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Harper Government Begins to Phase Out the Community Pasture Program</

10 Sask. Lands first to be Transferred Over to the Province

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The Canadian federal government announced 10 grazing lands in Saskatchewan to be transferred over to the province as Ottawa plans to phase out the Community Pasture Program. The pastures are located in Weyburn, Foam Lake, Watrous, Swift Current, Rosetown and North Batteford and will be shed from the federal government’s control by late 2013. Cattle ranchers whom currently use the lands for grazing purposes will be managing them by 2014.

The Community Pasture Program was created in the 1930s to reclaim land that had been eroded during the Prairie drought. In total, the program included 61 community pastures in Saskatchewan, 23 in Manitoba and two in Alberta. The Harper government announced in its spring budget that they would begin the phase out of the program and transfer the 900,000 hectares (87 sites) of lands to the provinces by 2018. The government also announced that one of the community pastures in Alberta will be permanently closed in 2014 and will revert back under the control of the Department of National Defence.

The pastures’ current patrons will have first opportunity to own or lease the land. The Saskatchewan government plans on working with Farm Credit Canada to work with ranchers on financing options for those interested in purchasing the pasture lands. There are a number of conditions for pasture land purchases including each pasture must be maintained in each block, sales will be based on market value, native prairie lands will be subject to no-break/no-drain conservation easements and federal Species at Risk Act will be enforced.

The announcement raises a number of concerns ranging from the steep $1 billion dollar price tag to proper management of the lands once transferred to  access to the pastures for hunters, riders and naturalists. The Aboriginal community has also expressed concern with the transfer - noting that they have been displeased with the transfer consultation process.

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