Thursday, November 14, 2013

Making cash on grass: where will the money go?

Eric Weisbeck, Pasture Manager at Wolverine Community Pasture near Lanigan (image courtesy of Branimir Gjetvaj)
$4.5 million. That is what it would take to hold onto the expertise and knowledge of the PFRA managers and seasonal riders through the transition of the federal community pastures to provincial responsibility.  That is all it would take to keep them and their families in some of the more remote regions of southern Saskatchewan; that is all it would take to ensure a smooth transition for the management for these ecologically critical public grasslands, helping to conserve the grass, manage invasive species and maintain habitat for endangered species.

$4.5 million is less than one-fifth what the Province has been giving to subsidize the biofuel industry each year, until they finally reduced the subsidy down to $16 M in March. All to prop up an industry that was nothing but a boondoggle from the word go, that did not reduce Saskatchewan's overall greenhouse gas emissions, that drove up grain prices artificially, which in turn hurt the beef industry, while giving farmers incentives to switch from food crops to fuel crops and, in some cases, to plough their pastures and seed them to grain.

$4.5 million a year would be a wise investment in food security, grassland conservation, and our livestock industry, but the Saskatchewan Department of Agriculture, led by the Honorable Lyle Stewart, has said it cannot spend any money on helping to manage the pastures because of their responsibility to taxpayers.

That would make sense if the pasture patrons and conservationists were asking for money to come out of taxpayers' pockets, but that is not the case. We are simply suggesting that some of the funds collected from grazing patrons be directed back to help pay for management. Under the lease terms the Province is asking for, the Department of Agriculture stands to earn $10 to $12.5 M each year once they have all 62 pastures leased out. $4.5 M would be much less than half of that. It would protect our cultural and ecological birthright as prairie people while investing in our future--the future wellbeing of our native grasslands, and the future wellbeing of our livestock industry and the local communities that depend on it.  Is it too much to ask that we set aside a fraction of the pasture lease revenues each year to foster and protect those important public values?

$4.5 million is a bargain to manage 1.8 million acres of grazing land for the public good, and if we consider that the Province is also making untold hundreds of millions off this land each year from oil and gas revenues (Bigstick Community Pasture has brought as much as $80 M in oil and gas revenue in one year on its own), this grass is providing our Provincial Treasury with an awful lot of cash. The least we can do is spend a tiny portion of that revenue to ensure that our 75 year investment in the ecological integrity of the PFRA pastures will not be jeopardized.

Eric Weisbeck, Wolverine Pasture Manager, rescuing a short-eared owl (image courtesy of Brian Payne)


  1. Thanks Trevor, for all your work on this. I fear the worst for some of these pastures. In some cases, the land will be managed appropriately. But in areas where there is potential for oil and gas and potash development, I believe that the current Govts. policies will encourage severe degradation of the landscape. The Provincial Govt. has an opportunity here to demonstrate a balanced approach but so far has not taken it.
    We have settled into our knew place quite comfortably and may be willing to help you out if we can. Let us know.

    Thanks, Mark Weisbeck

  2. Thanks Mark--glad to hear you are doing well in your new place. Email me at when you get a minute--there may be a way for you to help.


Share this post

Get widget