Sask Stock Growers Association secures more funding for habitat protection

The funding will support ongoing efforts to protect greater sage grouse habitat in Saskatchewan.

Greater sage grouse.

Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) is excited to announce it has secured $840,000 in additional funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to continue working with landowners to protect greater sage grouse critical habitat in Saskatchewan.

ECCC’s Species at Risk Partnership on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) fund supports projects that are committed to engaging the agricultural sector to preserve key wildlife habitats today and in the future. SSGA President Kelcy Elford explains, “We are building on the success of SARPAL’s first five years. This second iteration of funding ensures that we can forge ahead with the innovative work we are doing with Grasslands National Park (GNP).”

“ECCC is working in partnership with the agricultural sector to conserve and protect biodiversity in the Canadian Prairies and across the country,” states the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Through the SARPAL fund, we are conserving important grass and habitat for species at risk like the Greater Sage-Grouse.”

Between 2015 and 2020, SSGA has signed more than 40 conservation agreements with landowners, protecting a total of 250,000 acres of grassland and critical habit for species at risk in southwest Saskatchewan. Elford says over the next three years, “Our project will focus on continuing the grass-bank we established in partnership with GNP as well as investigating the development of producer-friendly term conservation easements. Native grasslands in these areas are an important forage resource for the cow-calf sector and are the last refuge for many species at risk in the province, which means these grasslands are valuable from ecological, cultural and economical standpoints.”

Elford explains, “Five years ago, we surveyed producers and it was apparent many producers were not interested in conservation easements in perpetuity. However, there were a number of landowners who did show sincere interest in conservation easements that would be developed to meet their unique circumstances, but signed only for a fixed term, to support succession planning. We want to interview producers to learn more about their current opinions. That’s one of the reasons we established Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation (SSGF). We needed a committed group to lead that charge.”

SSGF Board Chair Ray McDougald adds, “SSGF is a registered charity recognized by Canada Revenue Agency, and approved by Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment as an official conservation easement holder. We set up the Foundation to be at an arm’s length from SSGA, so the Foundation would be the holder when conservation easements are signed.”

“Canadian farmers are responsible stewards of the land who understand the importance of conservation to the long-term sustainability of agricultural lands. By supporting the Stock Growers’ conservation initiatives, we can protect important wildlife habitats of the prairie grasslands and get closer to our goal of preserving 25 per cent of land areas by 2025,” states the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

With the goal of helping the federal government protect 25 per cent of Canada’s ag land, freshwater and oceans by 2025, McDougald and Elford agree, ” SSGF will continue to develop programs that support landowners in conserving grasslands and forage while protecting species at risk today and in the future. On top of feeding a growing population amidst climate change and a host of other uncontrollable risk factors, participating in these projects is yet another reason Saskatchewan producers have been branded as environmental stewardship champs.”

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