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Stokkes hopeful for positive outcome from Ottawa trip

Posted on December 1, 2014 by Maple Creek

After word came down in December of last year regarding an emergency order issued for the protection of the greater sage-grouse, many farmers and ranchers in the Southwest suddenly found their operations impacted.

Last month, Randy and Terry Stokke of Consul travelled to Ottawa to join in a discussion with 40 other ranchers and representatives regarding the emergency order.

“We were invited by the Minister of the Environment to sit in on a round-table discussion about the Species At Risk Act,” Randy said. “We received notice in early December of the Emergency Order. In terms of how it has impacted us, we felt there was not enough consultation with the landowners prior to the act coming in.”

While in Ottawa, the Stokkes met with MP David Anderson.

“It went very well. He has been very helpful in this matter with us,” he said.

One of the biggest worries among ranchers is prosecution for failing to comply, even accidentally, with the order.

“It is the fear of prosecution. It has impacted our family. We have the prohibitions that are quite severe under the Species At Risk Act. Any enforcement is very severe fines and can be jail time. Some of the prohibitions are protecting individual plants, which we have not much control over.”

From the meeting, the Stokkes hope that a different way can be found to approach the order.

“I guess we are quite hopeful from that meeting. We were wanting to find a different way to approach Species At Risk assistance. It seemed like they were quite open to find a different way to do it. What we got out of that meeting was that most of the people had the same concerns,” Randy added. “It needs to start from the ground up, where everyone is consulted prior to the actions taking place.”

The meeting included people from throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, each with their own concerns.

“From that meeting, there were 40 people from across Canada and in the North. There were several First Nations represented and they all have the same concerns. It needs to be more ground up level before these actions,” Randy noted.

The emergency order affects 1,700 square kilometres of Crown land in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with the purpose of protecting the species that is down to as little as 90 adult birds in the wild. The order went into full force in February of this year and covers 690 square kilometres of federal and provincial Crown land, but no private land. Areas in Govenlock and Grasslands National Park are included in the affected land.

Under the order, it is prohibited to destroy or remove sagebrush, native grasses or native forbs. The order does not apply to land that has already been used for growing or harvesting non-native plants. In addition, the construction or installation of new fencing is prohibited unless it is used to manage grazing animals. New structures must not exceed 1.2 metres in height and existing structures may not have additions that cause them to exceed the height.

Between April 1 and May 30, from one-and-a-half hours before sunset to one-and-a-half hours after sunrise, no vehicle, machine or facility may operate that produces noise louder than 45 decibels within 3.2 kilometres of sage-grouse mating sites.

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