From cattle ranching on the southern prairies to uranium mining on the northern Shield, land use in Saskatchewan is as varied as the landscape itself. Land-use patterns reflect the balance between the lay of the province's natural resources and the wants and needs of its people. Indigenous peoples used the resources of the natural environment for survival, but since Euro-Canadian settlement began in Saskatchewan in the late 19th century that natural landscape has been drastically modified through human action, and land use has evolved with the changing needs of the population. Traditional land uses based on animal and plant habitat have had to compete with increasing demands for urban lands, recreation areas, transportation routes, and extractive industries such as agriculture and mining. Today, farming and ranching are the most common land use, with roughly 46% of the province's 651,9302 km devoted to agricultural uses. Agricultural land in Saskatchewan is restricted to the Prairie and Boreal Plain Ecozones; in 2001, 58.5% of it was used for crops and 41.5% for pasture (mainly natural) and summerfallow. Slightly more than half of Saskatchewan's land area is covered by forest, mostly in the north. The Boreal Plain Ecozone (i.e., the central third of Saskatchewan) is dominated by commercial forestry in the north and by farming in the south. About half of the timber in Saskatchewan's northern forest has commercial value, but limited road access restricts commercial forestry land uses to its southern reaches. Approximately 8% of Saskatchewan's total land falls within protected areas, such as National Parks, Provincial Parks, recreation sites, and Protected Wildlife Habitat Lands. First Nations reserves currently occupy about 1% of the provincial land base, but could double over the next twelve years, as Treaty Land Entitlement claims are satisfied. Transportation uses, including rural roads, provincial and national highways, rail lines, and ground facilities for air transport, occupy approximately 2% of the total land area. Urban land uses (cities, towns, and villages) comprise less than 0.5% of the total. Although important economically, lands used for mining and oil and gas exploration and production take up much less than 1% of the province's land base.
In southern Saskatchewan, 20% of the land is Crown or public land, while the remainder is privately owned. In the north, only 5% of the land is under private ownership. Land-use allocation on all Crown resource and parkland in the province is authorized by Saskatchewan Environment; land use for agriculture Crown land is authorized by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.