Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference
Calgary, Alberta
February 21-24, 2023



Plenary 1:  The Prairie Crisis – Moving the Ledger

Presenter: Trevor Herriot

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Abstract: More than 30 years after the PCESC conferences began, we have seen some progress in public awareness and even some small victories in species and habitat protection, but the overall decline of prairie species has accelerated and there are never enough funds to protect, restore, and manage the ecosystems that need it. It may be time to see the crisis in prairie ecosystems as part of the global crisis shaped by climate change and the collapse of wild systems. Industrialized agriculture and food systems figure strongly both locally and globally in the way we frame the crisis, but usually on the causation side of the ledger. In his presentation, naturalist and author Trevor Herriot will look at these matters and consider the potential of “regenerative agriculture” to move across the ledger, addressing climate change and biodiversity loss, while inviting more people into a culture of care for the soil, ecologies and creatures that share our common home.

Biography: Trevor Herriot is a naturalist, writer, and co-chair of Public Pastures--Public Interest. He is the author of several award-winning books, including Grass, Sky, Song and the national bestseller River in a Dry Land, both of which were short-listed for the Governor General’s Award for Non-fiction. He is the 2017 recipient of the Cheryl and Henry Kloppenburg Award for Literary Excellence. Towards a Prairie Atonement, published in October 2016, took two Saskatchewan Book Awards. Islands of Grass, a book of his essays accompanying the photographs of Branimir Gjetvaj, released in the fall of 2017, also won two Saskatchewan Book Awards. He has published essays and articles in The Globe & Mail, Brick, Border Crossings, Canadian Geographic, and several anthologies. Herriot is featured regularly on CBC Radio and is a frequent guest on the call-in show Blue Sky. He and his wife, Karen, live in Regina, have four adult children, and spend much of their time on a piece of Aspen Parkland prairie east of the city.


Plenary 2:  Lessons from the South of the Divide - Facilitated Panel Discussion

Moderators: Sheldon McLeod with Karl Zimmer

Chay Anderson,
Robin Bloom,
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Tom Harrison,
South of the Divide Conservation Action Plan
Jeff McManus,
Crescent Point Energy
Sue Michalsky,
Rancher, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance
Beatriz Prieto,
Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment

Abstract: The South of the Divide (SOD) Action Plan (2017) targets nine federally-listed species at risk inhabiting the Milk River basin of southwestern Saskatchewan. The nine species, largely dependent on short-grass native prairie habitats, are Black-footed Ferret, Burrowing Owl, Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer, Greater Sage-Grouse, Loggerhead Shrike, Mormon Metal Mark, Mountain Plover, Sprague’s Pipit and Swift Fox. The goal of the plan is to conserve these and other species at risk, and their supporting habitats, through cost-effective measures and collaboration with land owners and other land users or stakeholders. This plenary will discuss perspectives and lessons learned from some of the key partners involved in the SOD Action Plan development and implementation to hopefully provide guidance for other co-operative multi-species ecosystem-level planning initiatives in other prairie priority places.


 Chay Anderson Photo

Chay Anderson is from Fir Mountain, Saskatchewan where he ranches alongside his father, Lloyd. Chay received his agribusiness degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 2014. Following graduation, he moved home to ranch full time with his family. The ranch is a cow calf operation that grasses their own yearlings as well. Chay is involved in Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s youth mentorship program and their ranch has collaborated with SSGA, SODCAP Inc. and Grasslands National Park on Species at Risk projects.


Robin Bloom has worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service for 17 years starting in Ontario and in the Prairie Region since 2005. His roles with the federal government have spanned technical fieldwork on grassland songbird and prairie plant species at risk, coordination of habitat stewardship funding and development of policy advice on consideration for prairie habitat conservation incentives under the Species at Risk Act. This range of experiences has provided opportunities to work with conservation organizations and individual farmers and ranchers who own and manage prairie habitats important to species at risk. Robin currently works as a funding coordinator in the CWS Prairie Stewardship Unit where his main role is to develop funding relationships with the agricultural sector to achieve prairie conservation outcomes under Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Land initiative (SARPAL).

  Tom Harrison Photo

Tom Harrison ranches with his wife Tracy and daughter Kaitlyn, running a 250-head herd of Angus and Speckle Park cows near Regina and Swift Current. Tom has contracted as the executive director for SODCAP Inc. since 2014. He was involved with The SOD planning process from 2007 to 2013, with emphasis on the implementation and economic teams. He have a BSA 84 and MSc 93 from college of Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan and >25 years experience as a Professional Agrologist in agri-environmental programming both as a consultant but also with agencies such as Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Corporation/Water Security Agency, Saskatchewan Indian Agricultural Program, Agriculture Canada.

Jeff Macmanus Photo

Jeff McManus is the Surface Land Manager at Crescent Point Energy.  He has over 23 years of oil and gas experience working in all four western provinces and in the United States. Jeff has a degree in Journalism from the University of Montana.  Jeff has been involved in various roles with SODCAP since its’ inception including Co-Chairing the Board of Directors.  Jeff was also involved with Crescent Point’s partnership with the Calgary Zoo with the reintroduction of the Swift Fox in SW Saskatchewan.  Jeff works very hard a creating a co-existence between industry and the communities along with the environment. 

Sue Michalsky Photo

Sue Michalsky, M.Sc., R.P.F. is a beef and lamb producer with ranch holdings in southwestern Saskatchewan and southwestern Alberta. The grasslands she owns and manages support at least 11 federally listed species at risk. Sue is an alumni of the University of Alberta and has worked throughout North America as a rangeland ecologist and conservation practitioner. Her work experience centres on livestock and range management, conservation planning and agri-environmental policy.  She is a co-founder and director of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance Inc.

Beatrix Prieto Photo

Beatriz Prieto is a Terrestrial Ecologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. With a background in Conservation Biology, Beatriz has extensive experience in planning and developing wildlife and endangered species conservation and management projects in different countries and contexts. With more than 8 years working for the Saskatchewan government, she was involved with the South of the Divide project since a very early stage and is leading the implementation actions for the provincial government.


Plenary 3:  Regenerative Agriculture

3-1. Beyond Pesticides- A Systems Level Solution for Agriculture and the Environment

Presenter: Christy A. Morrisey, PhD

C Morissey Photo

Abstract: There is an urgent need for coordinated scientific and economic evidence to support agroecosystem redesign to improve the sustainability and resilience of Canadian agriculture. In Canada, the Prairies represent the largest agricultural region covering an area of 40.1 million ha and providing over half of the nation's agricultural food exports. The region is dominantly under monoculture production with major Prairie commodities- cereals, oilseeds, pulses and livestock. Our research confirms the negative environmental effects of pesticides to wetlands and biodiversity while producers face additional challenges from pest resistance, tighter chemical restrictions, degradation of soil health and rising cost of production. The Canadian Prairie Agroecosystem Resilience Network (CPARNet) was conceived and developed by 34 academics from 7 institutions working in tandem with agro-industry groups, government scientists and policy makers, NGOs, First Nations, and farmers with the goal to conduct participatory whole-farm studies in the Prairies. The Network plans to use a holistic systems approach to simultaneously study environmental, agronomic and economic processes across a gradient of farming practices and geographic conditions. Researchers will also work with farmers to apply ecological intensification methods and look at the costs and benefits. We hope to provide farmers with alternative strategies for reducing risk, increasing productivity and profitability by enhancing landscape diversity and ecosystem services. This innovative approach will address multiple challenges facing Canada - including crop stability, climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, by giving the agricultural industry tools and strategies that increase the sustainability and resilience of Canadian food production systems now and in the future

Biography: Dr. Morrissey is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the department of Biology and the School of Environment and Sustainability. Her research expertise is in avian ecotoxicology, aquatic ecology, ecophysiology, and wildlife conservation. Christy has 20 years experience working on issues related to environmental contamination from pesticides and other chemicals and the use of birds as indicators of environmental change. She has published over 55 journal articles, book chapters and reports. She has been an advisor and member of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and works closely with provincial and national governments on regulatory issues of pesticides, wetlands and the conservation of migratory birds.  Dr. Morrissey has been featured very broadly in the national and international media including CBC’s Quirks and Quarks and The Nature of Things, Audubon Magazine, Science Daily, and a full feature documentary film about songbird declines called “The Messenger”. 


3-2 Applying the Principles of Regenerative Agriculture in Manitoba

Presenter: Ryan Boyd

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Abstract: Ryan has been applying the principles of Regenerative Agriculture for several years on their farm and will describe some of the changes that have been made.  Creating an integrated crop livestock system has been challenging and come with many successes and failures.  Ryan will share his experiences and offer insights on what it will take to implement Regenerative Agriculture at scale and get more widespread adoption of profitable, productive and conservation minded approaches to farming.

Biography: Ryan is a family farmer who is passionate about soil health, forage efficient cattle and no-till cropping systems. Ryan operates a mixed farm just north of Forrest, Manitoba with his wife Sarah, daughter Piper, son Bingham, and parents Jim and Joanne Boyd.  The farm focuses on integrating cattle and grain crops to capitalize on the many synergies that exist between the two.  The farm consists of approximately 300 black Angus beef cows, calving in June and a diverse crop rotation.  Ryan was recently awarded a 2019 Nuffield Farming Scholarship.


Plenary 4:  What is Indigenous-Led Conservation?

Presenter: Shaunna Morgan Siegers

Shaunna Morgan Photo

Abstract: I’ve often heard that the greatest biodiversity is found on the lands occupied and used by Indigenous peoples.  A 2017 headline reported: Indigenous Peoples Guard 80 Per Cent of World’s Biodiversity.  Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island (aka North America) and around the world have been the original conservationists – although they would never phrase it like that as the term conservation is so foreign to them and even has negative connotations given its hierarchical nature placing humans in a position of power as managers over plants, animals, water, etc. 

The common ground in the Indigenous-led “conservation” of plants, animals and other living organisms often comes from the value many Indigenous peoples place on all life – you’ve probably heard the term “all my relations” and if you’ve heard a prayer translated from an Indigenous language into English you would likely hear the Elder thanking all the elements of life – air, water, earth, fire, the four directions and all the living creatures. It’s all about relationships and the act of carefully nurturing and maintaining those relationships.  All relationships are multidimensional, intraspecific and interspecific– like an infinite-dimensional web – everything is connected. For many Indigenous peoples who follow a traditional way, relationships are guided by the seven sacred teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth – these are the laws that govern their decisions and actions. These values and teachings – once nearly stripped away by colonization, religious conversion and residential schools – are being taught by the Elders once again.

Like the diversity of Indigenous cultures around the world, Indigenous-led conservation can take many shapes. I will present three forms of Indigenous-led conservation promoted and supported by the Indigenous Leadership Initiative: Indigenous Guardians, Indigenous Land Use Planning and Indigenous Protected Areas and connect how each of these relates to species at risk. I will also present on considerations for collaboration and reconciliation through Indigenous-led conservation.

Biography: Shaunna Morgan Siegers is Operations Manager for the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI). Born, raised and currently living in southern Manitoba, she is a member of The Crees of Waskaganish First Nation situated on the southern shores of James Bay in Eeyou Istchee. A scientist with bachelor and master degrees in botany, she possesses more than 25 years of research, Indigenous Knowledge and environmental science experience. Shaunna has lived and/or worked with many First Nations across Canada. Shaunna has a deeply held sense of responsibility to protect the environment and keep it healthy for future generations. She seeks well-balanced solutions to address the complex environmental, social, cultural and economic challenges we all face.