|Elise Dale, PFRA Pasture Rider on the Wolverine Pasture|
Her story testifies to the need for public input and oversight through professional managers who answer to an agency that protects the public interest in these important conservation areas. Without such oversight independent from direct financial interests in the pastures, things like species at risk protection will fall unfairly on the shoulders of the leasing pasture patrons.
Here is Elise's story:
I grew up on a mixed farming operation, in close proximity to the Wolverine PFRA pasture and three generations of my family have brought cattle to the pasture to graze. I always had an interest in cattle & horses. I raised both, I had a small cow/calf operation until the time factor got in the way of breeding & training quarter horses.
I was lucky to be offered a job at the Wolverine pasture and have worked there as a rider the past few years. From early on I was always in awe of the native American history in this pasture, Spoony Lake is a unique place, up on the north bank there sits a teepee ring with a fire pit and a perfect view of the lake and many times while checking this field Weisbeck (the manager) and I have mused how perfect a spot this is to catch the breeze off the lake with the picturesque view.
Up on the buffalo jump, hunting blinds have weathered the years. Passing these structures, they always make me wonder to myself about the hunters that drew the short stick and were planted up there to turn the herd of bison, some of the blinds have been scattered from the elements and cattle rubbing on them, but one sits almost perfectly unscathed. I wonder, now more than ever, how many people will get to enjoy the very last of our wide open spaces and the story that this land tells.
This pasture was land abandoned in the 1930's and taken over by the federal government to rehabilitate. Their mandate was noble: rehabilitate the land and return it to a functional state. They did just that, they hired and educated a new breed of conservationist, people who appreciate the land and the wildlife living off it. I believe the term environmental stewardship fits here. The man I work for, Eric Weisbeck is one of these men, not a preachy tree hugger but a rational conservationist, and environmental steward.
|Eric Weisbeck, Wolverine Pasture Manager, photo courtesy of Brian Payne|
He has done a great job of managing the grass and has made this pasture prosper for over a decade. The Wolverine pasture encompasses more than 16,000 acres and not only grazes cattle but is a rich wildlife preserve. Its became a wildlife haven for at risk bird species, Sprague's Pippet, among countless other bird species, as well as mule deer, white tail, elk, and moose.
The current situation arising from the federal governments decision to cut the P.F.R.A pastures is perplexing to me, With an abundance of gravel in this pasture, local and surrounding municipalities, and provincial government bodies are trying to secure their piece of it. I believe steps need to be taken with proper conservation and archaeological easements, as well as mining regulations on gravel pits so this land will thrive under new owners and managers. How the land with the gravel will fair through all this weighs in the decision of which entity will be given the rights to determine how, when and where the natural resources will be extracted. i.e. government bodies or pasture group, who has the best interest of both environment and resources in mind?
I am not sure I have the answers as to what should happen with the gravel extraction. If left in the hands of the producer group, given the chance they may jump on the chance to subsidize their grazing rates by selling gravel or selling land to interested parties. By the state the provincial government leaves their other gravel pits in their control, I wouldn't be easily convinced that they would manage them in a respectable manner. Guidelines need to set so that interested government bodies will not rape the land for its gravel and a piece of our countries unique heritage will be lost forever.
|Spooner Lake, in Wolverine Community Pasture, image courtesy of Elise Dale|