Many conservation agreements are signed in the province, but this one with a Kayville-area producer is a significant achievement. The conservation easement that Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) recently signed with Roy Rutledge propelled DUC’s total conservation easement (CE) acres in Saskatchewan over the 100,000 acre mark, making DUC the first organization to reach the milestone since CE legislation came into effect in 1999.
Under the terms of the agreement, Rutledge who operates Rutledge Ranching Co. Ltd. maintains control and use of the land while protecting natural areas from breaking or draining in the future. “I want to leave the land better for the next generation than when I started out with it,” says Rutledge who recently signed a 535 acre conservation agreement with DUC.
“Some land is just not meant to be cultivated,” says Rutledge. “It’s best suited to be grasslands, so I signed the conservation easement to protect the land and have it forever remain as native grasslands.”
Rutledge is no stranger to DUC projects. Over the past 10 years, he has partnered with DUC in forage conversion, grazing management and land use exchange programs. Rather than continuing to try and grow cereal crops on marginal farmland, Rutledge has seeded it with grass and alfalfa and followed extensive rotational grazing practices to both protect and enhance the land. “Through grass management, my goal is to regain at least a tenth of an inch of top soil each year on my pastures” states Rutledge.
Along with his ranch, Rutledge runs the Assiniboia Livestock Auction and the Weyburn Livestock Exchange. He is also a director of both the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and the Livestock Marketers Association of Saskatchewan. Rutledge knows that conserving the land is as much a part of the business as managing the bottom line. “The land has to produce enough to pay for itself,” he says, “but we still want to improve it, so we can do better over the long term. Because of my conservation practices, production has increased tenfold over the past 10 years. There are also benefits for wildlife, especially the ducks that utilize grasslands for nesting.”
It is fitting that DUC should hit this monumental milestone as the organization celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. DUC credits the success of the CE program to a strong working relationship with many private landowners and organizations that share a commitment to conservation.
One of these key partners is the Province’s Ministry of Environment, which has been a significant contributor to the success of DUC’s CE program. “We are proud to have been a part of this program for more than a decade,” Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff said. For more about conservation easements or any of DUC’s other conservation programs, contact your nearest DUC office or visit www.ducks.ca.