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SSGA wildlife habitat conservation project funded

News Roundup from the February 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) received a commitment for $2.58 million in funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada to lead a voluntary, producer-driven project to conserve habitat for species at risk in Saskatch­ewan.

The Species at Risk Partnership on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) fund supports projects that enable famers and ranchers to preserve key wildlife habitat while still meeting their own production needs. Potential initiatives include new and inventive conservation strategies. The work will take place over five years in southwestern Saskatchewan, in areas covered by the South of the Divide Conservation Action Program (SODCAP Inc.), which will be involved in the delivery of the pilot projects.

“Agricultural producers are key partners in our ongoing efforts to protect and recover species at risk,” said Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change Canada. “With this fund, we’re supporting the many Canadian ranchers and farmers using land stewardship practices that benefit wildlife.”

SSGA president Doug Gillespie notes most of Saskatchewan’s remaining native grass prairie is on privately managed ranchland and the ranchers, many of them members of the SSGA, are in the best position to protect habitat for species at risk.

The SSGA proposal includes plans for habitat restoration, results-based conservation agreements, and grass banking, as well as money for fencing and other infrastructure to protect the land and water resources on project ranches.

“Ranchers, livestock and species at risk can co-exist, and they have been for generations,” says Tom Harrison, executive director of SODCAP Inc. In many cases, Harrison says the conservation tools and strategies utilized on these projects will be used in Saskatchewan for the first time.

“SARPAL is the right approach,” says Gillespie. Regulations and fines don’t make sense when the ranching industry has voluntarily protected this habitat all along. Given the right tools, we’ll be able to do what’s best to support biodiversity on the land.”

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