Range rider is a cowboy conservationist, Harper government getting rid of the PRFA for inspector-free (range-rider free) drilling, hydraulic fracturing and waste dumping

Harper’s style starts to chafe by The Star Phoenix, April 9, 2013

Mert Taylor is an unlikely rebel.

A self-described cowboy from southwest Saskatchewan, Mr. Taylor rode the range for the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration for more than four decades, looking after community pastures. Like most people who live close to Saskatchewan’s historic grasslands, the years of literally watching the grass grow have left an indelible mark on the man.

But changes in the way the federal government is treating that land has him uncharacteristically speaking up. … It took a while before Mr. Taylor would talk about the risk posed to Saskatchewan’s native land. Initially he was ordered by his superiors in Agriculture Canada to stay silent. It was only after his union told him that he would have greater liberty to speak up by becoming a shop steward that he decided to take the chance.

Mr. Taylor isn’t the only public servant, past or present, who has decided to make some noise. Last week, retired water scientist Marley Waiser told the CBC that her employer, Environment Canada, had prevented her from talking about research into the impact on Wascana Creek of human-made compounds that were passing unfiltered through Regina’s sewage treatment plant. Both Ms. Waiser and Mr. Taylor are bristling at the commands they remain silent to protect the government when what they signed on in their careers was to protect Canadians and Canada. They are not alone.

Increasingly the Harper government is coming under fire, domestically and abroad, for its determination to silence the public service. Until recently, it seemed Canadians were willing to ignore the outcry from scientists and bureaucrats and give the government the benefit of the doubt.

Ottawa’s strategy was aided by technology. As departing McGill University principal Heather Munroe-Blum told a Toronto audience last week, it’s no longer as easy as it was a couple of decades ago to use an evidence-based approach to discuss public policy. Media bombard people with disparate messages, and make it difficult to sort fact from fiction. “And fiction becomes fact in 30 seconds, and fact becomes obliterated,” she said, in reference to the Quebec demonstrations on tuition rates.

The Harper government has mastered this strategy, declaring that it is investing record amounts in science even as it shuts down world-renown environmental and ecological research site, and that the cuts it’s making to federal bodies such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Aboriginal Affairs, the Canadian Revenue Agency, and Human Resources won’t affect front line services. But according to a national survey conducted for Postmedia News by Ipsos Reid, Canadians no longer buy the argument. According to pollster Darrell Bricker, there is increasing public fatigue with how Mr. Harper governs.

With a growing army of civil servants starting to speak out, that fatigue is bound to grow. Once doubt is out of the corral, it’s a difficult task to rein it back in. [Emphasis added]

Range rider is a cowboy conservationist by Trevor Herriot, April 6, 2013, Special to The Globe and Mail
Mr. Taylor has worked at several PFRA sites, and these days is the last word on grazing and conservation at Bigstick Community Pasture, 24,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and saline wetlands northwest of Tompkins, halfway between Swift Current and the Alberta boundary. “Growing up,” he says, “I never wanted to be anything else but a cowboy.” However, having been with the PFRA more than half of its lifespan, he worries that when it is discontinued, there will be no one to carry on his work. Mr. Taylor is well aware that so far the government agencies involved in the pasture transition seem to see no need to continue the PFRA management programs that have protected the grass and endangered biodiversity, and kept invasive plants at bay. He also knows, perhaps more than anyone, just what is at risk. Initially silenced by his superiors in Agriculture Canada, he recently heard from his union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, that he could safely express his opinion on certain topics if he became a shop steward.

“I’m covered now.” he says, “I’ve been deputized.”

Asked how the land will be managed once it has been sold or leased, provincial officials in Saskatchewan point out that ranchers already manage their own range: Why would these pastures need professionals? That sounds reasonable, but people like Mr. Taylor know that running a ranch is not the same as running a 20,000-acre conservation area being grazed by cattle with 20 or 30 different owners. “We are there to manage resources that belong to the citizens of Canada so that they will be there for future generations,” he says. …

“For us, it’s different. The health of the grass, the wildlife and livestock is our full-time job. We look at the longer term.”

Resource extraction just ups the ante, he says. “With oil and gas, there is more pressure than ever on these pastures, and we have to be more diligent … “No one can eat a gallon of gas or a quart of oil. But if things keep going this way, Canadians will be getting all of their beef and everything else on their plate from other countries.” [Emphasis added]

The Death of the PFRA by Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine, October 1, 2012
Healthy native grass rangeland, the most rapidly disappearing and endangered environment in North America, has been carefully managed and maintained by scores of experienced managers whose range-savy knowledge has has preserved the unique plant diversity for future generations.


Described as one of Canada’s greatest success stories, an intense cascade of initiatives addressed erosion, grass management, water access and irrigation. Now, after 77 years of perseverance and innovation, the PFRA is being terminated by the federal government and nowhere is the loss felt more deeply than in southwest Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan ready to lease 10 community pastures by {ga=meghann-tanner}, October 19, 2012, The Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine
Ottawa announced earlier this year that it was walking away from 900,000 hectares of community pastures on the Prairies. Agriculture Canada also announced that one pasture in Alberta, located at CFB Suffield, is to be closed in 2014 with the land going back to the Defence Department. The Community Pasture Program was created in the 1930s to reclaim land that was badly eroded during the Prairie drought. It includes 61 community pastures in Saskatchewan and 24 in Manitoba. There were just two in Alberta, both at CFB Suffield in the southwest corner of the province.

[Refer also to:

Environment minister turns down Cenovus [split from Encana] Energy project over wildlife risk, EnCana Makes First Court Appearance after Being Charged with Violating Canada Wildlife Act

EnCana waste dumping on Rosebud foodland in 2012, Screen Capture from FrackingCanada’s Short Film Home

Schilke ranch cow that has lost its tail, one of many ailments found in cattle following hydrofracturing of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota

Penn West is cleaning up a pipeline leak east of Red Deer that spilled up to 300,000 of produced water in a field. Photograph by: Supplied, Edmonton Journal

Workers stand in secret frack fluids after a frack communication blowout, Innisfail, Alberta. Photo – Alberta Surface Rights Group

FrackingCanada: How the west was lost

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