SaskEnergy supports NCC’s Southwest Sandhills conservation efforts

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16 people - many wearing orange work clothes - stand or kneel in a posed group photo, with blue sky above and brown grass around them

SaskEnergy’s Tracy Tangen knew about the Cave Pasture long before volunteering for cleanup duty at the former ranch a few weeks ago. 

Born and raised in the Swift Current area, Tracy has always appreciated the “scenic beauty” of this 286-hectare property just north of the city.

The Cave Pasture is a new addition to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) conservation area in the Southwest Sandhills. SaskEnergy has proudly sponsored this NCC project since 2021. 

“I think it’s great that the NCC is working to conserve the Southwest Sandhills. We are fortunate to have organizations promoting the preservation of our natural landscapes in the area,” says Tracy, who works at SaskEnergy’s Success Compressor Station.

Tracy was one of 17 SaskEnergy employees who volunteered to clear out garbage and debris from the Cave Pasture on September 19. 

The team brought trucks and heavy equipment to make their cleanup job easier.

A map of southwest Saskatchewan with a black outline showing the area of the Southwest Sandhills.
The Southwest Sandhills comprises much of southwest Saskatchewan.

In a matter of a few hours, they hauled away over 3,000 pounds of scrap metal and 2,000 pounds of trash! This included a lot of barbed wire and large parts of a windmill. 

By the end of the day, Tracy says, “It looked like a completely different area.” 

SaskEnergy is providing the NCC with $125,000 in a sponsorship commitment over a five-year period to help conserve the Southwest Sandhills. With $50,000 already given in a two-year agreement, SaskEnergy recently committed to providing an additional $75,000 through the next three years.  

This area spans a major part of southwest Saskatchewan and is home to dozens of species at risk. It is also the only known habitat of the endangered Ord’s kangaroo rat.

The Southwest Sandhills is a culturally significant place for Indigenous people. It’s a gathering area, a spiritual haven, and a place to hunt, trap, and harvest berries and medicines. 

Ranchers have also stewarded the land for generations, including in community pastures for cattle grazing. Grazing animals support a diversity of species as well as help maintain the health of the grasslands.

The Prairie grasslands are one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. Grasslands are important to climate health, as they store carbon, mitigate floods and droughts, and filter water. 

At the Cave Pasture, there are wetlands, shoreline habitat and grasslands. This site serves as a refuge for numerous species, including the sharp-tailed grouse, loggerhead shrike, Sprague’s pipit, lesser yellowlegs and long-billed curlew.

“Cave Pasture is one of the few remaining areas of native grassland that can be found in the areas surrounding Swift Current,” says Michael Burak – NCC Program Director in southwest Saskatchewan. “Due to its proximity to the city, this land was at high risk of development and conversion.”

SaskEnergy has contributed more than $600,000 in funds and in-kind contributions to the NCC since 1998.