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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Southern Conservation Land Management Strategy is a new land management initiative that balances economic growth with responsible land management and the preservation of ecological values. The strategy:

  • Is a modern, science-based approach to land management;
  • Balances public and private ownership;
  • Continues to protect ecological values using both new and existing legal tools; and
  • Supports responsible economic development.

The amended Acts and new Regulations to support the strategy, including changes to The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA), came into force on May 12, 2014. All WHPA-designated lands have been brought together into one list in the regulations, improving clarity and efficiency.

Highlights of the Strategy

Important ecological values will be protected, through continued Crown ownership and WHPA designation, or through Crown conservation easements, a new class of easement that the Crown may grant to itself prior to sale.

All WHPA-designated land has been evaluated using a science-based Crown Land Ecological Assessment Tool and has been classified into three categories:

  • Approximately 1.7 million acres with high ecological value will be retained under Crown ownership and WHPA protection;
  • Approximately 1.3 million acres with moderate ecological value may be eligible for sale with the protection of a Crown conservation easement; and
  • Approximately 525,000 acres with lower ecological value may be eligible for sale, without restrictions.

Vacant Crown lands in southern Saskatchewan will also be assessed and added into WHPA where appropriate.

Seven per cent of the proceeds from the sale of WHPA lands will go to the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund to support conservation and habitat protection projects.

The legislation provides new compliance tools, including stop-work orders, equipment seizures, injunctions and fines. Penalties for contraventions to Crown conservation easements and WHPA lands will be up to $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations.

Amended Legislation/New Regulations

The amendments to The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act will:

  • Rename lands designated under the Act from “wildlife habitat lands” to “wildlife habitat and ecological lands” to reflect the intent to conserve all ecological values on these lands.
  • Repeal the schedule of lands designated under the Act and move the listing of designated lands to a regulation.
  • Increase the court levied fines for contravention of the Act to $100,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a corporation.
  • Increase the length of time during which prosecution may be initiated to three years after the day on which the Minister becomes aware of the offence, from the current two years.
  • Include a consequential amendment to The Natural Resources Act to designate a portion of the proceeds of the sale of designated lands to the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund.

New regulations, called The Wildlife Habitat and Ecological Land Designation Regulations, have been adopted.  These regulations bring together all WHPA-designated land into one list, making management simpler and more efficient.  The listing was formerly scattered among several different sets of regulations and within WHPA itself.

The amendments to The Conservation Easements Act:

  • Create a new class of easement – Crown conservation easement – that the Crown may grant to itself prior to sale.
  • Provide new and expanded compliance options to ensure the obligations contained in these Crown conservation easement are followed, such as:
    • stop-work orders;
    • seizing equipment;
    • court-ordered injunctions; and
    • court-levied fines for breaching the terms of a Crown easement.
  • Include a consequential amendment to The Tax Enforcement Act to ensure that Crown conservation easements remain on title in the event of municipal tax enforcement action.
  • Improve operation of existing voluntary easements through:
    • provision to amend easements if agreed to by the holder and landowner; and
    • the ability to seek a court-ordered injunction to stop unwarranted activity.

Crown Land Ecological Assessment Tool

The review of lands designated under WHPA uses a newly-developed Crown Land Ecological Assessment Tool, or CLEAT.  The CLEAT is science-based and allows government to categorize lands based on their ecological value and risk of development.   Agrologists, biologists and ecologists from government and conservation agencies worked together to develop the tool.  The CLEAT supports implementation of the Southern Conservation Land Management Strategy and its goal of maintaining appropriate protection based on land’s ecological values. The tool considers a variety of factors, including:

  • natural cover
  • unique ecological features
  • road density
  • species at risk reports
  • size of the parcel
  • proximity to other conservation lands
  • activity on adjacent lands

The assessment provided by the CLEAT is considered, during the review of the potentially salable parcel, to determine whether land may be sold.

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