Prairie perceptions: Learning from landowners
This summer I was hired as a conservation intern assigned to help Marla, the stewardship coordinator in southeast Saskatchewan. Together, Marla and I travelled to the properties in southeast Saskatchewan that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) owns and has conservation agreements on to document human-made structures and the species in the area. One of the most desirable aspects of working for NCC is, of course, seeing all the beautiful natural spaces Saskatchewan has to offer that NCC has protected. One aspect I was not prepared for, however, was meeting all the landowners and their families who also take pride in their land.
One example of a proud landowner was Bob, an NCC easement grantor (owner of the titled land who granted NCC the right and authority to place and maintain a conservation agreement) with a property northeast of Regina. He is incredibly knowledgeable in natural land management practices and techniques. One way he did this was by choosing to place salt blocks for cattle among the invasive plant species on his land. This causes the cattle to spend more time in the area, grazing and trampling the invasive plants to help manage their growth.
Another great encounter was meeting smart, young Julianna, the granddaughter of easement grantors at another property northeast of Regina, who was approximately 10 years old. I knew our time together would be interesting as I sat in the truck and she greeted me by asking “What is this strange locomotive?” She took the time to show me around and share what she loved about her home on her grandparents’ land. Her family has been on the land for generations, and she was proud of the home they had built.
A deer standing among a shrubby area at a property in southeast Saskatchewan (Photo by Jason Bantle)
One of my favourite experiences was with Clint and Jody, landowners in southeast Saskatchewan, who signed a conservation agreement with NCC in 2021. They were incredibly welcoming and very helpful in guiding myself, Marla and Jess, the central Saskatchewan intern, around their property. During this time, Jess and I had what I considered an insightful conversation with Clint.
As someone from the city who hasn’t personally experienced many of the struggles of rural life, I always make a point of listening and trying to learn from people who do know those struggles. Although we were in completely different places in life, I was surprised to learn that Clint shared many of my opinions, but he was armed with way more knowledge than I had to back them up. His background, experiences and ability to identify when he didn’t know something or didn’t have a clear opinion made him a fountain of knowledge, and I drank in as much as I could.
A green ball cap with words that say "Make Saskatchewan Green Again" (Photo by NCC)
I am grateful for his patience in answering all of my questions, and I left the conversation encouraged. Encouraged that someone with similar values to me did not have to sacrifice those values to become successful. Encouraged that there are people who truly care about natural spaces in Saskatchewan. Encouraged that passionate people are pushing for positive changes, for example, with embossed hats that say “Make Saskatchewan Green Again” to bring awareness to damage caused by water and mineral run off from crops.
We were shown the hidden gems of their beautiful land, and Jody gave us some pointers on how to deal with ticks. Finally, we were invited to enjoy a refreshing soda on their porch with them and their dogs, Super and Special. It was the perfect way to end the day.
The local landowners working with NCC that I have had the pleasure to meet so far have truly been an unexpected and wonderful benefit of my time here. Meeting these people was an inspiring and refreshing surprise, inspiring a new hope in me! I look forward to meeting whoever we may encounter during the rest of our site visits!