In 2016 and 2017, K+S Potash Canada made two of the largest known grassland and wetland offset investments in Saskatchewan’s history using a precedent-setting formula developed in collaboration with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada.
As a condition Bethune mine’s environmental assessment approval from the Ministry of Environment back in 2010, K+S committed to offset residual impacts to wetlands and native grasslands with a goal of “no net loss.” In simple terms, this means we had an obligation to replace whatever grasslands or wetlands that were impacted by our project.
But the question we faced as an organization was not what we had to do – it was how we were going to do it. How do you compensate for any effects that can’t be avoided or mitigated? At that time, Saskatchewan did not have a standardized approach or guide for habitat compensation in Saskatchewan.
The Ministry of Environment asked if we wanted to “test drive” a new guidance document on wetland compensation that was in the early stages of development. The framework calculated the value of the habitat that has been impacted in order to determine the conservation project that would effectively match that value somewhere else. In other words, our formula aimed to take into consideration more than just the area that needed to be compensated. We were considering the value of the habitat and targeting high-quality habitat offset projects to compensate for that land.
That said, the formula only accounted for wetlands and we had an obligation to offset both wetlands and grasslands.
Working in collaboration with Nature Conservancy Canada and Ministry of Environment, we were able to adapt the wetland model to create a grassland-specific formula to account for factors that are unique to grasslands with the outcome of a unified approach.
Once we determined the amount of land impacted and it’s approximate value, we turned to Nature Conservancy Canada and Ducks Unlimited to ensure the obligation would be met by qualified persons and that the ecological value would be part of their broader conservation strategy for the Province.
From start to finish this project almost took 5 years – nearly as long as it took us to complete the Legacy Project—but in the end, K+S Potash Canada contributed almost $1 million to Nature Conservancy of Canada and an additional $2.8 million dollars to Ducks Unlimited Canada in offset funds.
So far, the offset dollars have helped the Nature Conservancy of Canada purchase Pasqua Lake Property. This property is located 75 kilometres northeast of Regina and just upstream from Pasqua Lake. The property is within the Aspen Parkland ecoregion, an area of national importance due to its high biodiversity. The 280-acre (113-hectare) property protects the marshes upstream from the lake as well as the trees and grasslands that filter and help clean the lake’s water.
Aspen Parklands are ecologically significant as they represent the transition from open grasslands to true forest. They provide habitat for iconic Canadian wildlife, such as moose, deer, beaver, red fox and many migratory birds. Bald eagle can be seen here, as well as several species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, such as Baird’s sparrow, Sprague’s pipit and bobolink. The beauty of the Aspen Parklands are also a draw for visitors and the Pasqua Lake property will help protect the lake’s natural area — a place where many people come to connect with nature.
The Pasqua Lake conservation project was made possible through financial contributions by a number of partners in addition to KSPC. They include the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, the Government of Saskatchewan, through the Fish and Wildlife Development Fund, and many individual donors and supporters.
All photos of the Pasqua Lake property featured here were taken by Jason Bantle.