Sask. Indigenous, environmental groups call for halt to public land selloff
Government has no plans to halt sales, says all interests must be balanced
A coalition of Indigenous, agricultural and environmental groups is calling for the provincial government to keep Crown land public.
They say the government has accelerated Crown land sales over the past decade, with more than a million acres passing from public to private hands.
They say it's resulted in the loss of valuable natural grasslands. They also say it's wrong to sell off the land while First Nations are still in talks to receive land promised, but never delivered, in the treaties.
Trevor Herriot of the group Public Pastures - Public Interest said there's also a very simple reason to halt the selloff.
"One of my primary concerns, and I guess it's a selfish one, I want to have beautiful natural places that I can take my family and other people to show them what the ancient prairie looks and feels and smells like," he said.
Other groups demanding a stop to the sales include the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Nature Saskatchewan and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.
Wally Hoehn, executive director of the Ministry of Agriculture's lands branch, said they always try to balance a wide range of interests.
"We look at all those and try to put into place effective and efficient programs and policies. That's not always going to sit well with everybody but we do our best," he said.
Hoehn said much of the land that's been sold is of marginal ecological value. He also said they will honour all of the government's treaty obligations, including the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) framework.
FSIN vice-chief Heather Bear disagreed. She noted there's another major lease auction of Crown land underway this week.
"The Province has not lived up to its legal obligations under the TLE Agreement that they signed," Bear said in a statement.
"Once again with the latest announcement of an online auction they are violating our Treaty and our Inherent Rights. They stole our lands and now they are selling off all that remains of the Crown lands so that there is no land left for our people."
An online auction listing clarifies that the current spring auction does not include any sale auctions — rather, all land is being leased.
"The bidding lots available for lease as listed on this web page … [are] vacant Crown land" and "currently ineligible for sale," the auction notice says.
- An earlier version of this story indicated a major sale auction of Crown land is underway. In fact, it is a lease auction.Mar 18, 2021 5:21 PM CT
- An earlier version of this story gave the name of Trevor Herriot's group as Public Pastures - Private Interest. In fact, the group's name is Public Pastures - Public Interest.Mar 17, 2021 8:17 PM CT