Once the victim of hasty prairie settlement, the PFRA Community Pastures became grassland jewels through belated foresight and science-based planning. The termination of this world-class program was embedded in omnibus bill C-38, with ownership of the land returned to the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan government’s plan is to sell or lease the 62 individual pastures, privatizing these important public commons. While the intention to sell only to farmer/rancher groups protects cattle production benefits, it risks important public benefits including carbon sequestration, air and water purification, drought prevention, and endangered species habitat. These public benefits are reliant on professional range management, which is absent from the current plan. The loss of knowledge about these fragile ecosystems held by PFRA managers is particularly significant as the prairies adapt to climate change. This article reviews the history of the PFRA and the multiple benefits of the community pastures, and presents an alternate strategy to management that is emerging among concerned Saskatchewan citizens.
About the Authors:
Katherine Arbuthnott is a conservation psychologist at Campion College, University of Regina.
Josef Schmutz is a conservation biologist atUniversity of Saskatchewan.