Saskatchewan Outdoor Enthusiasts Alliance

We are naturalists, nature photographers, hunters, fishers, environmentalists, hikers and bird watchers concerned about new, regressive legislation, the Saskatchewan Trespass to Property Amendment Act

....wishing to share our love of the great Saskatchewan outdoors.

Photo by Patricia Oderkirk Photography

Why do we exist?

On 8 May 2019, the Government of Saskatchewan’s Trespass to Property Amendments Act (Bill #160) passed third reading in the Legislative Assembly. We agree with other analysts that contrary to its intent, this proposal imposes limits on the people of Saskatchewan that are confusing (Schwanky 2019), unnecessary - given an already existing trespass Act of 2009 (Riemer 2019), and lacks scientific and procedural standards (CBC 2018).

This new act, if allowed to become law, will undermine a valued tradition of how Saskatchewan people relate to one another and to their outdoors. It will furthermore place ordinary people in danger of steep fines ($5,000) as they exercise their legal right to fish, hunt and band birds. Poorly delimited legal statutes and regulations, including the proposed amendments, often intersect in complex and unanticipated ways and present serious contradictions.

We join other citizens and organizations in Saskatchewan in calling for a halt to these amendments until they can be given full scrutiny to explore their intended and unintended impacts. This is crucial for the well-being of all people in Saskatchewan, rural and urban, land owners/lessees and the occasional visitors to agricultural landscapes.

Photo by Joe Schmutz

Action Plan

The Trespass Act revisions have passed third and final reading in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly. Now is the time when thse regulations need to accommodate legal activities on the land and respect the rights of all citizens of Saskatchewan. Therefore:

Related Newspaper Articles

Why do the people of Saskatchewan and visitors want to experience the prairie region?

Individual people and families take a trip in the country where 1/3 of the Saskatchewan population resides, to visit friends, enjoy scenery, take photographs, fish, hunt, berry pick, walk the dog or simply just to be there. In a randomly drawn questionnaire of people in Saskatchewan, 59% stated that native prairie is “very important” to them, and 96% at least “somewhat important.”

Photo by Glenna McKay

In 2019, Nature Saskatchewan published a 765-page book describing bird ecology and where and when bird species can be observed in Saskatchewan. The book describes 37 special publications on birds, grasses, landscapes and other natural features. It lists 167 individuals who contributed to bird study and conservation; 225 individuals who have, and many still do, banded birds in Saskatchewan under a federal permit. Christmas bird counts began in 1913 and continue today, in both urban and rural areas, for a total of 4,349 counts involving 29,904 observers to date. 112 Breeding Bird Surveys are conducted in rural Saskatchewan reporting bird species within 400 m of a survey route. If the proposed legislation becomes law, this largely volunteer work for nature will be hard to conduct and much will be impossible without risking a $5,000 fine.

Photo by Joe Schmutz

"It is not in the nature of human beings to be cattle in glorified feedlots. Every person deserves the option to travel easily in and out of the complex and primal world that gave us birth. We need freedom to roam across the land owned by no one but protected by all, whose unchanging horizon is the same that bounded the world of our millennial ancestors." from E.O. Wilson's "The Creation", cited by Ken Ilgunas.

Are we penalizing the victims?

When a vehicle is stolen or noxious weeds transported accidentally from one field to another, all the people of Saskatchewan are victims. When theft is successful the bad apple doing it is rewarded and we all become more vulnerable. When weed infestations spread, the value of agricultural land and family livelihoods decline. Directly or indirectly it hurts us all. Anxiety increases, money needs to be spent for policing and fighting pests. Reduced livelihoods mean a lower tax base for our province.

Example 1: Misuse of a firearm threatens personal safety.

In a recent letter to the editor in Western Producer, (3rd down in the link) a person presumed to be a hunter shot into a farmyard from the road after dark. The author thinks tougher laws are needed, yet this perpetrator broke at least six laws already. It is doubtful that a seventh would help. The offender in question did not trespass, strictly speaking and could not be charged under the existing trespass act of 2009 nor would the proposed tightened act apply. What should have been done is: a phone call should have alerted a nearby RCMP and/or Environment Ministry attachment and a roadblock used to hold this bad apple accountable for his/her actions. Laws that are not enforced may put innocent people in harm’s way.

Example 2: Potential disease spread.

Clubroot is a soil-borne pathogen that reduces yield in canola crops and has become more prevalent in Saskatchewan since 2008. In a survey of 1500 fields in the most vulnerable northern grain belt, the pathogen has been found in less than 1%.

The vast majority of fields were not affected. In addition, the southern grain belt was not surveyed because it is considered an area of reduced risk.

Fields deeded or crown-owned should be marked with a sign that clubroot has been found so that all people, landowners and visitors, can be part of the solution.

We agree with the Ministry of Agriculture and the article by William Dekay (2019) that efforts must be taken to eliminate club root risks and this should be done jointly by farmers and Rural Municipalities.

Farmers have dealt with at least eight insect or fungal infestations in crops in the past according to the Atlas of Saskatchewan. Never before were a total access ban and debilitating fines invoked. A more direct approach may be to borrow the reportable disease approach for livestock health.

Professor Bill Deen, speaking at the 2019 Alberta Institute of Agrologists Conference warned against abandoning the age-old tool of strategically rotating crops for maintaining crop heath and long-term profit. He laments that the trend to fewer rotations has contributed to the spread diseases, including clubroot. Reduced soil health and reduced farm income hurts all people in Saskatchewan in the long term. No one underestimates the challenges from clubroot and other diseases. Yet solutions must be effective and not harm all people needlessly.

Club root cannot survive in grassland and therefore this should not be used as a rationale to prevent access to pastures.

Photo by Joe Schmutz

What the people of Saskatchewan are saying:

"This legislation is not a needed 'tool in the tool box' for law enforcement. It is an unwarranted, ill-conceived knee-jerk reaction, at best, to a problem that for the most part does not exist. At its worst, the reasoning used for the need for the legislation is an excuse for another, as yet, unidentified motive. Ironically, the legislation will negatively impact our rural residents to a far greater degree than most. The farmers and ranchers, the townspeople and villagers are the year in - year out all season occupants and users of the land and its resources. They are the big losers as is all of Saskatchewan."

Jim Pack, Saskatoon (Retired from the RCMP, with former duties including highway patrol, rural & city detachments, & drug section. Sask. Government field auditor and regional manager, special investigations)

"My connection to crown land has been mainly to study soils and associated vegetation on land never cultivated. The never cultivated soils serve as a base from which one can estimate the usually harmful effects of cultivation on soil, particularly soil organic matter content, by also sampling and analysing cultivated soils that are similar. Of course, like many in the Province, I have enjoyed excursions into Crown lands as a 'nature reserve' where one can at least get an idea of the way that landscapes were before settlement and cultivation. I own a small piece of once-farmed land in the RM of Aberdeen, land that I have not cultivated for years, and because of both native and planted vegetation, a bit of a refuge for wildlife."

Darwin Anderson, Professor Emeritus, Soil Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

Terrible stories I’ve been told:

A) "During one of the busiest harvest days, the husband needed to use the truck his wife had taken to the field. While wife and combine were at the far end of the field, he left the car he was driving with keys, for his wife to drive home in. Someone stole the car."

“Two gates of a community pasture were peeled back and left open with tire tracks going through. It was during archery/muzzleloader season and presumed to have been a hunter. Cows went into the adjacent canola field and left enough damage that an insurance claim had to be made and the deductible paid.” Crimes and misdemeanors happen far too often. Yet the amendments to the existing and functioning trespass act are the wrong solution, even if for the right reason. We all need to work together toward an effective solution, not divide our efforts.

Joe Schmutz, Grandora/Saskatoon

Obtaining permission – Good luck!

In a Western Producer article (Briere 2019), Rick Toney, Chair of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association is quoted “It only takes a few minutes to ask for permission, and this is only common courtesy.” This is not the reality in Saskatchewan today.

Using a 2017 RM map, I selected 10 landowner/lessees immediately adjacent to an area where I’ve hunted birds with permission for over 10 years. Then using Sask411, I was able to obtain phone numbers for only four of the 10 names. Six were unlisted, including one numbered company. Even if the four landowners/lessees had answered the phone, what would they have said and why? Most RM maps do not show the home quarter, so finding where they live to ask permission in person is not possible either. In effect, the Saskatchewan Trespass Act amendments puts access to the wildlife resource in the hands of private landowners/lessees who do not as a group have the training to evaluate the benefit to society from hunting, bird banding or mere hiking. Is this another form of privatization of Crown assets in Saskatchewan?

Joe Schmutz, Grandora/Saskatoon


At the Spring meeting of the Prairie Conservation Action Plan partnership, Larry Pfliger (Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation) mentioned that a substantial portion of hunting is done after spotting game while driving in the countryside. For example: a flock of mallards in a pond visible from the road, a rooster that just landed in a cat-tail ringed slough or a flock of Huns that landed in an abandoned farmyard. If the spot was more than 500 m from an occupied building, was not posted and had no livestock or other features that obviously cannot be disturbed, most hunters would park and do their best to sneak up, with a dog by their side. This, unless the regulations are written to enable it, will no longer be possible in Saskatchewan.

Joe Schmutz, Grandora/Saskatoon

". . .these are the legal laws . . ." (A.J. Lerner, Camelot, Musical)

Saskatchewan's First Nations are weighing their options to launch a court challenge re the new Trespass Act on Treaties grounds (Gunn and McIvor 2018). What claim might non-indigenous people in Saskatchewan have?

Wildlife, like other resources in Canada, are first property of the Crown. "The Natural Resources Acts were a series of Acts passed by the Parliament of Canada and the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 1930 to transfer control over crown lands and natural resources within these provinces from the federal government to the provincial governments" (Wikipedia). There is responsibility on the part of the provincial Crown to administer wildlife as a public resource. The province has created institutional mechanism to do so. Among them are educational programs to teach wildlife and environment enforcement personnel what they need to know to serve the province's wildlife and its citizens.

Inserting and giving rights to landowners and lessees without ensuring that the rights of every citizen of Saskatchewan are respected, seems a serious breach of this fundamental understanding. Has the Ministry of Justice done its homework? Will this be another case where we go to court, draw deeper lines between us, further erode social capital and waste a whole lot of money in legal costs? Hunting of migratory birds is federally regulated. How will the Saskatchewan Minister of Justice ensure that migratory bird hunting is not needlessly and arbitrarily restricted, especially on Crown lands?

Joe Schmutz, Grandora/Saskatoon


For further information, contact Dave Harvey and Joe Schmutz e-mail.

For periodic updates e-mail us.

This webpage was last updated on November 3, 2019 by Joe Schmutz