Thursday, April 21, 2011

Issues on grassland I am following

Grasslands National Park, East Block
I did a fifteen minute radio interview the other day with Michael Short who does an outdoors program played by AM radio all over Alberta. We were talking about the Tax Recovery Lands issue in Alberta, where the Stelmach government seems determined to find a way to hand thousands of acres of ancient grasslands over to those who would like to plough it. (The program ran on April 17, but you can listen to the interview here. Go to the 6:50 point in the show and you should find the interview. It is a bit tricky though, because there seems to be an overlay of some other interview and every second time you click on the zone where my interview is (approx 6:50 to 20:26) you get the other interview. Click again and you should find the TRL discussion.)

But that is only one attack on prairie wildness that has come to my attention in recent days. Last week there was an editorial published in both the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Western Producer, written by the Reeve of Churchbridge, arguing that in fact destroying wetlands and ploughing most of the prairie under has brought more wildlife to the countryside. Take a look at it here and then keep your eyes out for a letter sent in response by Lorne Scott, Reeve of Indian Head.

Finally, the day before yesterday, I receieved word that the National Energy Board is considering a new gas pipeline that will be built right across some of the last large pieces of native grass in the province. If you have a moment look at some of these documents:

1.Draft Scope of Factors for the Environmental Assessment
2. Project description prepared for the NEB
3.NEB’s notice of public hearing on the project.

Does it cross native grassland? Here is what the project description document says:

Within Saskatchewan, habitat of high potential for listed species and other species of management concern includes native prairie and shrub/treed habitats, wetlands, riparian systems and valleys, and coulees. Land traversed and in the vicinity of the proposed development within Alberta is cultivated and is therefore of lesser value to listed species.

Worrisome. The doc also says on page 30 that the pipeline goes through Wildlife Habitat Protection Act lands (which begs the question of what the Sask Environment people are doing or not doing). Pipelines leave a big scar and will undoubtedly introduce weeds that will degrade the prairie.

With all of the cultivated cropland we have in this province they should be able to find a route through land that has already been destroyed!!

I see nothing in these documents about mitigation. Can they rip up miles and miles of native grassland, displace native species of plants, ruin habitat for species at risk, introduce invasive species, and then do nothing to make up for the loss? Don't they have to do some native grassland restoration work on equivalent acres they purchase or at the very least purchase conservation easements on other pieces of native grass that match the amount they destroy?

We are going to need Saskatchewan people to speak up at the hearings this fall, request intervenor status if they can (deadline is May 17) and ask the hard questions.


  1. Hi Trevor: It's all I can do to see this stuff anymore, I feel that it's a loosing battle. Big money and big conservative gov'ts are the worst enemy of any thing that has a spiritual side of life. Killing moose,coyotes wolve's and habitat are just something you do before breakfast. I have lost alot of respect for all these agencies that are there for the good of our land and wildlife. We just can't accept any other creature having a right to be here, business as usual, the only sacred cows are Big Business and Agriculture. The rest of us can only wait at the table............Neil

  2. I know what you mean, Neil. It can be discouraging. The forces aligned against prairie conservation seem to always have the upper hand, but the vigilance of groups like Nature Sask. and the Alberta Wilderness Association has really paid off in the last couple of years--with the Alberta Gov't backing down on the "Potatogate" lands boondoggle and the Sask Government reining in its plans to privatize Wildlife Habitat Protection Act Lands. If the government environment and fish and wildlife agencies are failing it's not because the people working there don't care. Every day they come to work and face powerful pressures to develop and make the prairie turn over more GDP--pressures from agriculture and the resource industry. As biologists and environmental bureaucrats they do everything they can to stop the destruction but their budgets and staff have been cut severely in the past 20 years. Even if they did have staff and money to do a better job of monitoring and defending our remainind wildness, though, the ministers and governments they work for can always suppress and ignore the science and advice they provide. As members of the public we have a responsibility to raise awareness of this abuse and to let the politicians know we don't like it.

    Thanks for reading and sending me your thoughts.


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