Letter to Minister Morgan
December 7, 2018
RR1 Box 59
Lumsden, SK S0G 3C0
Honourable Don Morgan
Room 355, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S 0B3
SaskOutdoors imagines a province where every person can experience a deep connection with nature, where people play and learn outdoors, and we live in harmony with our natural surroundings. We believe that part of this connection to nature occurs in natural prairie habitats, grasslands, pastureland, and farmland. For the purpose of this letter, we will not expand on the fundamental principles of why humans need connection to nature, nor the need to remove barriers to access for all people, including any marginalized groups, who are underrepresented in outdoor engagement. Rather, in support of access to rural land, we offer three opportunities for growth in Saskatchewan as our recommendations to the Saskatchewan government: Access to land for birdwatching and wildlife appreciation; Active transportation and recreation; and Development of marked or mapped trails for recreation and hunting purposes.
The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority profiles 33 species of birds which are essential to healthy grasslands. Bird-watching is an easy introduction to the outdoors and natural environments. Birdwatching aligns with the principles of Leave No Trace as the welfare of birds is paramount. The purpose is simply the enjoyment of observing fauna in its home. Both the Canadian Wildlife Federation and Nature Canada highlight bird-watching as beneficial to human health and wellbeing. SaskOutdoors recommends that the Saskatchewan Wildlife Act be amended to better protect habitats and develop a list of suitable and permissible sites for birdwatching and, in the future, other wildlife.
SaskOutdoors urges for a more explicit distinction between trespassing by motorized vehicle and the use of land for active play and recreation in The Trespass to Property Act. There is a difference in both impact to infrastructure and ecological impact by a motorized vehicle such as an all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile compared to by foot or snowshoe. We support opportunities for people to play and live in harmony with their natural surroundings. A parent taking their children for a walk or a group of youth out for a trail run on established trails or access roads are not incurring damage property, damage to crop, nor are they a significant threat to the spread of disease.
Finally, in connection to opportunities to observe wildlife and to access trails, we believe it is in good stewardship and responsible ownership that the Saskatchewan government should facilitate the engagement of prairie ecosystem management agencies, rural municipalities, and landowners to develop an accessible map of the province which highlights established and new trails for exploring the unending beauty of Saskatchewan. Maps are currently only offered by the rural municipalities and are often not accessible online. This inhibits both adventurers and hunters from knowing their boundaries. Offering an online, interactive map would help both rural and urban residents of the province understand our ecosystems. This type of map would help remove barriers and improve understanding between recreational users and landowners. Landowners would have agency to delineate where they allow individuals to roam (perhaps using a stop-light system: red/yellow/green) and the individual would know where they have a right to roam.
In conclusion, we urge Minister Morgan and the Saskatchewan government to consider ways to improve relations between landowners and those that wish to appreciate the land. One of SaskOutdoors’ strategic priorities is to influence outdoor education policies. Access to outdoor opportunities is a fundamental part of outdoor education. Our mission is to connect people of Saskatchewan to the outdoors and inspire a sense of curiosity and play within our natural environment by passionately delivering programs and services that promote awareness of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship. The Saskatchewan government can play a role in making this possible.
SaskOutdoors Vice President
Here's the Minister's Reply: