Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Province confirms that public ownership is the best way to conserve the most ecologically significant lands

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister, Hon. Lyle Stewart makes the announcement as Environment Minister Cheveldayoff looks on (photo courtesy of Saskatoon Star-Phoenix)
Last week the Province announced a new plan for the Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA) lands in Saskatchewan.The announcement declared that the following triage system would determine which, if any, Crown lands in the WHPA could be sold:

  • Approximately 1.7 million acres with high ecological value will be retained under Crown ownership and WHPA protection;
  • Approximately 1.3 million acres with moderate ecological value may be eligible for sale with the protection of a Crown conservation easement; and
  • Approximately 525,000 acres with lower ecological value may be eligible for sale, without restrictions.
While the conservation community might prefer that all of the lands be retained under WHPA and Crown ownership, this announcement introduces an important new "science-based" Crown Land Ecological Assessment Tool, or CLEAT that allows the government to "categorize lands based on their ecological value and risk of development."  

As much as we might like to see CLEAT protect all Crown lands from privatization, at this point I think we have to congratulate and give credit to the Province, especially to Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart, and to the hard-working biologists, ecologists, and agrologists in Saskatchewan Environment and Sask Agriculture. In cooperation with Saskatchewan's primary conservation NGOs (Nature Saskatchewan, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited, and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation), they have developed a model and a land management strategy that clearly places a high value on public ownership of our most ecologically significant lands. CLEAT recognizes that the strongest form of protection is sustained public ownership, and, to quote again from the Province's website

"supports implementation of the Southern Conservation Land Management Strategy and its goal of maintaining appropriate protection based on land’s ecological values. The tool considers a variety of factors, including:
  • natural cover
  • unique ecological features
  • road density
  • species at risk reports
  • size of the parcel
  • proximity to other conservation lands
  • activity on adjacent lands
The assessment provided by the CLEAT is considered, during the review of the potentially salable parcel, to determine whether land may be sold."

It would be fair to assume that the province's scientists and the conservation NGOs will ensure that the PFRA community pastures will also be put through the CLEAT system and this new "Southern Conservation Land Management Strategy".

As everyone who has experience with the PFRA pastures knows, these grasslands would rise to the top of the list based on that list of factors used in CLEAT, placing them in the category of land that must not be sold.

1 comment:

  1. Such wonderful news. I always get excited and even hopeful when people make decisions based on science.


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