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Understanding Environmental Screening for Farm Stewardship and Water Development Projects

By Lisa May, PAg, Agri-Environmental Specialist, Weyburn

October 2021

HABI Sask website screenshot
A screenshot of the HABISask online screening tool.

When planning new Farm Stewardship or Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program development projects, it is important to screen for environmentally-sensitive lands prior to getting started. The screening process will determine whether permits are required for a project, help avoid potential adverse environmental effects and ensure the long-term resiliency of your development. Completing this screening early and understanding the requirements of the project will help you avoid delays and verify the project costs.

In order to be eligible for Canadian Agricultural Partnership program funding, all regulatory requirements must be met and appropriate approvals obtained. Our agri-environmental specialists and agriculture programs specialists are trained in completing the environmental screening to ensure your project is in compliance with regulations and eligible for rebates/funding. The most common environmental regulatory triggers identified during environmental screening for projects include:

Aquatic Habitat Protection Permit

  • If your planned project is located within the bed, bank or boundary of a water body or watercourse, it will be important to determine whether an Aquatic Habitat Protection Permit from Water Security Agency may be required. The purpose of the permit is to ensure protection of riparian areas and habitat within the water and along the banks or edges of the waterbody and watercourses. Ensuring your project is designed to prevent soil erosion and sedimentation, discharge of any hazardous substances and minimize impact to habitat to promote a healthy, long-term development for your operation. Resources to assist in the understanding of what constitutes as the bed, bank or boundary of a watercourse or waterbody can be found on the Water Security Agency's website.

Wildlife Habitat Protection Act or Crown Conservation Easements

  • It is also important to determine if your project is located within any lands that have management or designation status such as The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act on Crown lease lands or Crown Conservation Easements on private land. These provincially designated lands are protected and provide ecological and habitat value to deer, small animals and bird species.

Critical Habitat or Emergency Protection Orders

  • The screening will also account for private or Crown lands that have been federally designated as critical habitat or under Emergency Protection Orders under The Species at Risk Act. These lands have been identified as providing critical habitat that is necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species, such as the Greater Sage-Grouse.

Projects planned within these designated lands require project review and/or approval from the Water Security Agency, Ministry of Agriculture Lands Branch or Ministry of Environment prior to commencing work. Specific project details and proposed timing of the work will be necessary to assess the potential impact of the project. Approved projects may have mitigation requirements detailed in the approval that need to be adhered to in order to complete the work.

The Government of Saskatchewan has an online screening tool called Hunting, Angling and Biodiversity Information of Saskatchewan (HABISask). This is a publicly available database that allows users to obtain information on environmental sensitivities and land designations as part of your planning efforts. By contacting your local Ministry of Agriculture regional office or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377, a specialist can assist you in using the HABISask tool and help you determine if you may require any further project reviews or permits.

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