Conservation and enhancement of wetlands in Saskatchewan, 2015-16

Final Report: Conservation and enhancement of wetlands in Saskatchewan, 2015-16

Goals and Objectives

The abundance and density of wetlands in southern Saskatchewan is unparalleled in Prairie Canada, and provides critical habitat for breeding and migrating waterfowl and other wetland associated species. The majority of southern Saskatchewan is privately owned, and supports agricultural production of either cultivated crops or cattle. Farmers and ranchers have very different perspectives on wetlands. Wetlands provide watering and forage for rancher’s cattle. In contrast, for farmers small pothole wetlands increase seed and input costs by overlapping applications, and delay spring seeding with increased risk of fall frost damage. Wetland drainage provides significant private economic benefits to Saskatchewan farmers.

Agricultural Census of Canada data shows that the area of cattle forage in Saskatchewan has increased significantly over the last 15 years due to conversion of annually cultivated cropland to tame pasture and hayland. This increase in forage area was supported by NAWMP programming in part, and has made a major contribution to the NAWMP habitat objectives in Saskatchewan. An additional critical, but less recognized, benefit of cropland conversion to forage, is that risk of drainage for existing wetlands within the forage area is eliminated, and opportunities are created to restore previously drained wetlands. Therefore forage conversion is a low cost, and landowner-friendly wetland securement tool which complements other tools such conservation easements.

Through voluntary partnerships with ranchers, cultivated cropland will be converted to forage to conserve existing wetlands, and enhance and secure upland habitat for nesting waterfowl and other grassland nesting shorebirds and landbirds.

Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

WHC’s contribution will support 10 year agreements converting 5,142 acres of cropland to native or non-invasive tame forage. According to Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Waterfowl Productivity Model, this is estimated to hatch over 11,187 dabbler ducklings and 2,876 Pintail ducklings over the duration of the 10 year agreements.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetland-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

This project will reduce the rate of wetland loss. This project will secure and enhance breeding habitat for waterfowl including Northern Pintail, and other grassland nesting shorebirds and landbirds with 10 year agreements through voluntary, cost-shared projects with local ranchers. Habitat projects will focus on cropland conversion to perennial forage to conserve existing breeding wetlands, provide upland nesting habitat, and restore drained wetlands for Northern Pintail and other waterfowl. Project activities will benefit other non-game birds, including shorebirds, waterbirds, and landbirds.

While waterfowl habitat benefit is the primary objective of this project, conservation and enhancement of wetlands will also provide significant water management benefits, including flood attenuation and water quality.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

Project activities contribute directly to achievement of the Saskatchewan NAWMP Habitat Objectives, as well as habitat goals for shorebirds, landbirds and waterbirds. The activities will forestall future increases in downstream nutrient loading and peak flood volumes by preventing future drainage activity. Activities are consistent with recommendations of local watershed planning groups concerned with source water protection and wetland retention and restoration, and local hunting groups concerned with game populations.

Project Location

  1. Province/Territory: Saskatchewan
  2. Municipality / county / town / city: Throughout Saskatchewan
  3. Landscape type: This project will target the prairie pothole landscape.

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Glen McMaster, Regina, SK.