Provincial Pastures Program
In the 2017-18 budget the government announced that most of the 780,000 acres of land stretching over 51 pastures across Saskatchewan will be put up for sale and that the Pasture Program will be phased out over the next three years. Only land classified as having high ecological value will be kept as crown land.
The Ministry of Agriculture will be holding consultation meetings and hosting an online survey about how the province should proceed with the sale.
This is an extensive privatization of our commons, a threat to the last vestiges of our native prairie, and removes access to pasture lands for ranchers. Moreover, Indigenous peoples have not been consulted, yet many Nations hold Treaty Land Entitlement should the pastures be sold off.
Have your say about the Pastures Program on this online survey open until May 8, 2017.
In budget 2017-18 the ministry announced that it will begin a two-year process to eliminate the Forest Renewal Program. In the first year the reforestation program will be reduced by $1.64 million, and in 2018-19 the program will lose it’s final $300,000 in funding.
The 2017-18 budget cut the research and development of the provincial boreal caribou conservation plan by $35,000 leaving it with only $670,000 of funding.
Insect and Disease Control was also cut from $1.85m to $1.2m in this budget.
Staff at the Ministry of Environment
There has been a decline in staff from 1,038 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees in 2007-2008 to 859.5 FTE employees in 2017-2018. This represents almost a 20% decrease. Many of the staff cut over this period worked in the area of wildfires. These cuts are significant given recent large wildfires and ongoing wildfire threats due to climate change.
Regional Parks were cut from 1.02m in 2016-17 down to $523,000 in the 2017-18 budget.
The Meewasin Valley Authority’s $704,000 of statutory provincial funding was eliminated. This was partially offset by a $331,000 increase in funding for Urban Parks, amounting in effect to a $409,000 cut. However, the elimination of the statutory funding means that the MVA no longer has a steady and predictable source of annual revenue as the Urban Parks funding can be reduced in any future budget.
Budget 2017-18 makes changes to the governance of Wascana Park. Until 2017, the Wascana Centre Authority was run by a board made up of members from the City of Regina, the Province and the University of Regina. The province introduced a new act, the Provincial Capital Commission, that removes the requirement that $782,000 be transferred from the province to fund the Wascana Centre Authority. Instead, the City, the University, and the Province will each be responsible for the sections of the park that they own, making it much easier for any party to sell off sections or invite in private interests.
The “Keep Wascana Park Public” petition is available here.