Monday, January 7, 2013

New citizen's group formed to speak in defence of the pastures

a corner of Brokenshell Community Pasture, with cultivated land just across the road


A group of people who attended our community pastures public forum in November has recently coalesced into a new citizens group advocating for the retention of the PFRA pastures as public land. We are calling ourselves "Public Pastures--Public Interest" (PPPI).

See below for our first news release. Meanwhile a group of like-minded Saskatoon people (perhaps they could be a Saskatoon area "chapter" of PPPI?) are planning another pastures public forum to be held in late February. Stay tuned for further details.

Anyone who would like to be added to our growing email list of PPPI members (no fee) can email me directly at trevorherriot@gmail.com or to our PPPI email address: public4pastures@gmail.com

Media Release—January 7, 2013



New Citizens Group Urges Retaining Public Ownership of Community Pastures



The future of the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) pastures the Federal Government recently returned to the Province of Saskatchewan may be in jeopardy, says a new group of rural and urban citizens who are throwing their support behind the growing number of people who want to see these lands retained under the Crown and managed professionally both for the long term benefit of livestock producers and for grassland conservation.



Public Pastures—Public Interest is a group of conservation-minded Saskatchewan residents who are urging the Government of Saskatchewan to ensure that these irreplaceable grasslands will continue to serve the broader public interests of all Saskatchewan people.



“We support the position taken by many producers, PFRA pasture patrons, and farm people around the province,” said naturalist Trevor Herriot, spokesperson for PPPI. “The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities and Agriculture Producers of Saskatchewan both passed strong resolutions requesting the Government of Saskatchewan retain ownership of the PFRA Pastures. We agree and hope we can work with others to ensure the pastures will be managed well for local agriculture and for conserving soil, water, and biodiversity.”



PPPI members are concerned that if this transition for the 62 PFRA pastures in Saskatchewan is not handled well, the lands could end up in the hands of corporations or groups who for any variety of reasons are unable or unwilling to continue managing them in ways that balance short term profit with the wider, long term interests of conservation.



“Right now, these pastures still belong to all Saskatchewan people,” said Herriot. “They are ecological, historical, and cultural resources that we should treasure and steward carefully for our children and grandchildren. They contain critical wildlife habitat, but also important archaeological sites in landscapes that evoke our history as prairie people: the natural prairie that supported our First Nations for millennia, the stories of the early open range ranching outfits, and finally our survival of the Dirty Thirties when the PFRA pastures were founded as a conservation initiative.”



PPPI maintains that this conservation work is, if anything, even more important today, because the province is down to less than twenty per cent of its original native grassland. This loss of habitat, among the most extensive on the continent, is the reason why the Great Plains Region of western Canada contains more Species at Risk than any other part of Canada. Well managed native grass sequesters carbon and conserves biodiversity, and soil and water quality in ways that cultivated landscapes cannot match.



PPPI is part of a growing community of urban and rural people in the province—farmers, ranchers, First Nations people, scientists, hunters, naturalists, and prairie enthusiasts of all kinds—who believe that the security of these pasture lands for livestock producers, conservation values and the people of Saskatchewan can best be served by the province retaining ownership of these last large vestiges of native grasslands.



Anyone who would like more information on Public Pastures—Public Interest can visit their website, http://pfrapastureposts.wordpress.com/



To arrange an interview with our media spokespersons, Trevor Herriot and Laura Stewart, email public4pastures@gmail.com or phone 306-585-1674 or 306-529-5753(cell).



Arrangements can also be made for an interview or photo session adjacent to Wellington Community Pasture, near the town of Tyvan, a fifty minute drive from Regina.

                                                                                                   

Who we are: Public Pastures—Public Interest draws together rural and urban Canadians who share an interest in conserving the great public grasslands of Saskatchewan. The province’s community pastures, totaling more than 2.5 million acres of grassland, most of it native, are ecological and cultural treasures that belong to all of us. They protect local soil and water quality, and provide ecological goods and services that reach far beyond the pasture land itself. The deep roots of native plants store carbon where trees cannot thrive. Many rare and fascinating plants and animals are found only in prairie landscapes, making our grasslands internationally significant for biodiversity. At the same time, these pastures provide fair access and affordable grazing for local livestock producers in a balanced system of environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Aims:

·         To help Saskatchewan people and their elected representatives safeguard the wellbeing and legacy of the province’s publicly-owned grasslands in the face of pressure from resource industries and other interests that could harm these internationally significant ecosystems.

·         To foster broad-based communities of support for the province’s public pastures, helping people to celebrate and grow in awareness of their ecological, cultural, and agricultural value.

·         To support a model of professional range management based on practical experience, scientific research, and ecological responsibility, integrating the needs of the ecosystems and livestock within a unified vision for all of Saskatchewan’s public pasture land.

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male chestnut-collared longspur (photo courtesy of Allan MacKeigan), one of many fascinating birds that depend on the native grasslands of Saskatchewan's community pastures

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