The South of the Divide Conservation Action program (SODCAP Inc.) hosted its Annual General Meeting in Eastend, Saskatchewan, on August 14, 2019. 

Cory Larsen of Surge Energy Inc. and Chad Macy of TransAlta Corporation joined the SODCAP Inc. Board of Directors, representing the energy sector. They replace Crescent Point Energy, who has sat on the board since its inception in 2014. SODCAP Inc. greatly appreciates their many years of support. 

Other board members include representatives from the following organizations: Nature Saskatchewan, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association. Larry Grant serves as SODCAP’s local Member-at-Large. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment and Environment and Climate Change Canada also are represented on the board. 

The afternoon began with MLA Mr. Doug Steele, offering words of welcome, followed by a variety of presentations, including one by the local TRex Discovery Centre. They shared some of the research activities going on in the Frenchman River Watershed. 

Dr. Jeff Lane, from the University of Saskatchewan, discussed bats and white nose syndrome. White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is spreading across Canada at an alarming rate. Having a healthy bat population is important for those living on the Prairies because bats provide effective pest control and play a vital role for agriculture. WNS is a fungus that attacks healthy bats as they hibernate, decreasing their fat supplies and causing up to 80% mortality. It is one of the only fungi knowing that can cause death in otherwise healthy mammals. Of the 18 bat species in Canada, 15 are known to hibernate in caves, an ideal location for the WNS fungus. Thus, the majority of Canadian bat species are vulnerable. This is troublesome because, according to United States research, bats provide an economic benefit between $5 billion to $50 billion annually. 

Carl Neggers, representing a collaboration of four First Nations, spoke to the development of a proposal to create an Indigenous Protected Areas in Southwest Saskatchewan. 

Presentations wrapped up with Melanie Toppi and Lee Sexton presenting on one of the SODCAP Inc. projects that uses goats to control leafy spurge on critical habitat. When leafy spurge invades prairie, it leads to changes in plant structure. For ground-nesting grassland songbirds, such as the threatened Sprague’s Pipit, these infested areas are no longer suitable habitat. The habitat can be restored by using goats to control the spurge which allows grasses to dominate those areas again. Goats can eat up to 90% of their diet as spurge, making them the grazer of choice. 

Melanie Toppi, biologist with SODCAP Inc., has coordinated the spurge control project that uses multiple approaches. She says this project has been an exciting learning experience. It has been 

informative to approach an invasive weed problem and adopt a solution which benefits the landscape and species-at-risk as well as the livestock. 

Through a partnership with the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, SODCAP Inc. negotiated a variety of projects with ranchers to help maintain, protect, and restore critical habitat for Greater Sage-grouse, Sprague’s Pipit and a variety of other listed species. Currently, more than 40 projects are actively underway impacting over 220,000 acres of native grasslands and are protected under agreement! 

If you have any questions or would like more information, contact SODCAP Inc.’s Executive Director, Tom Harrison, at 306-530-1385. 

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