Submission to the Committee preparing a Citizen’s Alternate Budget for Saskatchewan


Submission to the Committee preparing a Citizen’s Alternate Budget for Saskatchewan

Prince Albert Hearings, December 8, 2021
Presented by Gerald Regnitter

In the Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996), Elder Juliette Duncan is quoted as saying: “The economic relations embedded in traditional cultures emphasizes conservation of renewable resources, limiting harvesting on the basis of need, and distributing resources equitably within the community, normally through family networks. Since families and clans owned rights to resources, and since everyone was connected in a family, no one was destitute and no one was unemployed. If hardship struck because of bad weather or fluctuations in the supply of animals, everyone suffered equally.”

And in another place, Roy Fabian, Executive Director Hay River Treatment Centre is quoted as saying: “One of my elders told me a situation. He said we can get rid of all the Dene people in Denendeh, we can all die off for some reason, but if there was another human being came stumbling along and came to Denendeh, the environment will turn him into a Dene person. It's the environment and the land that makes us Dene people.

I believe that these two quotations are a fairly good basis of considering what is not right with our society’s perspective on the land and its creatures, especially in the forest lands of this province.

To be a person of the land requires first of all, a reverence for the spirit of the land, the gifts of the land, and the common relationship we all have to each other and to the source of our life in the land. Our government is peopled by elected citizens from the southern, and largely urban regions of our land. They are people with little knowledge of or connection to the land. Yet, from that vantage point, they engage corporations from afar to come in and suck out the riches of the land, with little or no regard for the people of the land today, much less of seven generations in the future. The practices of successive governments has been to entice large multi-national corporations to “exploit” the resources of the land and, after providing them with many publically funded incentives, to extract certain minimal resource royalties from them.

We have seen the outcomes of this practice, especially in our northern forests. The forest is treated as a commodity to be stripped and exported, mostly in the form of only one of its components, wood fibre, for pulp, paper, some dimensional lumber and some manufactured wood products. Vast areas have been assigned to exclusive access to one large corporate interest, while smaller and local interests are removed from the picture and are denied the potential benefits that are offered by a generous land.

Residents of the forested lands of our province rarely benefit from the forest industry. Wood fibre is extracted and trucked to mills and plants further south, and in the process all of the other gifts of the forest lands are destroyed or denied to the potential benefit of residents of the areas affected.

Herb Hammond, of the Silva Forest foundation, which has done work nationally and internationally, helping people and governments do “Ecosystem-Based Forest Management Planning”, at a presentation in La Ronge a few years ago, illustrated that the economic potential of non-wood resources of the Boreal forest exceed the wood-fibre values, yet planning usually only takes into account the value of wood extraction. And that wood extraction for the creation of pulp and paper products is the lowest-return use of that forest product. Clear-cut logging practices leave vast forest areas with a very slow recovery rate which can be as much as several hundred years, and the non-wood values of the forest will also have been destroyed by the practices used for this clear-cut logging practice.
Some of the non-wood forest values that are often cited for the Boreal Plain and Boreal Shield are recreation and eco-tourism, essential oils and medicinal and herbal harvesting, mushroom harvest, moss, lichen, tree bark for the crafters’ supply industry, and hardwoods for furniture and construction components. Saskatchewan has only begun to recognize the significant commercial value of OSB (Oriented Stand Board) and other manufactured wood construction components.

A neighbour of mine makes his living salvaging mosses , fungus outgrowths, and birch bark tubes and selling them to the American Craft market. When he requested permission to access areas designated for clear-cut harvesting by Weyerhaeuser, he was refused access and is able to obtain these materials only by illegal harvesting in these areas. It would make sense that when access roads are inserted into the forest, that they first be used to harvest these materials. Additionally, when Weyerhaeuser finishes with an area, they leave as trash large diameter tops and other wood ends that have a wide variety of potential commercial applications to locally-based entrepreneurs.

A log-home construction business in northern Saskatchewan is unable to get logs for their operation because of the exclusive and absolute access granted to Weyerhaeuser by the FMA’s, and are planning to access aspen logs from out-of-province for their local Saskatchewan operations.

A true “ecosystem-based forest management plan” would factor in local residents, business and communities when planning forest use. This is not happening to the detriment of current and future residents of northern Saskatchewan. The foundational question that is asked by sustainable “ecosystem-based planning” is “What must I leave behind?” Followed by the secondary question : “What can I take without damaging the ecosystem?”

The low-labour, highly mechanized fibre-extraction process employed today has gutted the forest land within an economically viable trucking distance of the processing plants. This has left a forest floor, clear-cut, and depleted of valuable elements needed for its own renewal. Local peoples and local economies have been left out and future generations will not have access to the potential gifts of the forest that would have been there on a sustaining basis if the forest lands would had been treated with respect and with a valid concern for the sharing of the riches of the land with all of the people of the community. Economically this makes no sense for the future, and not even for the short term. Why would we allow the destruction of a valuable resource for many generations and expect to gain only minimal, one-time benefits? The economic potentials of the Boreal forests of Saskatchewan have been destroyed and the economic potentials exported off-shore along with the profits of the multi-national companies given exploitation access to this public resource.

Saskatchewan has not done well in the past, but the land can be forgiving if treated with renew respect, and if we use the opportunity that still remain with us to do better for the future.

Saskatchewan’s forest lands are nearly all under Crown management, and if we take that in its proper sense, are still owned by the collective for the benefit of the collective society. We can still apply the principle described by Elder Juliette Duncan to our forest lands, and this and future generations may be able to reestablish a proper relationship so that we can all become citizens of Denendeh, where the spirit of the earth is recognized as the same spirit that gives life to its human inhabitants.

Some years back the “Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition” (FFCC) (See Attachment Note 1) became involved with the issue of proper management of our forest lands, and looked at the issues involved with Forest Management Certification Programs. Weyerhaeuser, understood that certification of forest management practices would be a good marketing tool, and could be part of the “branding” of its products in the international market place. They selected to acquire certification with the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certification. When one member of the Weyerhaeuser team was asked why CSA was selected rather than another, more widely recognized Forestry Certification Plan, the reply was quite candid in saying that CSA Certification was very easy to get and would not require any real changes in their practices.

Saskatchewan Environment Forestry Division has worked for and acquired ISO certification for the forests of Saskatchewan that are under crown management. In the judgement of the members of the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition at the time, the ISO requirements are even less effective than CSA in protecting the forest ecosystems in northern Saskatchewan. In selecting CSA and ISO standards for forest management practices, industry and government have avoided looking at Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Having been a small part of the process of establishing Canadian Boreal Forest criteria for the 10 FSC Principles, we were convinced that FSC, working in conjunction with the government and people of Saskatchewan, could create a unique and powerful system of managing and protecting our forest resources so that the land and the people would be the true beneficiaries of what we do in our boreal forest lands. We prepared a brief and presented it for consideration to the FSC of Canada and to the Saskatchewan Government and to Saskatchewan political leaders.

We believe that the arguments we made a few years ago are even more valid today, and with the pending closure / sale of Weyerhaeuser’s Prince Albert operations, we, as citizens, have an opportunity, as the owners of the resource, to establish new rules for its use to bring about a healing of the land and better economic support of its inhabitants. These are the arguments we made and still make:


The FSC Criteria and Indicators provide a sound basis for forest certification across Canada and in Saskatchewan. The National Boreal Standards Process has invited regional involvement in the development of the Canadian version of Criteria, Indicators and Verifiers for the FSC Program of third party forest certification.

A study of the May 21, 2022 “Forest Stewardship Council of Canada Working Group, NATIONAL BOREAL STANDARD Discussion Draft” document has led a group of Saskatchewan reviewers to propose the following general considerations for Saskatchewan.

1. In Saskatchewan nearly all of the forest eligible for certification by FSC standards is held by the Crown on behalf of the public of Saskatchewan.

2. Commercial use of Saskatchewan’s forests is by way of various FMA lease agreements between the Government of Saskatchewan and various commercial enterprises.

3. While some of these enterprises are large operations such as Weyerhaeuser Canada, other forest operations are small scale.

4. Only the very largest commercial lease holders could be expected to meet the certification Criteria and Indicators required by FSC Canada, and as a consequence, only part of the forest operations are likely to meet these FSC standards with the subsequent benefits to the businesses, to the community and to the environment.

5. The Government of Saskatchewan, through its Forest Management Area Land Use Planning Committees and Environment and Resource Departments, is already engaged to a significant degree in much of the work required to meet FSC certification standards.

6. It appears to be a reasonable consideration for Saskatchewan, through its governmental processes, to strive to meet FSC certification standards on all of its crown forest lands, and then to require all lease holders to comply with these criteria as a condition of becoming a licenced operator in the forest. In addition any lease holder on Crown forest lands should be obligated to follow the same quality of forest operation on all of their non-crown forest operations within Saskatchewan. This latter consideration would, in effect, extend the same kind of forest protection to a majority of privately held forest lands since many of these parcels are harvested by companies that also operate with leases on Crown lands.

7. Such a “global approach” would ensure forest practices in all of the Boreal Plain and Boreal Shield in Saskatchewan that meet the strict and desirable standards of the FSC, instead of a piece-meal process where initiatives to meet certification standards are left to individual commercial lease holders. With the variety of forest certification standards available to the forest industry, we could not expect any uniform high level of environmental, economic and socially desirable standards to be applied.

8. Without a uniform certification standard that applies to ALL Saskatchewan forest products, Saskatchewan forest producers will fail to gain the universal recognition for high production standards that would be able to be achieved by a consistent and universal certification applied to all Crown forests. The international recognition of high quality forest practices that comes with FSC Certification, generates economic benefits and environmental benefits that are much more likely to survive the impacts of changing governments and changing political and short-term budget considerations.

9. Much of the certification data collection and background work is already underway by different Saskatchewan Government agencies, and it would be logical for this to be brought to completion with the aim of meeting FSC requirements. This would be to the gain of all forest operators, to the forest communities, and to the whole provincial community. The people of Saskatchewan depend on healthy forests and sound forest operations for so much of the quality of life we experience and for much of our economic base.

10. We urge FSC Canada to rethink its traditional approach of encouraging the certification of individual commercial forest operations (which makes sense where forests are privately owned as they are in much of the world), and to work to encourage the government of Saskatchewan to act as the sole owner/steward of these forests, and to seek certification of the entire public forest area of Saskatchewan. (Since FSC standards require effective consultation with, and support of Aboriginal and other affected communities, a FSC certification process would respect the claims and concerns of these communities.) This would be a significant win / win / win situation for the FSC, for the forest industries in Saskatchewan, and for the Saskatchewan public interest.

This document represents the general conclusions reached by members of the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition and the Prince Albert Earth Advocates who are members of the Saskatchewan Eco Network, whose good services facilitated our involvement in the FSC document study. Comments relative to specific Criteria, Indicators or verifiers will follow in a separate communication from the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition. It is our understanding that other Saskatchewan-based environmental groups have not yet concluded their study of the FSC Draft Documents and will not be ready to add their comments to this document in time to meet FSC deadlines. As a consequence, this document is being forwarded in its current form to the following:

Forest Stewardship Council of Canada, attention Marc Thibault, National Boreal Standards coordinator
Government of Saskatchewan, Minister Environment, Hon. Buckley Belanger ,
Government of Saskatchewan, Deputy Minister of Environment, Terry Scott
Saskatchewan Party Environment Critic, Carl Kwiatkowski,
Darryl Wiberg, Sask Party MLA for Sask Rivers,
Liberal Party of Saskatchewan, Leader, David Karwacki ,
Jack Hillson, MLA Battlefords,
New Green Alliance Party of Saskatchewan, Leader, Ben Webster,
Submitted by Gerald Regnitter on behalf of the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition,

The Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition, as a member of the Saskatchewan EcoNetwork also made a presentation to the Deputy Minister of the Environment a few years back and raised specific concerns about the Environmental Assessment Act of Saskatchewan; concerns that arose from our experience in trying to mitigate the impact of a high voltage power transmission line from Prince Albert to Timber Cove. While the history of this struggle to have southern engineers, corporate managers and politicians to act with respect for the land and the forests in the southern transition boreal forest area affected by the project, is too long to repeat here, it has been documented, with key documents and arguments presented on a website created in large measure as a communication mechanism during this struggle with SaskPower. It can be accessed at

The presentation to Saskatchewan Environment follows:

Issues arising from experience with the Environmental Assessment Act and SaskPower’s “PA Rebuild”

1. A “Proponent” plans and proposes a project with very little input from concerned and affected communities. Once a project has been planned, efforts have to be directed to correct inappropriate elements rather than having proper input at the outset to give it a sounder initial direction. (Cf. Transmission Line Routing Review Panel’s Report and recommendations)

2. The Proponent’s submission to SERM for review contains information, study data and arguments for the project. In our experience with the SaskPower submission to SERM, the submission contained significant errors of fact and other arguments that did not stand the test of further investigation. While the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition was able to bring a number of these considerations to the light of day, Mr. Seguin’s efforts to pursue these matters led to the following statement in the “Reasons for Decision” portion of the SERM “Opinion regarding the PA8 Project: “Local concerns have reflected the concerns of the technical reviewers and have also challenged aspects of the proponent’s proposal. Some of these challenges have required the proponent to restate / clarify / rectify various statements. Their active involvement in the process has assisted in clarifying their concerns over environmental change and focus mitigation activity.” These corrections which led to the mitigation conditions of the decision would likely not have surfaced without the independent intervention from the FFCC. This leads to the concern: Who will challenge the accuracy of proponent claims when there is no organized group of concerned citizens? Who protects the public interest in this regard if the SERM review process is unable or unlikely to uncover the errors or misrepresentations?

3. The Proponent was responsible for submitting most of the environmental data submitted with the proposal. In this case, ERIN Consulting did the work that was included in the submission. It is of interest to note that the chief field biologist on this assignment from ERIN, Ms. Michelle Williamson, has taken up a new role as a full time employee of SaskPower and has been signing recent documents as a member of the SaskPower Project team. While this change of employment immediately after the completion of the ERIN role does not prove wrongdoing, it certainly raises the question as to the integrity of the materials submitted and the conclusions reached by ERIN. As long as SERM is required to rely in part or in whole for environmental evaluations on agencies hired by the proponent, the information provided must been seen as suspect. Perhaps a better arrangement would be for the proponent to fund the biological/environmental studies required, but that the contracting and supervision of these people be done by SERM.

4. Throughout the process there seemed to be too little support to protect the public interest, and too much reliance on the integrity of the claims and submissions of the proponent. We have no doubt that if the FFCC had not undertaken its efforts, the SaskPower project would have ripped through the forest as first planned for the winter or 1999 with none of the mitigation factors finally required by SERM. It is of note that the mitigation factors identified in the SERM “Opinion” reflect the issues raised by the FFCC, and have not been applied to Phase I of the project, and apparently not to other parts of the forest beyond the inhabited area. This is one continuous forest, and if the mitigation is valid for one portion of the project, they are certainly also valid for the remainder of the line. It is fact that the demonstrated public concern for this portion of the line was able to protect some public interests in this area, but how is the public interest served when there is no citizen-based opposing group to mount a massive campaign of concern and protest?

5. The mitigating conditions forced on SaskPower for this short corridor through the forest do not satisfy the concerns of the FFCC because it is still permitting a route that does massive and unnecessary damage to this sensitive forest. If such mitigation was justified in this case, they should also automatically apply to any similar developments in the forest fringe and boreal forest zones of this province. Such mitigations should be required as automatic restrictions on other projects without the need for repeated interventions by citizen groups such as the FFCC.

6. Because this project / development also creates a cleared forest corridor adjacent to private holdings and through other sections of private forests, it has raised the consideration of what happens on “private lands” which also has significant impact on a larger area and the larger environment. We have seen the ineffectiveness of a municipal bylaw prohibiting clear cutting on private forest lands in the RM of Lakeland, and the subsequent difficulties of the RM when it tried to reinforce the nature of its supervision of forestry development in the RM’s private lands. There is something very much awry when the idea of private property rights are able to override the environmental impact considerations of the larger community as represented by the Rural Municipality. There should be a reexamination of the authority exercised by municipalities or exercised by municipalities in conjunction with SERM to effectively protect the environmental interests of the large area and the larger community. While we have witnessed this unhealthy situation in a forest area, we are sure that it is equally a concern in other eco-regions in Saskatchewan. “Private” property considerations in our legislation may have been written considering the private land owner as a local resident who would have some level of community responsibility and some level of community control by virtue of being a continuing resident of the community. We have seen absentee owners and corporate owners with no links or commitments to the local community exercising “private rights” to the great expense and detriment of the local environment and community. In the 21'st century our legislation should reflect these new understandings of responsibility to the common good of the larger community.


Attachment Note 1:

The Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition history is presented here in a document originally prepared for information to the Sierra Club and was published on their web site:

Members of the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition, a coalition of area residents, wood lot operators and local farmers, have been fighting to save a unique pocket of transition boreal forest, just south, and continuous with the Prince Albert National Park which is in the Boreal Forest Upland region of the Province of Saskatchewan.

In July 1999, SaskPower, a monopoly Provincial Power Corporation, announced a plan to upgrade an existing 72kVolt line that runs 240 km from Prince Albert to La Ronge. SaskPower proposed to create a new and very destructive corridor , 70 to 80 m (230+ feet) wide through the forest, ignoring the advice of area residents that the line should go over low-sensitivity, already opened lands, several kilometres to the east. This route would also be at least 500 m from any homes.

And so the struggle began. In August 1999 over 100 families and individuals formed the Forest Fringe Citizens’ Coalition (FFCC), hoping to be heard by SaskPower and political leaders.

Goals and principles were established which urged routing through low impact lands in a way that would respect forest, homes and people. The principles emphasized that forest lands should be avoided as much as possible because of the significantly greater damage to forest environments compared to lands with habitats already completely altered by agricultural practices.

Over the past two years SaskPower did everything that large corporations can do to crush opposition.

SaskPower divided the project into two parts. The northern portion, running exclusively through public forest lands, received Government approval and is already completed. The southern portion, through private lands, was to receive further study by a firm of Consulting Biologists (ERIN Consulting), and by the Transmission Line Routing Review Panel, set up to advise SaskPower about its routing procedures .

SaskPower held “Open House” sessions at which they advised landowners of their plans. These sessions included a lot of engineering detail and other technical information-overload. The review of SaskPower’s procedures by the Review Panel, declared these “Open House” sessions to be designed by SaskPower to assess the degree of opposition to their plans, rather than to facilitate any kind of two-way communication. SaskPower officials made comments to landowners along one route proposal which seemed to be pitting one resident against someone living along another route. SaskPower used expressions and provided information in a manner that often hid the true impact of their statements.

The ERIN Consulting report declared that the forest routes were the most sensitive to damage by a power line corridor. SaskPower’s proposed corridors crossed the largest mature conifer forest area in the Boreal Upland Forest in this region. This forest is the region with 12 different rare and endangered species sightings. This report further indicated that line routing through this general area could minimize damage only by avoiding the areas of continuous forest.

Based on this assessment by SaskPower’s own “experts”, the members of the FFCC felt that an acceptable route could be selected. However, in June 2001, SaskPower announced that two of three options they were looking at ploughed directly through the most sensitive forest lands in the region.

In mid August 2001, SaskPower announced its chosen route, which in this area of the project, goes completely through the forest, affects the most private property, comes closer to more homes and does the most environmental damage!

SaskPower had no intention of ever listening to anyone who opposed their original intentions of building the line on the highest ground (near the highway), and in as direct a manner as possible, regardless of the impact on the area and on people. SaskPower has effectively manipulated their political “masters” to get what they wanted. They are used to getting their way by political influence or by the use of expropriation powers.

The Citizens’ Coalition has been trying to get the power line routed in the way that does the least damage to environment, and to how people live in the forest. The Coalition has held public meetings, conducted letter-writing campaigns to SaskPower and to politicians at local and provincial levels, conducted e-mail campaigns, used a website to share information and to share images of the affected area, visited the Provincial Legislature, gathered a petition with over 1000 signatures, sent many fax messages, and made numerous phone calls to many people involved in the decision-making process.

The Coalition has toured Provincial and local politicians through this area so that they could see first-hand what is at stake, and has met with the SERM Regulator to have him directly hear Coalition concerns and arguments.

Throughout the past two years we have had media coverage. We have received advice from David Suzuki and others on how to conduct our efforts.

SERM’s decision as to whether this project is given a fast-track approval or needs further study will be made in early November 2001.

A “Forest of Protest - Adopt-a-Tree” campaign was started in late August 2001, and by the end of October has already over 1600 trees adopted on private property through which SaskPower is planning to build its line.

In the final stages, it will be our political leaders who will authorize or alter this project . We need your support to influence these political leaders. You can do this by “adopting” a tree to stand with your name as a living protest to this project and to other projects in our communities that do major and needless damage to our environments. Check Gerald Regnitter’s website at to find out how to contact the Premier of Saskatchewan and other political leaders to express your opposition to this SaskPower plan.

Post-script: It was indeed the political leaders who authorized this project as planned by SaskPower. The corridor of adopted tress that represented the protest of people and the land to unnecessary and wanton destruction was destroyed, and the practices used in this place have been repeated in other SaskPower construction projects in the boreal forests of Saskatchewan. With no citizens’s able to mobilize in remote areas, no mitigating conditions have been applied. If FSC certification standards applied to all of Saskatchewan’s forest lands, even powerful corporations such as SaskPower, acting under the excessive-and g0d-like powers of the Saskatchewan Power Act of 1948, would be held to proper forest practices because of the economic sanctions that come from violating FSC standards or losing FSC certification. Where ethics alone is not enough to bring compliance with good practices, economic pressures, when properly applied, can often do so.

Attachment Note 2

FSC Principles and Criteria

After three years of extensive global consultation, 10 Principles and complementary
Criteria were agreed upon at the FSC's founding meeting in 1993. The FSC's Principles
and Criteria are universal in nature and apply to tropical, temperate and boreal forests.
They cover broad issues such as land tenure, the reduction of environmental impacts,
optimal utilization of forest products, and written management plans. The Principles and
Criteria are used as a guiding framework for developing standards which are appropriate
to social, ecological and economic conditions at national and/or regional levels.

Principle #1. Compliance with Laws and FSC Principles
Forest management shall respect all applicable laws of the country in which they occur, and international treaties and agreements to which the country is a signatory, and comply with all FSC Principles and Criteria.
Principle #2. Tenure & Use Rights and Responsibilities
Long-term tenure and use rights to the land and forest resources shall be clearly defined, documented and legally established.
Principle #3. Indigenous Peoples' Rights
The legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples to own, use and manage their lands, territories, and resources shall be recognized and respected.
Principle #4. Community Relations and Worker's Rights
Forest management operations shall maintain or enhance the long-term social and economic well-being of forest workers and local communities.
Principle #5. Benefits from the Forest
Forest management operations shall encourage the efficient use of the forests multiple products and services to ensure economic viability and wide range of environmental and social benefits.
Principle #6. Environmental Impact
Forest Management shall conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest.
Principle #7. Management Plan
A management plan - appropriate to the scale and intensity of the operations - shall be written, implemented, and kept up to date. The long term objectives of management, and the means of achieving them, shall be clearly stated.
Principle #8 Monitoring & Assessment
Monitoring shall be conducted appropriate to the scale and intensity of forest management - to assess the condition of the forest, yields of forest products, chain of custody, management activities and their social and environmental impacts.
Principle #9 Maintenance of High Conservation Value Forests
Management activities in high conservation value forests shall maintain or enhance the attributes which define such forests. Decisions regarding high conservation value forests shall always be considered in the context of a precautionary approach.
Principle #10 Plantations
Plantations shall be planned and managed in accordance with Principles and Criteria 1-9, and Principle 10 and its Criteria. While plantations can provide an array of social and economic benefits, and can contribute to satisfying the world's needs for forest products, they should complement the management of, reduce pressures on, and promote the restoration and conservation of natural forests.

Forest Stewardship Council.