The Saskatchewan government says it will offer current patrons of its pasture program the option of leasing the land in 15-year leases as the program is wound down over the next three years.
The decision to end the Saskatchewan Pastures Program (SPP) was announced in the province’s budget back in March.
The province says more than 2,000 people completed a public survey offering input on what should be done with the 50 pastures, with 70 percent of respondents supporting the option of giving current patrons the first crack at leasing the land.
“After considering the input received through the public engagement process, we have determined that 15-year leases will be offered to interested patron entities,” Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said on Thursday. “This approach will ensure continued grazing opportunities and environmental stewardship of the land.”
Other interested parties, such as environmental agencies, municipalities or First Nations, can also partner with patron groups that are unable to lease the land alone to obtain the 15-year lease.
The province says the leases will be similar to those offered for federal community pastures, which have been transitioning to patron control since 2012, allowing continued access for hunting, including the exercise of rights and traditional uses by First Nations and Métis communities.
Thirteen pastures in northwestern Saskatchewan will transition from the SPP for the 2018 grazing season. Another 19 pastures in the northeast and northwest will transition for the 2019 grazing season, followed by the remaining 18 pastures in the northeast and south by the 2020 grazing season.
The province says the 50 pastures supported around five percent of the provincial beef herd as of 2015.
Earlier in the week, delegates at the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s 104th annual convention in Moose Jaw passed a resolution to give SPP patrons the first opportunity to lease or purchase the SPP pastures (find the list of carried resolutions here.)