In 1972, inspired by the rise of environmental consciousness in this country, the province of Saskatchewan created the Department of Environment. Since its inception the department has changed title on several occasions, from Saskatchewan Environment and Public Safety (1988) to Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management (1993) to Saskatchewan Environment (2002). The objects and purposes of the Department of Environment remain fundamentally the same as when it was first established: to co-ordinate, develop, promote and enforce policies and programs to protect and enhance the environment in a manner that promotes the physical, economic and social well-being of the people of Saskatchewan today and in the future; and to co-ordinate, develop, promote and enforce policies and programs relating to the conservation, preservation, management, protection and development of fish, wildlife, air, water, forests, resource lands, parks, and other renewable resources in Saskatchewan, including urban parks. This mandate has been reflected in nearly two dozen statutes and numerous supporting regulations. Although the Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002 is the primary piece of environmental legislation in the province, it is complemented by other important statutes including the Wildlife Act, 1998, the Environmental Assessment Act, the Watershed Authority Act, the Forest Management Resources Act, and the Parks Act (see below). In addition, smaller statutes such as the Litter Control Act and the Groundwater Conservation Act complement the environmental management regime. In accordance with statute, since 1991 the province has prepared a biannual State of the Environment Report (S.S. 1990-91. c.S-57. as amended by S.S. 1994, c.21; S.S. 1996, c.F-19.1). This report outlines the current condition of the environment in Saskatchewan, and the relationships between the condition of the environment and the economy of Saskatchewan. The report is tabled in the Legislative Assembly and made available to the public for examination.
Environmental Assessment Act. S.S. 1979-80. c.E-10.1 (effective August 25, 1980) as amended by S.S. 1983 c.77; 1988-89 c.42 and c.55; 1996 c.F-19.1; and 2002, c.C-11.1. Environmental assessment (EA) is the systematic description and evaluation of the impacts of a development on all environments prior to irrevocable decision-making. EA can promote environmental sustainability by mitigating negative effects of our activities and, in cases where the impacts are significant, stop the initiative completely. Initially, Saskatchewan adopted an EA policy to assess large-scale proposals in the province, such as the Cluff Lake uranium project and the Nipawin Dam proposal. The system was fairly successful, and as a result the Environmental Assessment Act was passed in 1980 to enshrine the policy in statutory form. The process requires the assessment of “developments”—those projects, operations or activities which trigger any one in a list of criteria within the legislation. These criteria include: affecting a rare, unique or endangered feature of the environment; substantial use of a provincial resource which preempts the use for other purposes; and causing widespread public concern due to the potential environmental changes. Once labeled a development, the proposal cannot proceed without the approval of the Minister. The proponent of the development must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) outlining the details of the project, the host environment, as well as the mitigable and non-mitigable impacts of the development on all environments (biophysical, economic, social, aesthetic, cultural, etc). This EIS is submitted to the EA Branch of Saskatchewan Environment, and if determined to be substantially complete it is circulated to the public for a thirty- to sixty-day comment period.
As a matter of policy, public information meetings are often held during this period by the proponent, and if deemed necessary the Minister may also order a public inquiry in association with any development review. (There has only been one inquiry to date, concerning the Rafferty Alameda Dam project.) Once satisfied that all requirements of the Act have been met, the Minister decides whether or not the project may proceed, or if it may proceed subject to conditions. Since passage there have been only minor amendments to the legislation. Of the 1,928 proposals received by Saskatchewan Environment, some 170 developments have been assessed since passage of the Act: 114 ultimately received ministerial approval; three were denied as proposed; forty-five projects were deferred; and three are currently under review.
Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002. S.S. 2002 c.E-10.21 (effective October 1, 2002) as amended by S.S. 2003, c.29. The Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002 (EMPA, 2002) empowers the Minister of Environment with primary responsibility for all matters respecting the enhancement and protection of the provincial environment; as such, it is the primary piece of legislation in the environmental field. Among other topics the statute addresses contaminated sites, unauthorized discharges, protection of water quality, drinking and waste water regulation, and halocarbons. In addition to these substantive areas, EMPA sets out rules relating to orders, permits, emergency action, and general matters respecting administrative powers and the powers of environmental officers. EMPA includes fines of up to $1 million and/or three years of imprisonment for those convicted under the statute, and incorporates a “polluter pay” approach to environmental damage.
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act S.S. 2002. c.35.02 (effective October 1, 2002). The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority was created as a direct result of the recommendations of the North Battleford Water Inquiry (the Laing Report) of 2002, combining the objectives of the former Saskatchewan Wetland Conservation Corporation with many of the tasks of the Saskatchewan Water Corporation. In turn, the Water Corporation Act was revamped (S.S.2002, c.35.01 (effective October 1, 2002)) to reflect the corporation’s narrower mandate to construct, acquire, manage or operate works or services associated with the provision of water or sewage disposal. Under the Watershed Authority Act, the corporation is charged with a broad range of water-related responsibilities, which include the management, development, control and protection of water, watersheds and related land resources in the province. Consistent with water history on the prairies, the legislation reiterates the right of the provincial Crown to the use of all ground and surface waters within Saskatchewan borders. As agent for the Crown, the Authority is empowered to regulate the flow of water, license water uses and water works, control drainage, and undertake activities which enhance the quantity, quality, and availability of water in the province. In keeping with good environmental practices the authority is also mandated to promote conservation programs, and has broadened its approach to highlight watershed management. The Authority is also the agent for the province in extra-provincial consultations with the Prairie Provinces Water Board, and assists in both national and international issues relating to water use that may have implications within Saskatchewan.
Wildlife Act, 1998. S.S. 1998. c. W-13.12 (effective March 6, 2000 except s.87 effective April 1, 1999) as amended by S.S. 2000 c.51 and 65. The property in all wildlife in Saskatchewan rests with the provincial Crown. Pursuant to the Wildlife Act, 1998 the province has established a scheme for the management of wild animals, with special emphasis on the protection of endangered species within the province’s borders. As a result, individuals may gain title in wildlife only if they are in licensed possession of that vertebrate animal and have not otherwise violated the Act. In addition to provisions for the administration of the system, the Act outlines licensing, hunting and trapping regulations, prohibitions and offenses, and penalty provisions. It is noteworthy that there are special provisions in relation to the rights of First Nations people within the Act. Prohibitions in the Wildlife Act, 1998 range in scope from hunting while intoxicated to trafficking in wildlife. Penalties within the Act vary according to the offense, with $100,000 and two years imprisonment as the maximum penalty under the statute.
Of particular interest are the provisions dealing with protection of species at risk, including extirpated, endangered, threatened or vulnerable wild species. The categories within the Act are the same as those used by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). With very limited exception, if an animal is designated by the Minister as within one of the categories, it may not be disturbed, killed, captured, exported or otherwise trafficked. In making his decision regarding the status of any species, the Minister may use both scientific and community-based advice provided by advisory committees contemplated in the legislation. In addition, the Minister may see the preparation and implementation of a recovery plan to assist in the recovery and conservation of any designated species. At present fifteen species at risk are listed under the provincial regulation.
Forest Resources Management Act. S.S. 1996, c.F-19.1 as amended by S.S. 1997, c.W-13.11; 1998, c.W-13.12; 2000, c.46 and 50; and 2002, c.31. The purpose of the Act is to promote the sustainable use of forest land for the benefit of current and future generations by balancing the need for economic, social and cultural opportunities with the need to maintain and enhance the health of forest land. Forest land is defined as any Crown land where a forest ecosystem is the predominant ecosystem. The provincial forest consists of those Crown lands designated by regulation and which are to be managed in a sustainable manner for the purposes of conserving, developing, enhancing, maintaining, managing, protecting and utilizing the forest resources on that land. The allocation of forest resources is regulated through the use of forest management agreements, term supply licenses, and forest product permits. The Act requires the preparation of integrated forest land use plans before forest management agreements are finalized. In addition, these plans require approval under the Environmental Assessment Act. The Act also mandates the preparation of a report on the state of the provincial forests at least once every ten years.