In the April 2016 Saskatchewan election, GreenPAC researched top environmental priorities, connected with leading environmental groups on the ground, and co-authored an op-ed series.
We reached out to the public, community groups, key players, and local environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) to identify the following priority issues:
- Climate change and renewable/alternative energy sources
- Agricultural drainage issues
- Erosion of protected areas
- The opportunity for Saskatchewan to be a leader on climate change
Who We Worked With
We collaborated with various local environmental groups to raise the profile of environmental issues during the Saskatchewan provincial election. Our group of organizations co-authored a series of op-eds that brought key environmental issues to the forefront with citizens and politicians. We worked with:
CPAWS Saskatchewan (http://cpaws-sask.org/): CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) Saskatchewan is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to preservation of healthy forest and grassland ecosystems in Saskatchewan. CPAWS Saskatchewan works collaboratively with all levels of governments, local communities, industry and Indigenous peoples to protect the amazing natural places found in the province. The group also strives to ensure that national and provincial parks, as well as other existing protected areas, are managed effectively to protect the ecological integrity of the ecosystems they steward.
Saskatchewan Environmental Society (http://environmentalsociety.ca/): The Saskatchewan Environmental Society works towards a world in which all needs can be met in sustainable ways. Sustainability will require healthy ecosystems, healthy livelihoods and healthy human communities. The SES works with, and on behalf of, communities, organizations, businesses and policy-makers to encourage informed decision-making that moves us towards sustainability. The group undertakes research and uses education, community outreach, consultation opportunities and demonstration projects to provide the people of Saskatchewan with the information and tools they need to make and support these informed decisions.
Public Pastures - Public Interest (https://pfrapastureposts.wordpress.com/): Public Pastures - Public Interest draws together rural and urban Canadians who share an interest in conserving the great public grasslands of Saskatchewan. The group has preserved prairie land for more than 80 years, generating a wealth of public knowledge about land management.
A series of op-eds appeared in the Regina Leader E-Post and the Prince Albert Daily Herald. The following article by GreenPAC Executive Director Sabrina Bowman appeared in the Prince Albert Daily Herald on March 29, 2016.
The promise of spring also brings the promise of a new provincial government. As the ground fills with growing plants and the new and returning MLAs take their seats in the legislature after the election, we encourage them to think about and the potential economic growth of Saskatchewan through political environmental leadership.
A significant area for growth is in renewables. Saskatchewan is the “land of the living skies” in more ways than one, enveloping some of the most sunny and windy conditions in North America. This makes the recent SaskPower announcement that by 2030, 50% of the power grid will be sourced from renewable energy both intelligent and hopeful. The benefits of shifting to renewables include job prospects to keep young people in the province and mitigating the risks of climate change (which is already having impacts such as flooding in south-east Saskatchewan and forest fires in the north). SaskPower’s next move should be to roll out a balanced mix of biomass, solar, wind, hydro imports from Manitoba and electricity efficiency measures, in order to replace the energy currently generated by coal.
Saskatchewan’s natural environment provides generous economic support to the province. The monetary value of ecosystem services including clean air and water, soil conservation, protection of pollinators, grasslands, forests and wetlands ranges in the billions of dollars. But these lands will only continue to provide as long as well protect them.
Saskatchewan has protected our grasslands and forests in the past - in the ‘90s, the government unveiled its Representative Areas Network, which included a plan to protect 12% of land by the year 2000 (the target was never reached). The new government could help with this by recommitting to national land protection targets of 17% by 2020 as set by the federal government through the Convention on Biodiversity. There is also an opportunity to increase protection in the southern part of the province, where the province could step in and protect and conserve the thousands of hectares of Crown land that are in that area.
Not only does this land provide value to Saskatchewan’s preservation of it’s natural areas, it provides important storage of carbon emissions, lessening the province’s impact on climate change. This is especially the case for bogs, fens, and swamps, whose rich organic soil provide an excellent carbon sink.
There are endless opportunities to protect our environment while also providing a strong economic base for the growth of our province.
As we go into the provincial election, let’s encourage candidates to commit to protection of our natural spaces, for our economy, for our enjoyment, for our health, and for our responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint.