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Organization looks to turn SGI rebates into grasslands preservation

Protecting Saskatchewan’s grasslands is the drive behind Field of Dreams: Let’s do something together with our SGI rebate. Credit: 291 Films

Marc Spooner’s first thought when he heard about the SGI rebate is the opportunity it presented.

“I was thinking what an opportunity to pool our money together as a province and really leave a legacy, leave a legacy that generations to come could enjoy.”

Read more: NCC wants thousands of hectares of native Saskatchewan prairie grasslands protected

Saskatchewan Government Insurance announced on Feb. 26 that it would provide a one-time rebate of roughly $285 to registered vehicle owners who have paid auto fund premiums over the last three years.

That is when Spooner came up with his idea to preserve the grasslands and organized the group “Field of Dreams: Let’s do something together with our SGI rebate.”

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“Our group decided together to preserve a piece of land, an important piece of habitat, (and) I approached different groups,” Spooner said.

“The one group that I really got a great response from was the Nature Conservancy of Canada.”

Jennifer McKillop said she was excited when Spooner contacted her to pitch the idea.

“When Marc approached us about this project, he said that the group was looking for a legacy project,” said McKillop, the NCC’s western region vice-president.

“That’s really what our focus is as an organization.”

Read more: Environmental group concerned about native grasslands in southern Alberta

The NCC’s mission is to preserve important landscapes for future generations, including the grasslands.

“Temperate grasslands are the most altered and least protected landscape on the planet,” McKillop said.

“In Saskatchewan, grasslands provide habitat for a number of rare and endangered species, but they also contribute to the health and well-being of the people of the province.”

Click to play video: 'Grasslands important to Saskatchewan’s ecosystem' Grasslands important to Saskatchewan’s ecosystem
Grasslands important to Saskatchewan’s ecosystem – Mar 20, 2021

McKillop said over two million acres of native grasslands have been lost in Saskatchewan over the last 25 years.

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That makes the project important for Spooner.

“People think about the rainforest and other endangered places on Earth and ecosystems, but actually there’s one right in our own backyard and that’s the grasslands and it’s more endangered than the rainforests even,” he said.

“When I got thinking about that, I thought, wow, what a big tent issue that we could just really come together as a province and pool our money together and leave a lasting, tangible project initiative for people for generations.”

Click to play video: 'Protecting the grasslands can leave a lasting legacy' Protecting the grasslands can leave a lasting legacy
Protecting the grasslands can leave a lasting legacy – Mar 20, 2021

The response has been overwhelming, Spooner said, with nearly 500 people so far committing to the project.

“COVID’s been tough, we can’t see family and can’t travel, there’s a lot of restrictions and just a general malaise really over the province and over the world,” he said.

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“So many people have reached out to me and said, ‘Marc, this feels so good. Thanks for giving me something to believe in.’”

Read more: Alberta to sell native grassland despite government promises no Crown land would be sold

The campaign runs until the end of June, at which time the NCC will decide how to proceed with the purchase of grasslands.

“The project will follow the same science-based approach that we use for all of our land acquisition projects,” McKillop said.

“We have conservation plans for different natural areas that we focus on — areas with rare habitats and species. So this would be in roughly the southern half of the province.”

Spooner is looking forward to the day when everyone can enjoy the grasslands protected by their donation.

“The dream is that when all this is done and they’ve acquired the piece of land or tracts of land, they’ll hold a press conference there and invite people to actually walk the very land that they helped protect,” he said.

“Hopefully, COVID will be over by then and we can actually come together right there on the land and celebrate in a tangible way to smell it and to touch it, to hear the sounds on the land.”

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Donations to Field of Dreams are eligible for a tax receipt and can be made at CanadaHelps.org.

Learn more about protecting and preserving the grasslands at conservegrasslands.ca.

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