Pasture transition needs changes: Sask. report

Four Saskatchewan organizations are calling on the province to change the way it is handling the transition of the former federal pastures.

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, the Community Pasture Patrons Association of Saskatchewan, the Public Pastures — Public Interest and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation paid for a study done by Dave Phillips at Frogworks Consultants.

It was released Feb. 10 at the CPPAS annual meeting.

The study is critical of how Saskatchewan deals with the pastures compared to Manitoba.

It said the province has rejected a provincial association and prefers to help individual pastures rather than trying to work together for the collective good.

“The approach Saskatchewan is using to manage this transition has exposed the province and pasture patron groups to higher total costs for business entity designs, administration systems and range management plans,” said the executive summary.

It said the province’s policies are aimed at making money and offloading environmental responsibilities.

APAS president Norm Hall said patrons are required to pay full fees but also have to provide reports on species at risk and noxious weeds and provide full land access.

“With a private lease, you pay the rate and have full control,” he said.

The study said the government should discount annual fees to the pasture associations by 50 percent to reflect the cost of maintaining the public good and providing the reports.

It said half the patrons in the first 10 pastures to transition have left the business rather than move to the patron-operated model and asked the government to report on the implications.

The study also said the pastures should remain in public hands. They are available for sale under the crown land sale process, but none have been sold to date.

The organizations want the province to compile an inventory of native cover within the pastures to establish a baseline, explain how it will monitor and sustain ecological integrity and report publicly on the condition of wildlife habitat once every six years.

The study said Agriculture Canada used to do this work.

“There are no apparent performance measures in place by which to assess the validity of the Saskatchewan government’s claim that ranchers are the best stewards of grass resources,” it said.

The study also asks the provincial government to fund the Community Pasture Patrons Association of Saskatchewan through its pasture transition program.

Hall said the government has received a copy of the study.

“The next step is to take it to the ministry and see what kind of wiggle room is in the contracts,” he said.

All of the partners have seen the study, he added, and while there was some concern it would go too far in favouring one direction over another, it is balanced and none have expressed concerns.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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