Saskatchewan conservation easement natural step in land legacy journey — Ducks Unlimited Canada
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Grassroots, Landowners

Saskatchewan conservation easement natural step in land legacy journey

A couple from opposite coasts unites in appreciation of a special prairie place and protects it for the future

By: Jean-Michel DeVink
Freelance writer, Saskatchewan landowner


 

When I moved to Saskatoon from New Brunswick to attend the University of Saskatchewan in 2003, I quickly started to explore this province and the diverse landscapes it offers.

From the boreal forest with its vast forests, lakes, rivers and wetlands, to the wide-open expanses of plains with the pothole dotted grasslands and rolling hills of Cypress Mountains, this place truly is a gem best explored off the black top of the major roads. My partner, Rebecca, is a relative newcomer to the province who also fell in love with its natural wonders and beauty.

Mule deer buck
Mule deer buck © Rebecca Wilson

Finding connections in Saskatchewan

We both grew up on small hobby farms; I, on the east coast in New Brunswick and she, in British Columbia. We ended up on the prairies because of our love of big open skies, the sharp contrast in seasons, the great friendly people, and the wildlife.

We met a few years ago and lived together in Saskatoon. We dreamed of one day finding a perfect little place of our own near the city, where we could once again share a space with all the critters that also call it home.

In May 2019, we finally found it.

Waterfowl in the field
Waterfowl in the field © Rebecca Wilson

A place of our own… and its residents

It was a short drive to town, but most importantly it was directly across from a DUC project that I had explored often and knew well. This was the place I had taken my old hunting dog on her first hunt and where she was now buried. It was where I spent spring days observing the arriving waterfowl in their full breeding plumage as they performed courtship ballets on the water and in the air. It was the first place I observed the captivating lekking behaviour of sharp-tailed grouse on their dance floor (the barn dance of the wildlife world).

Our new home came with 60 acres of land that backed onto the same large wetland complex that sat on the DUC project. It was largely tame hay that had once been used for hay and grazing, had some shrubs for land cover, and was teeming with wildlife.

The day in April we explored the property to decide if we would purchase it, we flushed a sharp-tail nesting in the grass, found the remnants of several old ducks nests, saw many migrant songbirds (palm warblers and American tree sparrows) resting on their long journey north to breed in the boreal forest, heard the unmistakable winnow sound of snipe in the air, and met the staring gaze of a mule deer doe that was plump with her yet unborn fawn about ready to drop.

We knew that, someday, we would no longer be here to enjoy these wild wonders. But the future generations of these animals would be. They, like their previous generations, would need a place to nest, a place to stop and rest along their long, arduous journey, and a place to find food.

 

A place for us, waterfowl and wildlife

We signed the offer the next day.

Every day we’ve been here has been a new day of curiosity to see what wildlife we might observe. We’ve discovered that the sharp-tail we flushed is part of a flock of about 20 birds that we had the pleasure of watching all this winter. The mule deer and her two fawns bed down on our property and make a daily walk to the DUC project to graze, along with the rest of the herd she associates with. We’ve seen a whooping crane amongst a flock of sandhill cranes roosting on the wetland mudflats; ducks and geese regularly fly over the house as they too make their way from the wetland to fields to feed.

We knew that, someday, we would no longer be here to enjoy these wild wonders. But the future generations of these animals would be. They, like their previous generations, would need a place to nest, a place to stop and rest along their long, arduous journey, and a place to find food.

That is why we chose to sign a conservation easement with Ducks Unlimited Canada

A home in perpetuity

Our children may one day live here and continue to appreciate what this land provides to our resident wildlife, or they may not, and choose to live elsewhere. Regardless, we didn’t want to leave to chance the future of these animals, and their generations to come.

Our list of birds and wildlife observed grows with each month. Soon we’ll be wondering if the birds we see nesting on our land are the young of those we observed in seasons past. Regardless of whether they return to nest in the place they were hatched, or are newcomers to this land to raise their young, thanks to our CE, they’ll have a place to call home in perpetuity.

Crocus flower in field
Crocus flower in field © Rebecca Wilson

Through the course of our adventures, we discovered that an edible treat along the wetland margins on our property – Salicornia rubra (known as sea asparagus or sea bean) – grows plentifully here. It’s a delicious plant I first harvested along the shores of Prince Edward Island, and which Rebecca knows well from coastal areas of British Columbia.

This unassuming plant is a small shared connection to where we first discovered our passions for these natural spaces. And it serves as a reminder of a conservation journey that began in our youth, and will continue well into the future, thanks to this land and an easement with DUC.