In 2010, a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity was adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This plan includes 20 global biodiversity targets, known as the Aichi Targets, to be achieved by 2020.
In response, in 2015 Canada adopted the “2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada”. Canada Target 1 (contributing to Aichi target 11) is:
The Target 1 Challenge is an investment by the federal government in projects that can add to Canada’s protected and conserved areas across the country. The Government of Canada is committed to conserving 25 percent of Canada’s land and 25 percent of its oceans by 2025. (Government of Canada)
Across Canada, private landowners, Indigenous peoples and municipalities protect and conserve lands for the conservation of nature, recreation, traditional uses, heritage protection, and water supply protection. OECMs are lands that may not have conservation of biodiversity as their primary goal, but are managed in ways that result in the effective and enduring conservation of biodiversity. Recognizing the biodiversity benefits from the way these lands are managed gives us more complete information about our conservation network, which will help us make better land management decisions. For more information regarding OECMs, please refer to the One with Nature Report.
A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values (IUCN definition).
These areas are recognized in the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database (CPCAD) contains the most up to date spatial and attribute data on marine and terrestrial protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECM) in Canada. It is compiled and managed by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), in collaboration with federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions.
Meewasin has been working with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the approving authority in Saskatchewan, which is the Government of Saskatchewan, land owners in the Meewasin Valley including ourselves, the City of Saskatoon, Government of Saskatchewan, the Federal Government, and the University of Saskatchewan to evaluate natural spaces for their potential recognition. There is a number of specific criteria that are looked at as a part of the process:
· location and boundaries of the site
· any management plans, including management objectives
· identity of any relevant governing authorities in addition to the land owner/manager and the jurisdiction
· activities occurring and expected to occur on the site
· existing relevant legislation, regulations, bylaws, policy or conservation instruments
· ecological condition of the site
Lands are evaluated against a set of criteria derived from existing Protected Areas and OECM definitions as described in the One with Nature report. They must have clearly defined boundaries and a management regime that effectively protects biodiversity over the long term. A standardized evaluation tool has been developed to help categorize the site as a Protected Area, an OECM (Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measure), or neither. Countable areas are being tracked in the Canadian Protected and Conserved Areas Database (CPCAD), which includes protected areas as well as OECMs across Canada.
There are a number of sites in the Meewasin Valley that have moved through the process and are recognized in CPCAD
Meewasin Valley Conserved and Protected Areas
Fred Heal Canoe Launch—8.37 hectares
This recreational area provides opportunities for public access along the South Saskatchewan River. The Meewasin Valley Authority also manages it for the conservation of biodiversity, with a series of bylaws that protect wildlife and prohibit activities that would disrupt native vegetation and wildlife. The northern leopard frog forages here.
Chief Whitecap Park Off-Leash Area—30.2 hectares
Chief Whitecap Park is named after the former leader of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. A portion of the uplands of Chief Whitecap Park has been dedicated as an off-leash dog park. This portion of the park includes a former hayfield that has been restored by the Meewasin Valley Authority to native grass species in order to provide supplementary habitat for wildlife and native plants.
Gabriel Dumont Park—4.49 hectares
Gabriel Dumont Park is located along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, within the city of Saskatoon. The majority of the park is in a naturalized state that was transformed from a cultivated landscape into a landscape more indicative of the naturally occurring prairie grassland ecosystem. It was repopulated with a mix of native and non-native plants. The area is now a fully functioning naturalized park, which also includes typical urban park elements such as walking trails, a children’s play village, picnic tables, and washroom facilities.
Cosmopolitan Park—10.97 hectares
Cosmopolitan Park is a natural space park that consists of forest and shrubland and is home to numerous wildlife species. This park is a migratory bird concentration site and habitat for the olive-sided flycatcher and western grebe (both of special concern), the barn swallow (threatened), and the little brown myotis (endangered). This park is considered to be one of the best wildlife watching parks in Saskatoon, and is a great bird-watching site to view migratory and nesting birds.
Meewasin Park—42.81 hectares
Meewasin Park is a migratory bird concentration site that includes large sections of well-maintained grass lawns; groves of trees, primarily willow and birch tree species; shrubs, mainly cottonwood; some wildflowers; a creek; and a riparian zone along the water’s edge. It provides habitat for the barn swallow (threatened), Harris’s sparrow, the rusty blackbird, and the olive-sided flycatcher (all of special concern), as well as the whooping crane and lake sturgeon (both endangered) species.
Victoria Park—18.27 hectares
Victoria Park is a natural area in the heart of downtown, along the South Saskatchewan River. The area is near neighbourhoods and contains predominantly elm and Manitoba maple groves, shrubs, some wildflowers, and a riparian edge along the water. It also provides habitat for the barn swallow (threatened), Harris’s sparrow, the olive-sided flycatcher, and the western grebe (all of special concern), as well as the little brown myotis (endangered).
Diefenbaker Park Riparian Zone—6.07 hectares
The riparian zone of Diefenbaker Park consists of a mixed stand of predominantly native trees and shrubs along the river. This area provides excellent bird habitat and is a critical part of the ecological corridor through the Saskatoon region.
Peggy McKercher Conservation Area—12.02 hectares
The Peggy McKercher Conservation Area, named in honour of the Meewasin Valley Authority’s first board chair, features beautiful river vistas, a native tree and shrub riparian zone with natural springs, and uplands with significant cultural history.
Poplar Bluffs Conservation Area—8.49 hectares
The Poplar Bluffs Conservation Area is named for the large balsam poplars that grow in the riparian forest area of this site. The uplands provide grassland bird habitat, while the shoreline includes sandbars that are being naturally revegetated with pioneer tree and shrub species, such as willow and poplar.
Beaver Creek Conservation Area—133.61 hectares
The Beaver Creek Conservation Area is where prairie creek meets prairie river, a microcosm of the Meewasin Valley and home to an amazing diversity of wildlife. This area is a key part of the regional wildlife corridor. Beaver Creek contains remnant sandhill prairie complexes that provide a unique habitat for grassland birds, wildflowers, and habitat for numerous species at risk.
Chief Whitecap Park—117.18 hectares
This park is part of the riparian zone of the South Saskatchewan River, and is a former rifle range operated by the Department of National Defence during World War II. The uplands are former cropland and hayland, which were restored to native grass species by the Meewasin Valley Authority in the early 2000s to provide habitat for grassland birds, wildlife, and native plants. This park provides habitat for at least 11 species at risk or rare species, including the bobolink.
Yorath Island—68.95 hectares
Yorath Island is named for one of Saskatoon’s early city commissioners, Christopher J. Yorath. The island did not exist when the land was first surveyed in 1903, but formed later when the river channel cut through the bank. It supports a dense mix of trees and shrubbery, along with wildlife such as Cooper’s hawk, coyotes, red fox, river otter, porcupine, beaver, and deer. It is also one of the northernmost examples of a cottonwood forest in North America.
Saskatoon Natural Grasslands—13.89 hectares
Saskatoon Natural Grasslands is a remnant native prairie nestled in a suburban neighbourhood. It shelters nearly 200 species of plants and a variety of native birds and animals. The site is also home to more than 25 species of butterflies. This fescue grassland is not just grass, but an ecosystem—a complex association of grasses, flowering and non-flowering plants, birds, animals, and insects.
Wilson Island—41.56 hectares
Wilson Island was the site of a sea cadet training camp from 1943 to 1951. The site is a sandy river island on the South Saskatchewan River between Cranberry Flats and the Poplar Bluffs Conservation Area. The island floods during high water events, resulting in unique riparian forest habitats. The forest contains large eastern cottonwoods and green ash, and provides important habitat for spring and fall bird migrations.
Cranberry Flats Conservation Area—74.84 hectares
The Cranberry Flats Conservation Area is a scenic area with large sandy beaches and native prairie grasslands. The site is named after the highbush cranberry, which grows along the river flats. The site used to include an old rural municipal garbage dump and a ski hill tow rope. The Meewasin Valley Authority’s prescribed fire and conservation grazing programs have largely returned the site to its former natural glory. This site also provides important habitat for species at risk, including Gibson's big sand tiger beetle, which uses the active sand dunes on the site for its habitat.
Floodplain Flats—52.07 hectares
The Floodplain Flats are located along the western bank of the South Saskatchewan River across from the Beaver Creek Conservation Area and includes the northern leopard frog, a species of special concern. The site is near a migratory bird concentration site. Trees, shrubs, and a few sandy patches cover the area, along with a large riparian forest.
Would this new recognition place any new or special restrictions on how we manage our properties? Would we have more restrictive policies than what we currently have?
Once an area is recognized, participating in this reporting does not result in any additional policy or regulatory restrictions for the property. However, to be recognized, all criteria must be met, including that management regimes will ensure that conservation will continue for the long-term.
What level of monitoring and/or reporting would be required to keep the recognition in place?
Allowing an area to be reported to CPCAD as a protected area or OECM does not commit the land owner/manager to any specific monitoring or reporting requirements, however, there must be an expectation that the biodiversity value of the site will be maintained or improved. The Pathway decision support tool and draft guidance on monitoring can be found on the Pathway website.
How were the areas decided on?
The currently recognized areas in the Meewasin Valley met all the criteria needed for recognition. The areas were not given a prioritization by ecological significance.
Are there plans to expand the number of areas?
Yes, there are other sites that are moving through the process.
Why was the Northeast Swale and Small Swale not yet recognized?
The Northeast and Small Swales do not yet have finalized defined boundaries. The City of Saskatoon has proposed expansions and additions to the boundaries. The outcome of this process may allow for the recognition of larger Swale areas within CPCAD.