FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron says former PFRA pastures should stay under provincial responsibility after 200 cattle died earlier this month. (Jason Warick/CBC) The Federation of Sovereign #Indigenous Nations is asking the provincial government to keep responsibility for its community pastures after 200 cattle died on such land near Shamrock, Sask.
Lab results have shown the cattle, which were being kept on land run by Shamrock Grazing Ltd., died through a combination of dehydration, poor water quality and heat. Glenn Straub, president of the company, has denied allegations of neglect and said the deaths were an accident.
But the FSIN is wondering if the cattle would have died had the province been in control of the pasture.
"The incident at the former Shamrock PFRA [Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration] pastures shows how vulnerable the lessees of the 61 PFRA pastures are when proper monitoring is not done," said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.
In March, the government announced the Saskatchewan Pastures Program would be phased out over the next three years. The federal government handed over control of 61 community pastures to Saskatchewan in 2012.
The government had considered selling off the land, but opted for leases after consulting with farmers.
The Ministry of Agriculture said similar situations have occurred in the past under the federal and provincial systems and does not believe that management structure is to blame.
"To infer there is a correlation between a particular ownership model and a safety situation is inaccurate," read the statement.
"Ranchers and professional pasture managers bring tremendous #awareness and expertise to managing the local conditions for their livestock as well as the ecological integrity of the land." What happened
Just days before the cattle died, they were moved to a new grazing pasture and were last checked on July 2. The hundreds of dead and ill cattle were found July 7.
Earlier, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association had called conditions a perfect storm for contaminated water. A lack of spring run-off and dry conditions have meant salts in many ponds haven’t been diluted in ponds and dugouts. Shamrock Grazing Ltd. president Glenn Straub would not allow CBC to enter the pasture to see the deceased and sick cattle nor was CBC able to see the water source. (Kendall Latimer/CBC) The province’s chief veterinary officer Dr. Betty Althouse said there likely weren’t very many signs that the water was contaminated, and that the cattle death could be a "sudden and catastrophic event." First Nations wanted to buy Crown land
The FSIN became involved with the issue in March, when First Nations became concerned they weren’t being given the first option to buy Crown land that was being offered for sale.
Some First Nations are asking for the opportunity to buy the pasture land and lease the land to local cattle farmers.
"The land and waters are sacred to us. Our inherent and Treaty rights to the protection of our lands and waters supersedes provincial jurisdiction," said Cameron.
"When the land and water is contaminated, it impacts everyone — it is not just the patrons who suffer, but our #First Nation people who rely on the wildlife that drinks the same water."
The RCMP and Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan continue to investigate the incident.The government said, "We look forward to their findings and recommendations, and working with all cattle operators on how to best prevent future incidents."The Saskatchewan Pastures Program covers 780,000 acres of land.With files from Bonnie Allen, Kendall Latimer
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