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First Nations Examine Land Potential: FSIN First Nation Land Capability Project

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SPRING 2002      v32 n02 p14  
As part of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) on-going work in assisting First Nations in increased participation in the Agriculture, five First Nations were invited to participate in the First Nations Land Capability Project.

"I was very pleased to announce that the FSIN Economic Development Commission was able to procure resources to initiate five more studies per year for two more years. Several Saskatchewan First Nation has been tentatively targeted for participation in this projects," said Vice-Chief Guy Lonechild.

Vice-Chief Lonechild Portfolio responsibilities included the FSIN Economic and Community Development Commission. The commission's mandate fulfills advocacy, coordination and creation of economic opportunities for Saskatchewan First Nations.

"The First Nation people of Saskatchewan are acquiring significant acreage of agricultural land," said the Vice-Chief. "The land will provide an economic base from which revenue and jobs will be realized. As it stands now, 2.4 per cent of Saskatchewan farmland belongs to First Nations."

This land capability study will be implemented through a partnership between the FSIN, Ducks Unlimited, and the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Saskatchewan (CARDS) Programs. The project examines current bands and their potential TLE land resources in three categories:

1. Soil Audit - a detailed analysis of the land classifications and capabilities for various agriculture usage.

2. Habitat Audit - a study of the lands which are suitable for wildlife and/or conservation of plants and animals in support of environmental protection and land stewardship.

3. Agriculture Usage - this component of the study examines a broad range of potential uses for the land base including grains, oilseeds, pulse crops, livestock, vegetables, irrigation, herbs/medicines, and suggestions for possible value added agriculture initiatives such as processing plants, feeder operations, etc.

Project Goals are to collect inventory of the agriculture and biological resources of participating bands, identify the agricultural and wildlife (waterfowl, ungulate, and upland game bird) capabilities of the lands and then develop Land Capability Maps for the First Nations in the project.

Inventory of Agriculture Resources will provide the First Nation with an agricultural soil capability inventory. This would be conducted by the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Land Resource Center.

Biological inventory of the lands in the project is being coordinated by the Saskatchewan Parkland Field Office of Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Land Capability Map:

Soil Information + Water Fowl + Ungulates + Upland Game Birds + Land Cover = Land Capability Map. This map would then assist with the following areas:

   - Identify land best suited for agriculture
   - Identify land best suited to support wildlife
   - Provide written report to each First Nation describing the Land Capability Map with supporting agricultural and wildlife information

Last year the FSIN Agriculture Task Force coordinated three such studies as "pilot projects" - the studies were prepared for Little Pine, Beardy's Okemasis, and Cowessess First Nations. These First Nations have found these studies to be of great value in assisting them in developing an agriculture strategy.

FSIN has been able to secure adequate resources with the help of the study's partners to initiate five more studies per year for at least two more years. A Memorandum of Understanding will then be signed with each First Nations. The MOU will outline study criteria and resources specific to each band. At the end of the project's term approximately 13 bands will have completed the First Nations Land Capability Project. Bands targeted for this project have been:

Pilot Projects (completed):
Little Pine First Nation
Beardy’s Okemasis First Nation
Cowessess First Nation
2002 (initiated):
Key First Nation
Ahtahkakoop First Nation
Kinistin First Nation
Piapot First Nation
Onion Lake First Nation