A pilot ditch mowing project by Saskatchewan’s highways department is expected to cut down on wildlife roadkill but still allow farmers to harvest ditch hay.
Highways Minister Wayne Elhard said Thursday that contractors, starting June 7, will mow a four-metre-wide strip along the highway shoulder in all provincial ditches during the month of June.
But “remaining ditch vegetation will be untouched by mowers involved in this pilot project,” the province said.
“Mowing a portion of provincial highway ditches earlier in the year is expected to improve drivers’ sight lines so they have more time to react to wildlife crossing a road,” Elhard said in a release. “That extra split second could make all the difference.”
Starting July 8, farmers or anyone may cut and bale the hay or grass in a highway ditch without contacting or getting the permission of the nearby landowner, lessee or designate, provided that a harvest hasn’t started already.
Before that date, a landowner or lessee nearest to a highway ditch has the first option to cut or bale in that ditch.
“Farmers and ranchers will still be able to salvage hay from public land for free later in the summer, usually around July,” said Elhard, a former farmer and ag equipment salesman from Eastend, Sask.
By the time hay salvage activities begin around July, the mowing in June of the four-metre wide area should have started growing back, the province said, but it acknowledged that “in some cases, hay salvage yields for (a) producer may decrease.”
Following the pilot project in June and the annual hay salvage deadline in July, regular ditch maintenance mowing will start July 15 and run until Oct. 15, the province said.
The assorted mowing and haying activity “help control weeds and enhance aesthetics in tourism areas,” the province added.
Bales of ditch hay must be at least eight metres from the edge of the shoulder of a highway and must be removed from the highway right-of-way by Aug. 8, the province said.
Bales that aren’t removed by Aug. 8 or are left too close to the shoulder may be removed by the province, so as to “minimize hazards to the travelling public.”