Sunday, July 28, 2013

Some miscellaneous thoughts and bits of news on grassland, PFRA pastures, etc

this Hereford calf was grazing in non-native grass just east of Regina
"Thank you for your comments on the proposed updates to The Provincial Lands Act.  Your comments have been received and will be reviewed in the coming weeks and considered as the new legislation is drafted. 

Your input and advice are most appreciated.

Wally Hoehn
Provincial Lands Act Review"
1. A couple of days ago the deadline passed for getting in public responses to ideas about changing Saskatchewan’s Lands Act. Why does it need changing? Maybe to do a better job of protecting our shared investment and common interest in healthy ecosystems on the millions of acres of land that we own together? Nope. The Saskatchewan Agriculture web page inviting comments on the discussion paper they have put out says "The Provincial Lands Act is outdated, making it more challenging for Government to meet clients' needs." Yep. We have to change the way we manage land to "meet clients' needs." For "clients" read the resource industry and others who want to make an income using the land. Of course there is nothing wrong with private income made on public lands, but it has to be on terms that protect the wider long term public interest in the health of those lands.

So there were meetings in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina to introduce the discussion paper and get public input, but by choosing mid-summer to discuss these matters, the Province is clearly hoping to avoid any real public participation or scrutiny. Not to be deterred, Public Pastures—Public Interest, the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association and other important stakeholder groups attended the meetings and sent in written responses before the deadline. Impossible to say exactly where this is headed, but I am mighty suspicious that the direction has very little to do with protecting the public good and a lot to do with liberating private interest. And, by the way, why is it that Sask Agriculture is always the department driving this kind of thing? Don't we have an Environment Ministry?

2.       2. When you get a moment, take a look at Richard Manning’s essay on the virtues of grass farming. Published by OnEarth magazine a couple of years ago, the essay, entitled “Graze Anatomy,”  gives a convincing account of how grass-farming can make a huge contribution to reducing our carbon footprint in North America while providing healthier meat (better balance of fats) for consumers and bringing greater ecological wellbeing to the Great Plains. I got to meet Manning a few years ago when he came to speak at the University of Regina. He is one of America’s best environmental writers and he understands what has happened in this part of the continent, the prairie, which he calls “an ecological sacrifice zone.”
Loggerhead Shrike on the Davin Moraine native grassland east of Regina

in a tame pasture east of Regina

 3. Here is a bit of a scoop—if you are a reader of Western Horseman, keep an eye out for an issue this fall or winter about the PFRA cowboys. WH is one of the world's biggest horse and cowboy culture magazines and boasts 200,000 subscribers. Last week, one of their writers came to Saskatchewan to ride along with a PFRA cowboy, touring his pasture and talking about the tradition of the PFRA, and its horseback managers and riders. Should be good.

4. Finally, some photos from bird trips this summer. First, a shot of a Marbled Godwit I saw on my Tyvan Breeding Bird Survey route. Good mix of birds this year, including two Sprague’s Pipits, a Grasshopper Sparrow, and 18 Upland Sandpipers!!

Marbled Godwit
I never did find out what this bird was nesting in the side of an old granary. Zooming the photo in did not help. I thought it was a house wren until I got home and looked again. Brewer's Blackbird maybe? Anyone know?


The next two shots show dozing Common Nighthawks in the picnic area of Two Trees Trail in the West Block of Grasslands National Park. A threatened species, the nighthawk has something of a stronghold in Saskatchewan’s Frenchman River Valley. They love to snooze on horizontal branches and fences when they get a chance. At the Val Marie PFRA pasture manager’s yard, we recorded 22 of them flying back and forth over a patch of trees.

Also managed to get a shot of a Ferruginous Hawk just south of the West Block. . . .

And in the same area, these two longspurs. First images shows a Chestnut-collared on the left and McCowns on the right, both males. The final photo shows the McCowns by itself. Both are on Canada’s Species at Risk list and are declining. McCown’s is endemic to the northern Great Plains and Saskatchewan has most of its breeding range, so we are especially responsible for maintaining its habitat. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for keeping us posted about the PFRA news. But thank you even more for the photographs that remind us why we're fighting.



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