Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff and Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart announced a new land management initiative that balances economic growth with responsible land management. The Southern Conservation Land Management Strategy will offer agricultural lessees the opportunity to purchase eligible parcels of Crown land previously designated under The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA).
“The new strategy accommodates both public and private ownership, using modern conservation tools to make sure that ecological values are maintained, regardless of ownership,” Cheveldayoff said. “I want to acknowledge the important role that conservation and agricultural stakeholders have played in the development of the strategy. We look forward to continuing to work with them as it is implemented.”
All WHPA-designated land in southern Saskatchewan has been evaluated using a science-based ecological assessment tool and has been classified into three categories:
•Approximately 1.7 million acres with high ecological value will be retained under Crown ownership and WHPA protection;
•Approximately 1.3 million acres with moderate ecological value may be eligible for sale with the protection of a new Crown conservation easement; and
•Approximately 525,000 acres with lower ecological value may be eligible for sale, without restrictions.
“Farmers and ranchers are our best environmental stewards and have been effectively managing this land for generations,” Stewart said. “I am pleased they will now have the opportunity to gain equity in some of this land and I am confident they will continue managing it in a sustainable way for the benefit of all Saskatchewan residents.”
Not all land classified as low or moderate will be available for sale. An additional review will occur to assess other factors that may influence land eligible for sale. Land with high ecological value will not be considered for sale.
In addition, vacant Crown land in the south with high ecological value will be considered for protection under WHPA.
The Conservation Easements Act was amended to create a new Crown conservation easement, which can be applied to Crown lands prior to sale. The amendments include new compliance tools, including stop-work orders, equipment seizures, and injunctions. In addition, maximum fines for contravention have been increased from $2,000 to $100,000 for individuals and from $50,000 to $500,000 for corporations. Additional fines may be charged for continuing offences.
Seven per cent of the proceeds from the sale of WHPA lands will be directed to the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund to support conservation and habitat protection projects.
Letters will be sent to current lessees in the coming days to notify them of their land classifications, purchase options and sale process. If lessees choose not to purchase the land, they may continue leasing it. Lessees can also find out if their land has been classified as potentially available for sale by searching their land location at www.saskatchewan.ca/crownlands. If lessees have questions about their land, they can contact the Ministry of Agriculture at 1-844-416-9160 or moalandsbra...@gov.sk.ca.