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AWA Letter: PFRA Community Pasture Land Transfers

February 19, 2016

February 19, 2016

The Hon. Lawrence MacAulay
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
By email: Lawrence.MacAulay@parl.gc.ca

Re: PFRA Community Pasture Land Transfers

Dear Minister MacAulay:

Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) is writing to ask that you reconsider the 2012 plan to divest Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) community pastures and transfer them to provincial governments. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has a long history of managing the pastures for the benefit of species at risk and other ecological services including carbon sequestration.

Saskatchewan’s community pastures contain critical native prairie habitat for dozens of species at risk, including greater sage-grouse, burrowing owl and ferruginous hawk. Almost 80% of southern Saskatchewan’s natural grasslands and wetlands have been lost to development and these vital ecosystems are disappearing at a rate higher than any other state or province in the northern Great Plains. Canada has made international commitments to conserve our remaining native grassland as outlined within Canada’s 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets in accordance with the Global Aichi Biodiversity Targets. We are asking you to reconsider divesting these valuable lands and to continue working towards the conservation commitments made.

AWA has worked in defense of wild spaces and the protection of vital ecosystems and landscapes for more than 50 years. We are deeply concerned that the 2012 decision will have irrevocable consequences for native grasslands. AWA believes the conservation commitments made by Canada must be upheld, with a vision to conserve full biodiversity of grassland natural regions and establish contiguous areas of native grassland that are protected in perpetuity. This is vital to our future health and wellbeing. The conservation of Saskatchewan’s PFRA pastures has a direct bearing on our success here in Alberta conserving endangered grassland habitats and numerous species at risk.

The PFRA system invested in the value of public goods by protecting endangered landscapes and ensuring secure and well-managed agriculture practices for 75 years. At this time, it is our understanding that several of the original 62 PFRA pastures in Saskatchewan have already been sold or leased to pasture patron groups. Saskatchewan’s current practice of privatizing former Crown land leaves Canada’s Great Plains with an uncertain future.

Please halt PFRA lands transfers so that you may complete a full review of the 2012 decision and include in your review a conservation plan for private lands and a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the risks to natural and human heritage in the PFRA pastures in accordance with The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.

We look forward to your response on this matter.

Sincerely,

ALBERTA WILDERNESS ASSOCIATION

Andrea Johancsik, Conservation Specialist

cc:

The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Env. and Climate Change Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca
The Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph.Goodale@parl.gc.ca
The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn.Bennett@parl.gc.ca
The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada Justin.Trudeau@parl.gc.ca
The Hon. Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan premier@gov.sk.ca
The Hon. Lyle Stewart, Minister of Agriculture minister@ag.gov.sk.ca

A healthy relationship to the wilderness is not in the least incompatible with civilized living. Indeed, I believe it to be an indispensable condition thereof; that no man is truly civilized unless he is involved in and cares for the wilderness.
- Ashley Montagu, 1969
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