The beauty of the prairies is hard to ignore, but grasslands aren’t just nice to look at or ride across, they are active parts of a larger ecosystem. Grass and wetlands offer habitat to a vast range of organisms, improving biodiversity. Native ecosystems also clean and purify air and water, provide raw materials and resources, disperse seeds and translocate nutrients. Farmers and livestock producers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem through livestock and pasture management, and, through some programs, land owners can even be reimbursed for their efforts to maintain a healthy, native landscape. But how do consumers feel?
Last year, inspired by new planning framework and a hope to renew prairie conservation priorities, the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (SK PCAP) developed a public awareness survey with Insightrix Research Inc with funding from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). From December 10-13, 2013, 801 randomly selected Saskatchewan residents participated in the survey.
Though the results showed that nearly 35% of respondents were not familiar with native prairie, 98.3% still felt supporting Saskatchewan’s native prairie is important. In what ways would respondents be willing to support said prairie? 76.4% said they would be willing to “be responsible towards the environment,” 59.2% would support programs that value farmers and livestock producers’ roles in maintaining ecological goods and services (EGS), 54.4% would be willing to buy goods raised in a manner that promotes EGS, and 45.2% said they’d be willing to support public investment into policies that promote EGS.
SK PCAP took away many messages from these findings, with a greater understanding of target audiences and subjects for awareness initiatives. Though the sample size wasn’t extraordinary, it’s still very encouraging to consider how many people showed a willingness to support native prairie conservation. Let’s just hope that willingness translates from ink on paper to actual environmental stewardship.
What do you think? Would the public in your community be willing to help foot the bill for native prairie conservation? Are you?