The Saskatchewan government’s official target for protected areas in Saskatchewan is 12%, however, no target date has been set for achieving this goal. Currently 9.8% of lands in Saskatchewan are protected (i.e., 6.35 million acres or 2.57 million hectares). In 2019, the United Nations, spearheaded by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, found that the health of ecosystems is rapidly deteriorating around the world and that transformative change at the local and global level is needed to conserve and restore nature. The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%. In late 2020, the Government of Canada joined many other nations in announcing a new target for protected areas in Canada: 30% of Canada’s lands and inland aquatic areas to be protected by 2030. However, the province of Saskatchewan’s target remains unchanged at 12%.

About 1 million plant and animal species worldwide are now threatened with extinction. Thus, protecting Saskatchewan’s biodiversity is a high priority for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. SES supports the federal target of 30% of Canada’s lands and inland aquatic areas to be protected by 2030. SES also presses for the establishment of new ecological reserves, national parks, and other protected areas in Saskatchewan, which in turn helps ensure that wildlife habitat is protected. The Saskatchewan government should work closely with indigenous communities, rural communities, and the federal government in establishing these protected areas in the decade ahead. Read about the need for provincial action, as a result of the UN Biodiversity report findings.

The vast bulk of Saskatchewan’s native prairie has been lost over the past century, and Saskatchewan’s grassland bird populations are dropping. Two of the last important refuges for at-risk populations are our community pasture system and the Great Sand Hills, the largest contiguous block of native prairie left in Canada. SES has joined the fight to save our community pasture system and has encouraged the Saskatchewan government to create ecological reserves in the Great Sand Hills. One success has been the establishment of a 140-square-mile ecological reserve in the northern portion of the Great Sand Hills.

In Saskatoon, the Northeast Swale is a 26km ribbon of wild prairie and natural wetlands, one of the largest surviving fragments of natural prairie in this part of the province. SES works to maintain and protect the ecosystem and biodiversity of this unique landscape. The Swale faces threats from urban sprawl and roadways. You can read our letter to the provincial government asking for reconsideration of the proposed provincial “Saskatoon Highway” which will fragment the Swale. The SES also recommends that the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure and the City of Saskatoon take the time to carefully, comprehensively re-examine the environmental and economic impacts of the proposed route, taking into account the impact on the neighbourhoods, the creation of greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on wetlands, and the destruction of a valued natural area that the City has stated its intentions to designate for long-term protection.

Biodiversity is also impacted by toxins such as pesticides. Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides. Neonicotinoids have been found in 90% of the tested wetlands in Saskatchewan and post a significant risk to the province’s wild pollinators and to entire ecosystems. SES encourages the Saskatchewan government to halt the widespread and indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides.

Medical experts recommend that we reduce our dependence on the use of pesticides used only for the beautification of our lawns, gardens, schoolyards, parks, and golf courses. There is no legislation or bylaws restricting the cosmetic use of pesticides in Saskatchewan despite the fact that we have the highest household use of pesticides in gardens and lawns in Canada. Meanwhile, over 170 municipalities and almost every province has enacted pesticide reduction bylaws and legislation to protect their public and the environment.