The Ministry of Agriculture will offer 15-year leases to patron groups at 50 community pastures across the province.
The 780,000 acres are covered under the Saskatchewan Pastures Program (SPP), which will be wound down over the next three years in a cost-cutting move. Pasture management will transfer from the province to the lessees.
Thirteen pastures in the northwest will make the transition for the 2018 grazing season. Another 19 pastures are slated for the following year in the northeast and northwest, with the remainder in the northeast and south making the change in 2020.
Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart says it's very similar to the recent transition of the former PFRA community pastures.
"This approach will ensure continued grazing opportunities and environmental stewardship of the land."
Patron groups that can't afford the cost will have the option of working with third party groups, such as environmental organizations or rural municipalities.
The provincial government held a six week consultation process, which included stakeholder meetings and an on-line survey. Stewart adds there was strong support for government continuing to own the pastures. Those backing the 15-year lease include the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations (FSIN) says it can offer a better financial deal to current patrons if it is allowed to purchase pastures through Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE).
"As First Nations people, our priority is our Inherent and Treaty Rights," said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. "By purchasing these land and working with the patron groups, we will find a workable solution together."
There is a current example involving the Witchekan Lake First Nation, north of Spiritwood. It purchased a community pasture through TLE several years ago. Chief Cameron says there has been a successful working arrangment with the patron group in managing that pasture.
The FSIN plans to contact various patron groups to show them their proposals and work on a partnership agreement.
"We will offer a better deal that what the province is proposing," according to Chief Cameron, who adds the impact of an impending carbon tax and higher pasture lease fees will make it difficult for ranchers to make ends meet.
"It makes good business sense from our viewpoint and once we get the patrons to understand and support us, the province is going to have no other choice but to sell."
Last Grazing Season 2017 : Beacon Hill, Bluebell, Makwa, Cabana, Fairholme, Hatherleigh, Antelope Park, Grill Lake, Lizard Lake, Fielding, Hafford, McDonald Creek and St. Walburg.
Last Grazing Season 2018 : Big River, Jackson Lake, Cookson, Wingard, Rosthern-St. Julien, Crystal Springs, Smeaton, Pathlow, Pleasantdale, Barrier Lake, Donsland, Smoky Burn, Mistatim, Bertwell, Marean Lake, Sylvania, Swan Plain, Lady Lake and Whitebeech.
Last Grazing Season 2019: Millie, Arena, Matador, Beechy, Grainland, Valjean, Old Wives, Meyronne, Dixon, Mankota, Scout Lake, Regina Beach, Strawberry Lake, Midale, Pipestone, Calder-Togo, Insinger and Good Spirit.