Oil, forestry harmful to Sask. grasslands: group
(The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon))
PUBLICATION: The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
BYLINE: James Wood
SOURCE: Saskatchewan News Network
-- Less than one per cent of grassland and parkland habitat in Canada
has remained free from
significant impact by human activity, according to a new report
by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Lindsay Rodger, the WWF's senior manager of biodiversity conservation,
said the findings of the nature
audit should be a major concern in Saskatchewan, since so much
of the province is prairie.
The grasslands of Western Canada are probably the most impacted
by human activity and least protected out
of all habitat types in Canada, she said from Toronto.
" It's an area of great biodiversity. There are a whole raft of plants
and animals that depend on this area for
their livelihood and it's not just about plants and animals. All
of those connect into a web of life that includes
us. This is the system that cleans our water, that cleans our air,
so our human health is connected into this as
well," said Rodger.
The nature audit, released recently by the WWF, is intended to
be the first of a series of comprehensive
reports on Canada's efforts to preserve biodiversity.
In Saskatchewan, grasslands have been severely impacted by cultivation
agriculture, oil and gas development
and the extensive provincial road network, said Rodger.
The WWF report also raised concerns about forestry practices in
Saskatchewan, ranking the province's
regulations the second-worst for maximizing human impact on forests.
One key recommendation of the report is for governments to live
up to commitments made in the past for
The audit found that only 24 per cent of the land in Saskatchewan
the government has committed to protect
had been set aside by April 2003. That ranks the province 11th
among provinces and territories.
Only 3.5 per cent of the province is permanently protected from
" We would be looking for protecting the (grassland) remnants that do
remain . . . we have to protect what we
do have left and restore it because some of it is in a degraded
Gallagher, manager of ecosystem planning for Saskatchewan Environment
and Resource Management,
said that while the WWF report raises valid concerns,
she questions many of the numbers it uses.
The government has not made a commitment to protect a
set amount of land for habitat but has instead
committed to "adequate protection," she said.
As well, the province considers more than five million
hectares of land to be protected compared to 2.2
million hectares listed in the WWF audit.
said the province has many activities under way to address grassland
The government is putting the final touches on a biodiversity
action plan dealing with grasslands that looks at
issues such as linking protected areas and levels of threat.
As well, the Prairie Conservation Action Plan, a stewardship
partnership led by the Saskatchewan
Stockgrowers Association, brings together private landowners
to conserve grasslands." We took a lot of heat from the
World Wildlife Fund in regards to protected areas but some of
it from our
perspective isn't warranted. I think for many areas in Saskatchewan
we've done an excellent job of providing
adequate coverage," said Gallagher.