Thursday, October 8, 2015

Saskatoon's Northeast Swale at risk

from the cover of a Meewasin Valley Authority pamphlet on Saskatoon's Northeast Swale

“Remember: the disappearance of native prairie and wetland means the disappearance of thousands of years of natural and cultural history. This resource can never be replaced. Saskatoon’s Northeast Swale can be conserved with the support and stewardship of the surrounding community. Please take care of your Northeast Swale and educate others to its value.” From a pamphlet on Saskatoon's Northeast Swale natural area, written by the Meewasin Valley Authority

What do we do when an ecologically important natural area and green space on the edge of a growing city is scheduled to have a major roadway slice through its belly? Simple--just call it a "parkway," build some wildlife culverts, post some speed limits, and everything will be ok.

That seems to be the approach that the City of Saskatoon and the Meewasin Valley Authority is taking with the Northeast Swale, a rich natural area of more than 700 acres of native grass and wetlands just inside the city limits. And if that was not bad enough, the province is planning to build a second major artery--a city bypass--through the swale one kilometre away.

Here is a map showing the two roadways planned for the swale, in the upper right hand corner.

And here is a recent story in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix giving a bit of background.

Last week Saskatoon writer and naturalist Candace Savage (A Geography of Blood and Prairie: A Natural History) published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix a strong plea for saving the swale.

Dave Carpenter, writer, defender of natural areas and winner of this year's Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence, then followed up with this letter to the paper.

At the City Hall Council meeting this past Monday, Candace spoke and called the parkway and perimeter highway proposed within a kilometre of one another "a double whammy". In the Star-Phoenix report on the meeting, she said, "I'm afraid that despite all the intelligence and good will that has gone into the planning for the swale, it's going to fail because we aren't going far enough," Savage said. "We know with these major roadways coming through the swale there will be consequences."

As Candace wrote in a recent email, "the two major arteries will cut the Swale off from the natural east-west flow of the landscape, thereby fragmenting, isolating and undermining it."

As a large piece of rare intact grassland and wetland, the swale is a representative sample of the Aspen Parkland prairie that once stretched all across the middle of Saskatchewan. The Nature Conservancy of Canada says that less than 10 percent of the natural habitat in this ecoregion remains intact. The rest is growing canola and grain and urban subdivisions.

Really Meewasin? This is disappointing. Those of us suffering with the Wascana Park Authority in Regina have for years been pointing to you as a model of ecologically-minded planning. From your pamphlet on the swale there is no mistaking your pride and understanding of the ecological value of this "ancient river channel." You are better than this and you have a chance to prove it by protecting the swale from any development--roads included.

I am sure that you and the City of Saskatoon and the Province can put your heads together and find a better way.
Some last words from the Meewasin Valley Authority pamphlet again:

"Saskatchewan has lost more than 80% of its native prairie. Native grasslands are now one of the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet. The swale contains considerable areas of native prairie grasslands and offers high quality biodiversity, proximity to urban areas, economic benefits for recreation and education, and a natural filter for our air and water. The swale contains wetlands that provide a means of flood control for the surrounding community."

The badger is one of the rare creatures that depend on the swale as an intact corridor with no roadways intersecting (image courtesy of Hamilton Greenwood)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share this post

Get widget