There should be value assigned to protecting the natural world around us.
That said it is not always an easy thing to accomplish.
A broadly integrated approach is required if we are to conserve threatened ecosystem such as prairie grasslands. That was the clear message those attending an Earth Day presentation in Yorkton at an event hosted by the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association heard recently from speaker Kenton Lysak with the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon.
“Grasslands now are really one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world,” said Lysak.
Lysak said the loss of such grasslands has been dramatic.
“There’s only five per cent of what there was 100 years ago,” he said.
The loss of grasslands has been a result of human encroachment from urbanization and agriculture. However, Lysak is not one who sees farmers as “evil men with pitchforks.” He said he understands that farmers require land to grow food for a growing world population.
But Lysak said that does not mean efforts to protect what natural grasslands may remain should not be given priority.
That was one aspect of government operated cattle pastures which seems to have been lost as both the federal and provincial governments (at least in Saskatchewan), more to divest themselves of such pasture lands.
Pastures under the PFRA contain some of the largest remnants of native prairie in Canada and stretch over 1.5 million acres of land. Through the Community Pasture Program, native prairie has been sustainably managed, and over 358,000 acres of poor-quality cultivated lands have been returned to grass. Integral to the sustainable management of these lands is the grazing of cattle.
In the spring of 2012, the federal government announcement it would divest the pastures to the provincial governments.
It was a short-sighted decision at the federal level as it gave up control of the native prairie ecosystems within the pastures.
There are now public consultations on the future of the Saskatchewan pasture lands with the provincial government holding two public meetings on the future use of lands that are part of the Saskatchewan Pastures Program. The program consists of approximately 780,000 acres located at 50 sites throughout the province.
To expect any result other than a process of transferring the majority of the lands to private hands would seem to be overly optimistic from a conservationist point of view.
Even the process is being questioned in some quarters.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is certainly not pleased.
“We have Inherent and Treaty rights over all Crown lands: pasture lands, wildlife lands, provincial parks and national parks, and all bodies of water. Any potential sale will impact all of our First Nations,” said Chief Bobby Cameron in a release.
“First Nations people need to be brought on as co-managers of any new parks developed from these pastures on their traditional territory.”
Whatever the process, and whoever the partners, protecting the prairie grasslands needs to be at the top of the priority list, and so far it does not appear to be a key component of things.