Nature Canada

Building partnerships in the prairies with Nature Saskatchewan

In June, Nature Canada’s Gauri Sreenivasan and Teagan Yaremchuk headed west for Nature Saskatchewan‘s Spring Meet. Read Teagan’s trip report below.

Twice a year Nature Saskatchewan hosts a regional meeting where members, naturalists and stakeholders gather to discuss how to best protect the province’s natural spaces.

This spring’s event took place in Eastend, Saskatchewan, and featured a tour to the Govenlock, Nashlyn and Battlecreek community pastures.

As an Ottawa-based charity that partners with Canadian groups across the country, it was an opportunity to meet face-to-face on important issues, like grasslands conservation.

Being on the ground with locals at these meetings is an important way to learn about the work they do, making introductions and find more ways we can work together to protect the prairies.

This trip, we were fortunate to be invited to the home of one of the most prominent ranchers in the South of the Divide area, Randy Stokke. Randy and his wife Terry graciously welcomed us to their ranch for lunch.

We discussed the views and concerns of the ranching community for creating federal protection for the three previous community pastures in the area. Randy is one of the great stewards of these native grasslands.

He clearly sees the value in conserving them properly, both as habitat for species at risk and to ensure the future of his family’s livelihood.

After lunch, we hopped in Randy’s side by side and followed historic trails on the property, past plenty of cows and wide-open fields of short grass. Willow Creek Ranch is 90 per cent native prairie and provides habitat for over 50 bird species, as well as dozen federal species at risk and provincially rare species.

His border collie Katie also joined us on our tour, running beside the vehicle for many kilometers!

Being on the land, learning from locals, gives a new appreciation for the native prairie landscape and better knowledge of how best to protect it.

Another striking part of the Spring Meet was the sheer amount of birding knowledge among participants. On Saturday two buses filled with naturalists headed out to explore some of South West Saskatchewan’s natural jewels through the Frenchman Valley toward Ravenscraig.

Naturally, the busses engaged in a competitive bird-spotting contest against each other and I am proud to say that we were on the winning bus with 42 different species sightings in the afternoon alone.

We left Eastend on Monday with a new appreciation for the prairie grasslands, contacts to support and a renewed energy to protect the prairie grasslands and all the species at risk that live there.

Locals living in Saskatchewan and Alberta know grasslands best, but it will take all of us, around the country, working together to achieve conservation goals.

You can help by signing our petition to protect more of this important habitat.

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Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.