Don Dabbs

Saskatchewan

Number of projects: 4

Land value: Land value is the appraised value of land that NCC has conserved directly and with partners. $401,000

Acres conserved: 487

Stewardship volunteers: 76

Turning development into conservation

Calvin Fehr

Grasslands are among the rarest and most at-risk habitats in the world and are a critical part of Saskatchewan’s environment. They buffer our water and boast some of the world’s greatest biological diversity. But in Saskatchewan, approximately 20 per cent or less of the province’s native grasslands remain.

K+S Potash Canada (KSPC) has given the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) close to 1 million dollars to offset the development of its new Legacy Project mine in south central Saskatchewan. This donation will help conserve native grasslands in Saskatchewan and the many species that the land supports.

The habitat offset accounts for the grasslands where the mine will be in operation. KSPC voluntarily agreed to be the first company to use a new offset formula developed by the Province of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment. The formula, which KSPC and NCC helped to build, accounted for variables such as the development on species of concern and the effect of breaking up connected habitat.

Tailor-made stewardship plans

NCC

Hafford, Saskatchewan, is home to the province's only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – Redberry Lake. A migratory bird sanctuary, the reserve shelters a watershed that provides habitat for threatened birds, such as piping plover and American white pelican.

NCC's science team recently gathered a group of landowners, ranchers, wildlife biologists and water stewardship technicians for two days of discussion in Hafford, located in west central Saskatchewan.

Feedback provided during the discussion allowed the team to create a conservation plan specifically tailored to two unique areas: West Parklands and West Boreal Transition. Each area has its own distinctive set of threats and conservation targets. The West Parklands contains patches and corridors that include aspen fescue parkland, aspen mixed forest, wetlands and river habitat for wildlife, plants, fish and amphibians.

These tailored plans allow NCC to focus on grasslands and forests in different ways and generate plans that are ecologically sound. The plan will guide efforts to help conserve more than 30 vulnerable species, including the endangered whooping crane.

Merging western science with traditional Indigenous knowledge

NCC

Canadian youth don’t often have the opportunity to take their classroom outside their school’s four walls.

But now, thanks to Learning the Land, a native prairie conservation pilot program administered by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Saskatchewan, students across the province are heading out into the field.

Educator Carol Crowe is working with NCC and Treaty 4 Education Alliance on the program, which began in 2015 and is delivered by the Treaty 4 Education Alliance in 11 schools across southern Saskatchewan. Dovetailing with the science curriculum, the program focuses on traditional, cultural and scientific aspects of species at risk and native prairie in both the classroom and field settings.

Crowe recently spent a day with a high school class at Kawacatoose First Nation, where they discussed careers in conservation. Indigenous communities and elders, Crowe says, have years of knowledge from working with the land. If the participants take that knowledge into the conservation field, she believes it will be an important step in working with the environment.

Participants of the program also consider the current challenges of sound land management and how urban and rural community residents can work together to conserve wildlife habitat and sustain a diversity of wildlife species. More than 100 students, teachers, Elders, scientists and NCC staff are involved in this initiative. Participants are also invited to join Conservation Volunteers days with NCC in Saskatchewan throughout the warmer months.

Funders for the Learning the Land program include Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk Program and the Province of Saskatchewan’s First Nations Community Engagement Project Fund.

Did you know that open pipes, fence posts and vents are hazardous to birds? Conservation Volunteers used recycled cans to cap more than 300 fence posts at the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area in August.