Threats to Saskatchewan Biodiversity Identified



Oil, forestry harmful to Sask. grasslands: group
(The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon))
PUBLICATION: The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
DATE: 2022.06.10

BYLINE: James Wood
SOURCE: Saskatchewan News Network

REGINA -- 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 habitat protection.

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 industrial development.

" 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 state," said Rodger.

Lin 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.

Gallagher said the province has many activities under way to address grassland loss. 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.

(Regina Leader-Post)
39 06/10/03.