Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Community Involvement

Source: SouthWest TV News: Community Lands Lost
Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: SaskNotes: PFRA Community Pastures

At the end of this post, I've also included a media release from Public Pastures - Public Interest, as this information found its way to my inbox with a request to discuss it on the blog; a request I'm happy to grant.

About a year ago, the Harper Government (in short-term cost cutting mode) stuffed into omnibus Bill C-38 a move to remove the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) pastures from the federal government's purview. Of these pastures, 1.77 million acres of land, exist within Saskatchewan. The Federal Government, in traditional style, devolved responsibility for these lands to the provincial governments and basically washed their hands of the situation all together.

In response to now having to figure out what to do with this land, the Wall Government in Saskatchewan was quick to call for the 1.77 million acres to be sold or leased as quickly as possible; and showed that it had no interest in maintaining any of the land under government control. The government has put in token environmental concerns to their plans for sale or lease, but has not proposed a means of regulation to ensure that these concerns are kept...Nor have they proposed any kind of consequences for anyone found to be in breach of concerns.

The government has also attempted to quietly pushed ownership issues aside by offering the pastures on a first basis to ranchers who currently use the pastures as feed areas for their herds; neglecting the fact that many of these ranchers are not in an financial position to purchase or pay high leasing costs for the use of the land.

In addition to the benefits provided to smaller farms, the pastures have also been used to great success for the use of advancing biology, protecting endangered wildlife, and protection of historical areas that document Canadian and First Nations history.

Effectively, the problem here is that we have seen a government that is in too much of a rush to properly solicit advice and opinions from the public it is supposed to serve. We've seen this before, on both the Federal and Provincial level, with these current governments. It seems as though consultation is a dying art form, and alternatives to ideologically driven decisions are completely forbidden.

I'd like to relate a story, and while it doesn't directly relate to the PFRA I think it is worth telling.

For one of my university biology courses, we took a class trip out into the wilderness and learned a bit about the ecosystems that existed around us. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not much for the outdoor life...I sunburn far too easily, among other issues. Yet, as we neared the end of our time on our field trip, our guide stopped us in the middle of an empty field and asked us just to look around.

It was with a sense of pride that he told us that we were standing on uncultivated land; a section of the province that existed as it had hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. Even for a man who doesn't care much for the outdoors life, it was an astonishing moment that I still recall fondly.

The fact of the matter is that we are losing our areas like that, and the closing of the PFRA pastures is a step in that direction. Our governments have demonstrated that they have no interest in managing the land, and that they have no real plan to ensure that environmental regulations to protect that land once sold are adhered to.

And while there are many of us in the province who have never stepped foot onto one of these pastures, and some of us who probably will never have need to, the work that has been done on them and the protections that they have provided since the 1930s has played an impact that we all have felt.

It is for reasons like that alone that they are worth protecting, and worth finding a compromise way to ensure that these forces for community good remain within community hands.

Now begins the press release; * In the interest of privacy, I have removed the phone numbers of the contact people in the press release, but left e-mail addresses intact; hopefully, this was alright.*

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MEDIA RELEASE 
______________________________________________________________________________ 
For Immediate Release: 
April 17, 2013 

Public Pastures – Public Interest 
Uniting to Save Saskatchewan’s Community Pastures 
Joint Venture Video Release 

In April of 2012 the federal government announced it was divesting itself of 2.3 million acres of PFRA community pastures, 1.78 million of which are located in Saskatchewan.  The control for these pastures has now reverted back to the prairie provinces and in response the Saskatchewan government has announced they will be seeking to sell or lease these lands to the current pasture patrons.  With rising land values putting the purchase of these lands far beyond the reach of most patrons, exceeding their ability to run a financially viable operation, patrons are looking to find an alternative solution. Other stakeholders affected by this decision are looking to ensure a sustainable environmental action plan for the land is continued, safeguarding the continued health of the ecosystem and the 32 species at risk that reside there. 

To help communicate this message, the various stakeholders (Patrons, First Nations, Academic and Wildlife/Environmental groups) have been meeting over the past several months to discuss their common concerns and encourage the two levels of government to reconsider their position on the importance of preserving and sustaining our community pastures. The result is a collaborative and inclusive video showcasing stakeholder concerns and their belief that, in order to ensure a positive outcome for all, they must work together to find a viable solution. 
It is their hope this video will also help communicate the message to stakeholders not yet involved and encourage them to join the collaborative effort towards protecting out public interests, and maintaining current and long term sustainable management of our Community Pastures.

For more information on this video and the joint initiative please contact any of the following: 
  • Trevor Herriot, Public Pastures – Public Interest, Regina, trevorherriot@gmail.com
  • Joanne Brochu – Patrons representative, jbrochu@sasktel.net

 

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