Community pastures announcement raises more questions than answers

The proposed sale of community pastures in Saskatchewan is supported by virtually no one in the province or the country and today’s announcement by the provincial government raises more questions than it provides answers, according to the Agriculture Union – PSAC which has launched a campaign to protect the prairie grasslands in question.

“Today’s announcement raises more questions than answers.  For example, the release from the provincial government says patrons will be able to lease the land, but fails to say from whom,” said Milton Dyck, Regional VP for the Agriculture Union – PSAC in response to today’s announcement of the first 10 pastures to be transferred from federal to province responsibility in Saskatchewan.

Following the federal government’s decision to kill the Community Pastures Program and hand back responsibility for millions of acres of some of the last remaining sensitive prairie grasslands to the provinces, the government of Saskatchewan announced its intention to sell the land at market rates to ranchers who graze livestock on the pastures.

“This land will command something approaching $1 billion at market rates.  That’s a price tag that no rancher I know can afford.  All the other users of the pastures, from hunters to riders to naturalists, are concerned about continued access to the pastures.  No one wants them sold,” Dyck said.

After decades of restoring and conserving 2.5 million acres of much of the last remaining sensitive prairie grasslands, providing much needed grazing land to local ranchers and protecting several endangered species, the federal government announced the cancellation of the Community Pastures Program last March.

“This is a classic case of the federal government thumbing its nose at the province by handing off responsibility for these lands that have been under federal management for decades without meaningful consultation or regard for their significance to users or Canadians,” said Fabian Murphy, the First Executive Vice-President of the Agriculture Union – PSAC.

“Handing this off without consultation and in complete disregard of the consequences for users is completely irresponsible.  Not since the BSE crisis have ranchers faced a more uncertain immediate future.  This just adds to that uncertainty,” Dyck said.

The grasslands under management by the federal government for decades are rare and fragile landscapes that are home to several endangered species. 

With the support of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Saskatchewan branch and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, the Agriculture Union has launched a campaign to ensure that ironclad environmental and conservation guarantees are in place to protect the pastures going forward.

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