risk

14 Mar

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.

PPPI AGM – March 19

7 Mar

We hope you can come out to the Public Pastures-Public Interest Annual General Meeting on March 19!

If you cannot attend in person, your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated via phone or e-mail.

Like any organization, we are always happy to have people come forward who are willing to assist with the individual tasks needed to carry out our work or to participate on the PPPI Board.

The agenda follows and can also be seen here: PPPI AGM 2016 agenda

PPPI Annual General Meeting

Saturday March 19, 2016, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

United Way Building, 1440 Scarth St., Regina, Saskatchewan

9:30     Coffee and registration

10:00   Annual General Meeting

  • Welcome & Introductions
  • Report on past year – Highlights of PPPI activities and achievements  – Trevor Herriot
  • Financial Report
  • Election of Board

11:00   PPPI Roles & Projects

12:00   Lunch

12:45   Grassland photographs, an audio-visual presentation by Branimir Gjetvaj

1:00    “Nature connection and place attachment: Roles of personal attachment and motivation in conservation” – Katherine Arbuthnott

1:30     Where do we go from here?  Current situation concerning the pastures and objectives for the future – Lorne Scott

  • Interactive discussion with audience on current issues and future options

3:15     Next Steps

4:00     Adjournment

An RSVP is helpful but not required for attendance. If possible, to assist with planning for lunch and space, please RSVP to public4pastures@gmail.com or call (306)-515-0460.

A donation will be requested to cover the cost of lunch.

Parking is available in the parking lot North of the United Way building and the entrance to the Community Room is on the North side of the building.

The building is wheelchair accessible.

Reversing the Damage: Report

29 Feb

This report out of the Manitoba CCPA, Reversing the Damage: How the Federal Liberals Can Restore Hope on the the Prairies discusses cuts to federal programs and employees, such as the closure of the PFRA Community Pastures Program (see pages 7-9 of the report). It contains recommendations for ensuring the continued stewardship of best management of the pastures.

Making a Difference for the Community Pastures and our Grasslands

16 Feb

We have received word that there is a possibility that the new federal government may consider reviewing the Harper decision to dump the PFRA pastures system. However, we are told that, for that to happen, our elected MPs, and the Minister of Agriculture Canada in particular, must hear about it from concerned citizens.

So we are asking everyone to send letters to the Minister of Agriculture, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as well as the Hon. Ralph Goodale and the Prime Minister as soon as possible (see addresses below).

We have a brief window of opportunity to convey our deep concerns over the demise of the PFRA Pastures in Saskatchewan and to ask for the federal government to halt the transfer of the pasture lands and conduct a full review of the Harper government’s decision.

Your letters need not be long and detailed. A simple approach is to ask the federal government to halt the transfer of these pastures to the province of Saskatchewan which is not recognizing, managing or investing in the value of public goods on these vanishing grasslands.

We have heard from government sources that it important to emphasize the climate change benefits of native grassland but you should use your own words and choose any of the points listed below stating why these grasslands are important to you (e.g. climate change mitigation, conservation, Species at Risk, hunting, etc.) Tell them you want to live in a Canada that protects endangered landscapes and sustainable agriculture initiatives like the PFRA system always did.

We would also like people to request a full Strategic Environmental Assessment of the risks to the natural and human heritage in the PFRA Pastures, in accordance with The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.

It is very important that you include your full name and address, even if you are sending an email. Politicians always note the location where correspondence comes from. Be sure to request a reply to your letter.

Below are some points you may wish to reference in your letter. We suggest you select two or three and use your own words.

–    The Community Pasture lands are not “just agricultural lands.”

–   These pastures contain the largest and best managed grasslands in Saskatchewan.

–   Some 80% of our natural landscape in southern Saskatchewan has been lost to development.

–   These pastures are part of Canada’s commitment to its 2020 Biodiversity Goals, in accordance with the Global Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

–   Prairie grasslands are vital elements of the public trust every bit as precious as our northern forests and lakes

–   The prairies have more Species at Risk than any other region of Canada.

–   Over 30 Species At Risk are found on the pastures.

–   Carbon sequestration is an important benefit of native grasslands.

–   Soil and water conservation is provided by the pastures.

–   Pastures contain many heritage sites from indigenous people and homesteaders.

–   Pastures provide important hunting opportunities, generating $70 million annually.

–   Keeping the pastures publicly owned is the best way to protect the many benefits they provide.

–   Indigenous rights to access the land based on international declarations would be harmed by privatization of the land.

–   Producers should not be expected to pay for managing the land for public benefits.

–  The many public benefits should be maintained and enhanced with public dollars.

–  The Canadian people’s 75 year investment in the Community Pastures could be lost by eliminating the federal support for Community Pastures.

Address your letters to:

The Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca

Send copies to the PM and Ministers listed:

The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca

The Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and MP for Regina-Wascana

ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca

The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca

The Right  Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

If you send your letter by regular mail, all mailing addresses are: House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0A6

No postage is required on any mail addressed to the House of Commons.

Many thanks, for your support. We believe we have a chance to make a difference with this letter campaign. Your letters are very important and could help turn the tide.

PPPI 2015 AGM

26 Mar

PPPI 2015 AGM and Speakers

Saturday March 28, 2015
1:00 – 5:00 pm
United Way Building, 1440 Scarth St., Regina, Saskatchewan

AGENDA

1:00 Welcome & Introductions

1:15 Report on past year and upcoming focus

1:30 Speakers – What Are Pastures For?

− Philip Brass, Artist and traditional foods harvester: Indigenous peoples’ uses of pastures

− Chris Nykoluk, Retired (former Range Management Specialist, AESB-AAFC): Management of pastures for cattle production and conservation

− Pat Rediger, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Trails Association: Recreational use of pastures

2:15 Highlights of PFRA Pastures Transition Study

2:30 Fred Baran, Councillor, RM of Dundurn: Rural Municipalities and pastures

2:45 AGM business (closed to media)

Lots of news coverage of PFRA Pastures Transition Study

19 Feb

– Leader Post article

Groups wants changes to provincial pasture plan

– Western Producer article

Pasture transition needs changes: Sask report

– Swift Current Online

APAS Calling for New Approach to Pasture Transition

and

Stewart Speaks on Pasture Lease Fees

– Saskatoon Home Page

Pasture Transition Needs Changes

– Grenfell Sun

APAS calls for new approach to PFRA pasture transition

Joint PFRA Pasture Study Released

10 Feb

APAS Calls for New Approach to PFRA Pasture Transition

February 10, 2015

Regina: Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), Community Pasture Patrons Association of Saskatchewan (CPPAS), Public Pastures – Public Interest (PPPI) and Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) examined Saskatchewan’s approach to pasture transition and found it would adversely affect the livestock industry in Saskatchewan.

“We are asking the Saskatchewan Government to take a hard look at its current approach to the transition of the 62 PFRA pastures which affects 1.8 million acres or 2,500 ranchers,” says Norm Hall, APAS President. “The current process is inefficient, short and long-term costs will rise substantially for patrons, and public expectations and regulations for pastures could prove to be unworkable.”

The study (executive summary here) commissioned by the four partners is anchored in the following principles:

  • Conserving native grassland is critically important;
  • Land use should re-inforce the economic viability of our livestock sector;
  • Natural working ecosystems must be preserved over the long term;
  • Business and governance systems must be efficient and effective;
  • Producers should not be expected to pay for public benefits.

(Full Report can be found here.)

The approach taken by Saskatchewan is to increase revenues at the expense of producers and to offload responsibility for the environment from the public sector to pasture patrons. Pasture patrons are being asked to pay a full Crown land grazing rate. They are required to provide full public access and manage and report on the ecological, environmental and endangered species on native landscapes without required resources. “A level playing field is required,’ says Ian McCreary, CPPAS Chair.

“Preserving a working natural landscape where hunters and naturalists can share the pasture system into the future must be maintained,” says Darrell Crabbe, Executive Director, SWF. “Pasture patrons cannot be expected to shoulder the costs of sourcing the expertise required and providing ongoing public benefits.”

“APAS is concerned over the long term viability of the livestock industry in Saskatchewan,” says Hall. “We have a shrinking beef breeding herd and livestock producer numbers are falling. The current approach leads to a further acceleration of producers leaving the industry. Pasture patrons may fall by one-half. The current approach closes the opportunity for young producers to enter the industry. A different approach is needed if we are to build a strong, sustainable Saskatchewan livestock industry.”

Norm Hall
President, APAS

Ian McCreary
Chair, CPPAS

Darrell Crabbe
Executive Director, SWF

Trevor Herriot
Public Pastures-Public Interest

Update on the Pastures and Grasslands: Threats, Current Status, What’s Next

28 Nov

Thanks to everyone who came out to the sold-out Grasslands premiere last Wednesday! If you’d like to see another excellent short film on the topic, check out Megan Lacelle and Kaitlyn Van De Woestyne’s video featuring a former PFRA cowboy.

In the meantime, an update on Saskatchewan’s Crown Grasslands and the PFRA pastures from Trevor Herriot, who spoke at the Grasslands premiere:

The Priceless Value of our Crown Grasslands

• Saskatchewan has lost a lot of its native prairie, as we all know—we have less than 21% of the old-growth grassland that was here with the buffalo and plains people for thousands of years.

• But we still have roughly 5 M hectares left—the trouble is most of that is in small bits of ten to fifty hectares here or there in isolated parcels; and most is privately owned. The good news is that around 30% of our grassland receives some kind of conservation or public oversight—either because it is owned by government or private conservation agencies.

• The very best public management of our grassland was done by the federal PFRA community pastures system. 728,000 hectares in 62 parcels in Sask., representing a big piece of our remaining native prairie, and some of the largest contiguous blocks that are big enough to function ecologically as grassland.

• It is widely accepted that our forests in the north need to remain under the Crown so we can ensure that we have at least a chance to serve the public interest in maintaining healthy forests.

• It should be the same with our Crown-owned grasslands—they are not just pastures for cattle production any more than a forest is only standing lumber.

• PPPI believes that our publicly owned grasslands are much more than merely grazing lands, though they are vital to the wellbeing of Saskatchewan’s cattle industry and have helped farmers stay diversified and helped the next generation of cattle producers get started.

• These grasslands are our shared heritage, stewarded for millennia by Indigenous people who, along with our ranchers and the rest of the public, deserve to have a voice in how they will be managed and used into the future.

Threats

• But in recent years, there has been increasing economic pressure to privatize our grasslands and reduce public oversight and regulation of how they are managed.

• It started with the threat in 2010 to sell off Saskatchewan’s Wildlife Habitat Protection Act lands, which have for decades been protected as important grassland and wetland habitat.

• Saskatchewan’s Lands Branch is now selling 738,000 hectares that were protected under the Act, retaining another 688,000 that they have determined to be of the highest ecological value.

• After that, in 2012, the Harper government announced that the Federal PFRA pastures would be transferred back to Saskatchewan. At first the Province said they would sell them.

PPPI’s formation

• The conservation community and many of the grazing patrons using the pastures objected strongly. And out of that concern, Public Pastures—Public Interest was formed–in fact it was this week, Agribition Week, two years ago when we were founded at a forum we held with conservationists, First Nations people and cattle producers.

• Since then, 46 organizations in Canada and the United States have endorsed our guiding principles of keeping our public grasslands in the public domain and advocating for ecologically sound management that will protect their natural and human heritage into the future.

• Our membership and the thousands of people who support our endorsing organizations believe that protection under the Crown will be placed at risk if we allow the land to be privatized OR if we allow the land to be managed in ways that do not serve the interest Saskatchewan people share in maintaining healthy grassland places.

Current status of PFRA grasslands

• So where are things at right now for those 62 pastures being transferred to the province?

• The good news is that the Province has listened to people’s concerns and shifted from selling the lands to leasing them out to the groups of grazing patrons. But they say that the pastures are still available for the patron groups to purchase. So far no takers and not a single acre has been sold.

• So we must remain vigilant to ensure that these ecologically critical grasslands are not removed from the Crown.

• The first ten pastures were transferred to the province this year and the responsibility for management was handed over to the grazing patron groups who will lease each pasture. After the initial difficulties of adjusting, most groups did well this year we are hearing.

• With lots of grass in a wet year like this and record prices for cattle, though, one season is not enough to measure the success of the transition. Only time will tell.

• For now, each pasture is using a paid manager, but with the financial arrangements they are working under that may be difficult to maintain over time.

• Experienced range managers and grassland conservationists are worried that in the long run the organizations of grazing patrons may for convenience sake or to cut costs just decide to cross-fence their pasture into smaller paddocks to let each patron graze according to his own plan. You get this piece and I get this piece, we all manage our own cattle.

Ecological Benefits of management for the public interest

• There are ecological benefits and long term range management values served by keeping the whole pasture managed together in a coherent system where all the patrons’ animals are co-mingled. That was the strength of the PFRA system and it ensured that the conservation values were maintained over the long run.

• Grassland ecologists will tell you that a wider array of native grassland dependent birds, for example, tend to do better on larger pastures that are not over-stocked or cross-fenced. When fenced pastures are small and the stocking levels high, some bird species will decline and the few that like short, heavily grazed land will survive.

Public access issue

• As well, the whole issue of public access remains to be seen. The patrons are being told they only lease the land during the grazing months. In fall and winter their lease does not apply. That provides access for hunters, but not for other uses.

• But they feel this is unfair because they are paying the same lease rates that individual leaseholders pay for Crown grassland that they control access to year round. So, understandably, the former PFRA patrons are saying “if we don’t get to control year-round access like private leaseholders do then why should we have to pay the same lease rates?”

• But for now at least, as I said, these wonderful expanses of native grass will remain in the public domain.

• But that also means that the public interest in the wellbeing of these lands and in having access to them—for research, for indigenous peoples’ hunting and medicine gathering, for recreation, birding and hunting—is still there and if anything stronger than ever.

• Which is also good news—the conservation community, our First Nations and Metis organizations, and heritage groups remain committed to ensuring that these lands are managed as well as they have been for the past 75 years under the PFRA.

• Managing land for these interests—and all the others such as the hundreds of archaeological sites, the 31 species at risk that use these lands, the soil and water conservation—is a responsibility that must be shared.

Manitoba approach is better

• By contrast, in Manitoba, where they also are putting their PFRA pastures through a transition, an entirely different approach is being used.

• The pastures are being handled together as a unitary system and they must follow rangeland management prescriptions (for invasive species, species at risk, grass management, aspen encroachment, etc.).

• A “Range Management Implementation Group” has been established with representation from provincial govt Ag and water and conservation agencies, the new Manitoba Association of Community Pastures, as well as from Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), and Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation has been established.

• This Range Mgt Group is currently designing the criteria, monitoring and reporting procedures that will be used for pasture management prescriptions in the future. When complete, these protocols will be applied by Manitoba Agriculture to prepare and administer the rangeland prescriptions for each pasture to ensure the ecological integrity of lands in the system is sustained.

• This is the direction we believe Saskatchewan should go, with the addition of bringing Aboriginal people to the table as well.

Public investment

• The public—you and I and all Canadians—invested our tax dollars into the good public stewardship of these lands for 75 years, so that the soil would be protected, the creeks and wetlands managed well, and the rare prairie plants, birds and other animals would have some refuge in habitat where the grazing would be applied in a unitary system of range management for long term ecological values.

• Of course, as we are regularly reminded, private leaseholders and landowners are often just as good at stewarding grassland. True, and public ownership is no guarantee of good stewardship. But good stewards get old and die. The cattle industry is, like much of modern agriculture, struggling to maintain its traditional stewardship values and to help younger producers get started—and of course community pastures, if they are run right, could help with that generational hand off.

• Public ownership can be a buffer against market forces and changes in land use that can threaten our native grasslands and the stewardship traditions of cow-calf ranching culture.

What’s next for PPPI?

• We must continue to monitor what happens to our community pastures to prevent any sales from taking place.

• As well, PPPI is looking for ways to connect the public interest in healthy well-managed grasslands with the ranchers desire to steward the land well—and to work government, with agricultural organizations and conservation groups to make that happen without undue levels of regulation and oversight.

• The public interest in supporting good stewardship practices may ebb and flow over time but, as long as land remains in the public domain, we have recourse as citizens to participate in the public process of how that land and its ecological values and heritage will be sustained and accessed.

• With your support PPPI intends to continue participating in that process to work on your behalf and on the behalf of those who do not have any representation or way to voice their interest in the health of our remaining grasslands.

Earth Day News! Species at Risk Factsheet

25 Apr

MEDIA RELEASE

EARTH DAY: PRESERVE PASTURES FOR NATIVE SPECIES AND PEOPLE

REGINA, SK: Public Pastures – Public Interest is honouring Earth Day by publicly releasing a factsheet on Species at Risk on the PFRA pastures.
The pastures are home to over 30 officially designated Species at Risk – mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct in Canada.

“Keeping the pasturelands public will help ensure that we can put provisions in place to maintain the habitat that preserves these species for future generations”, said Trevor Herriot, co-chair of PPPI.

The pastures also provide ecological benefits, such as carbon sequestration by the grasses and other plants, and filtering and purifying water.
And, the pastures are also important to people.

“In addition to cattle ranchers, residents of the province utilize and enjoy the use of the pastures”, said Lorne Scott, PPPI co- chair. “This includes hunters, photographers, First Nations, researchers and the general public on educational tours”.

“PFRA Community Pastures have been a significant asset to rural Saskatchewan for decades”, noted Herriot. “Detrimental effects to the pastures would mean that the way of life for the small ranchers, their families and communities is threatened. Privatizing the pastures could mean that First Nations people would not be able to access the lands for hunting and gathering that is their right on Crown lands,” noted Herriot. “In some ways the way of life for the ranchers and the people that practice an Indigenous traditional ways can also be considered at risk.”

“People and animals are part of an inter-related earth community. And the community pastures are a rare opportunity to protect wild species, ecosystems and local economies in a sustainable and healthy community.”

Further Information:
Public Pastures—Public Interest, public4pastures@gmail.com, cell 306-515-0460
Trevor Herriot, trevorherriot@gmail.com , home 306-585-1674
Lorne Scott, lorne.scott@sasktel.net , home 306-695-2047, cell 306-695-745