WANUSKEWIN — Wanuskewin Heritage Park Chief Executive Officer Darlene Brander remembers when the bison herd now helping to preserve the ecosystem of the park was reintroduced to its traditional home on the prairie, approximately three years ago.
That’s why Brander says she is excited about Federated Co-operatives Limited donation of $1 million to help fund programs, resource management activities and Wanuskewin's application to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Co-op CEO Heather Ryan led FCL officials who attended Tuesday’s event at the bison viewing site where their corporate logo will be added as a symbol of their partnership.
Saskatchewan Minister for Parks, Culture and Sports Laura Ross and Saskatoon city councillor Zach Jeffries were also present to show support from the provincial and city governments.
Brander said they also wanted to highlight the uniqueness of the lands that are within Wanuskewin on their application to become a UNESCO site, a decision that could be made by 2025.
She added FCL stepping up with its generous donation would ensure they could convey the message further of Wanuskewin’s unique biome that was once inhabited by bison herds, before their numbers dwindled in the northern plains more than 150 years ago
“The core of our UNESCO application is to articulate what makes Wanuskewin unique and what its outstanding universal value is. It is no mean feat at all,” said Brander, who added that the bison herd is helping preserve the ecosystem.
“It's a job that our bison are doing in a great way through their grazing. They are helping preserve and conserve the land. It's an endangered biome. And so, with co-op support, we can highlight and showcase that biome, which is so important and that will be part of the buffer for UNESCO.”
Mary Lee, a member of Wanuskewin’s Elders Council who delivered the opening prayer in Cree, said it has always been an honour for her to come to the heritage park. “For me, it’s a place that replenishes my energy.”
Ryan said that it has always been FCL’s vision to help build sustainable communities, which is why they also saw the need to support the causes and programs of the WHP leadership with the ultimate goal of earning UNESCO World Heritage Site distinction.
“We have a social responsibility committee that looks at different opportunities and different things that we can do. This is one of the opportunities that was discussed through those partnerships.”
Ross said WHP earning a UNESCO heritage site designation would be a great opportunity to highlight the province and the people of Saskatchewan.
“Research and studies show that a designation such as the UNESCO heritage site increases tourism. It’s not just Wanuskewin that would benefit, but the whole province. The people would gain more understanding of what Wanuskewin has to offer,” said Ross.