This is the most significant piece of Saskatchewan Environment legislation with regard to biodiversity.
In 1984, the provincial government initiated a conservation process by passing The Critical Wildlife Habitat Protection Act, now known as The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA). This legislation protects 3.4 million acres of uplands and wetlands, or one-third of all wildlife habitat in the agricultural region, in its natural state. Protection of these lands makes the Act the most cost-effective wildlife habitat conservation program in Saskatchewan.
The Act prevents the government from selling designated Crown land, and lessees require permission before any clearing, breaking or drainage occurs. The philosophy of the Act is to conserve wildlife habitat while enabling compatible traditional uses to co-exist. WHPA also recognizes and supports some agricultural uses and petroleum activities.
These lands are leased mainly to cattle producers who use them for grazing or haying. The WHPA designation has no effect on the lessee's rights to continue leasing their lands, or on the terms and conditions of their leases. Leases can be routinely renewed and transferred, as in the past. In fact, the Act has very little effect on daily operations at all. Routine developments such as fencing and dugout construction can also take place without question. Oil and gas companies can explore and drill, but must ensure they do very little damage to the surface.