Sunday, October 27, 2013

Red Williams calls for our remaining grasslands to be protected

image courtesy of Hamilton Greenwood
I have written before in this space about how people of all political stripes are concerned about the disposal of the former PFRA pastures. (Here is a post based on a conversation I had with Rick Swenson, former Agriculture Minister under Grant Devine's Progressive Conservative government.)

Well, this week a friend forwarded to me a newsletter written by Charles Melville Williams, who most of us know as "Red" Williams, Professor Emeritus of Animal Science at the University of Saskatchewan. Widely respected in Agricultural research circles, Red is a Member of the Order of Canada (1989), and a Fellow of the Agricultural Institute of Canada. Red ran for the Liberal Party of Canada in 1988 and continues to be involved. (Here is a link to a page in the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan about Mr. Williams.)

At 87 years of age, Red is still very interested in public life and agricultural policy, writing and distributing a brief newsletter which he calls "The Monday Morning Memo". In his September 30th dispatch, he wrote some strong statements on the PFRA grasslands that bear repeating.

I contacted Red this week to get his permission to publish his comments in Grass Notes. Here they are (boldface added for emphasis):

Now or Never

When it comes to protection of the native prairie grasslands it is” now or never”. You get “one kick at the can” and then it is wishful thinking of those that regret not having made the right decisions. It is necessary to put the remaining native grasslands into protection in perpetuity now because it is the last chance.

We have statements from Saskatchewan Agriculture that ranchers are good stewards and on average that is true, but there will be some who will not always voluntarily meet that high standard and the chain is broken forever.

It is important that the provincial government puts a protection codicil on all the lands it releases to individuals, but more important the PFRA pastures must be put into permanent preserve. The failure of the federal government is no excuse for the provincial government to not pick up the responsibility.

It is not often that I find myself on side with those that “ are against everything”, but the simple fact that there is no second chance to get it right makes protection of the remaining natural grasslands and the associated wild life an easy issue to support.

Of course there are established ranchers that want to get their hands on some of these parcels, although there are others that need access to managed pastures. The pasture management committees are not always perfect in their practices so some overview is desirable. It all proves that ranchers, large or small are not always perfect stewards of the public’s land. It is hoped that this small missive and any responses that readers may provide will stiffen the back of Saskatchewan Agriculture in order to act for all citizens.

image courtesy of University of Saskatchewan "On Campus News"


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