Stewards of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan’s Stewards of Saskatchewan (SOS) is a suite of four voluntary stewardship programs that engage rural landowners in conserving habitat in southern Saskatchewan to benefit: species at risk from disappearing prairie landscapes, ecosystem health, and people. The goals of the programs are to conserve habitat, raise awareness and provide environmental outreach to agricultural producers, enhance prairie habitat for species at risk, and search for and monitor target species at risk populations. While the focus is on species targeted by SOS programs, these programs ultimately benefit many prairie species and their habitat.
The prairie region, as well as its biological diversity, is one of the most endangered landscapes. Active stewardship by landowners is essential to the conservation of the remaining prairie landscape since most of southern Saskatchewan’s grasslands (native and tame) are privately owned. The SOS programs use flagship (rare) species to promote awareness of our disappearing prairie and parkland landscapes and their biological diversity. Program ambassadors include the endangered Burrowing Owl (Operation Burrowing Owl), threatened Prairie Loggerhead Shrike (Shrubs for Shrikes), endangered Piping Plover (Plovers on Shore), threatened Sprague’s Pipit (SOS banner), and 16 endangered or threatened plant species (Rare Plant Rescue). In total, SOS currently has over 550 landowner participants conserving approximately 237,000 acres (96,000 hectares) of wildlife and plant habitat across southern Saskatchewan.
How Do I Benefit From Being an SOS Steward?
Benefits to participating landowners include:
- Gaining recognition through a free personalized gate sign (if requested), or a certificate;
- Receiving a tool-kit of educational information and conservation options;
- Receiving the annual SOS newsletter and species-at-risk calendar;
- Receiving graduated rewards for continued participation;
- Receiving a personal invitation to our Conservation Awareness Day events (local, free-of-charge meal provided; opportunity to share knowledge and experiences related to biodiversity, species at risk, range management practices, and management practices beneficial to species at risk);
- Accessing funding opportunities to enhance species at risk habitat, for example, to convert cropland to pasture using native grasses, develop an alternate water source, or put up fencing;
- Signing a non-binding "handshake" agreement;
- Belonging to a community of like-minded producers with opportunities for networking, support, and information exchange; and
- Helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem with a diversity of species for future generations.
What Do I Do if I Spot a Species at Risk?
Call the Hoot Line: 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) (available in Saskatchewan only) or contact the:
- Species at Risk Manager, Melissa Ranalli by phone (306-780-9270) or email email@example.com
- Operation Burrowing Owl Habitat Stewardship Coordinator by phone (306-780-9833) or email OBO if you spot a Burrowing Owl or Sprague’s Pipit;
- Shrubs for Shrikes Habitat Stewardship Coordinator by phone (306-780-9832) or email SFS if you spot a Loggerhead Shrike;
- Plovers on Shore Habitat Stewardship Coordinator by phone (306-780-9832) or email POS if you spot a Piping Plover; and
- Rare Plant Rescue Habitat Stewardship Coordinator by phone (306-780-9417) or email RPR if you spot a rare plant.
Reported sightings are used to help determine the abundance and distribution of species at risk throughout Saskatchewan. Be sure to also report leg band sightings, as this provides information about species movements.
If species at risk are on your land, you can become a steward!
Working With Others to Help You
Education and Awareness
SOS works with the Prairie Conservation Action Plan and the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretative Centre to provide information and educational opportunities to the public about the importance of prairie conservation. We participate in PCAP's Owls & Cows program, and other educational events that visit rural and urban children, teaching them about species at risk, riparian health and grassland conservation through fun games and presentations.
Conservation Awareness Days
Conservation Awareness Day events are held in appreciation of rural landowners who voluntarily conserve habitat for species at risk on their land. Every year, SOS visits different areas of the province to reach these stewards, and to invite and encourage other interested individuals in the community to attend. Conservation Awareness Day events are hosted by communities together with Nature Saskatchewan’s SOS staff. These events are often co-hosted with partner agencies including the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wood River Riparian Authority and the Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards to reach more landowners and to make the most of attendees’ time.
These events provide landowners the opportunity to learn about and discuss issues related to their land and operations, species at risk, and conservation. Events include presentations on Nature Saskatchewan and our SOS programs, beneficial management practices for species at risk, common conservation myths, and funding opportunities for habitat enhancement projects. There is often a field excursion to a local site as well. A highlight of the event is a visit with a live Burrowing Owl from the Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre where attendees meet a live owl and learn more about this endangered species.
Habitat Enhancement - Expand Your Pasture
Nature Saskatchewan offers a pasture enhancement program to improve habitat for Burrowing Owls, Piping Plovers, and Sprague's Pipits. Habitat enhancement can take place through reseeding cultivated land to pasture, fencing seeded pasture, and alternate water developments. The landowner provides 50% of the project cost, and Nature Saskatchewan shares 50% of the cost. Only native plants can be used in sowing mixes for seeding projects.
To be eligible for funds to improve habitat for Burrowing Owls, an area must be:
- Within 1 km of nest sites that currently or previously supported Burrowing Owls within the past 3 years, with priority given to areas with more recent records of owls.
- Adjacent to or close to existing tame or native pasture.
To be eligible for funds to improve habitat for Piping Plovers or Sprague's Pipits through fencing and/or alternate water developments, an area must have:
- A verified breeding pair in the current year, or be designated as Piping Plover critical habitat;
- Native prairie and be adjacent to existing pasture.
Projects will not be approved if the land was broken from native prairie within the past three years. The maximum level of assistance per applicant is $159/acre for seed, custom seeding, herbicide, and herbicide application. The maximum level of assistance for enhancement work is $18,000 per applicant, which could include fencing and water developments. Assistance is subject to available funds and landowner participation/contribution.
For more information on the Habitat Enhancement program you can contact the OBO coordinator at 1-800-667-4668, (306) 780-9833, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The SOS Habitat Enhancement Application form is available here.
Other Ways You Can Get Involved in the SOS Programs?
Volunteers are crucial to the success of the Stewards of Saskatchewan programs. SOS volunteers may help with field surveys, contact landowners, report sightings, share photographs, complete literature searches, and perform office duties. All of these tasks help us achieve the SOS program goals.
For more information on species at risk biology, the value of biodiversity to agricultural operations, beneficial management practices for species at risk, conservation easements, SOS program activity reports, fact sheets and posters, and many other informative materials and links, please visit Nature Saskatchewan’s Resource Page.