By Caitlyn Anhorn
In what is one of Saskatchewan’s most important conservation efforts in recent years, Cumberland House Cree Nation, CPAWS-SK, Ducks Unlimited, and the University of Saskatchewan have been working together to complete a Ramsar nomination for over 5,000 km2 of the Saskatchewan River Delta.
Some background on the Saskatchewan River Delta
The Saskatchewan River Delta is an incredibly important ecosystem that provides habitat for plants, fish, mammals, and millions of waterfowl and migratory birds. Many of the species that live in the Delta such as beavers, muskrats, moose, and fish are culturally important for the Indigenous peoples that have lived there for millennia.
Upstream water use and the presence of E.B. Campbell Dam are among the ongoing threats to the Delta. To learn more, click here.
What is Ramsar?
The Ramsar Convention was formed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971 to designate specific wetlands as internationally important.
“The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.”from www.ramsar.org
The criteria for a site eligible for Ramsar Designation includes ecological components of the Delta (from bird and plant species to the site’s ecological character), cultural components (the site’s history and ongoing importance), and site logistics.
Ramsar in Canada
Canada joined the Convention in 1981. Now, there are over 30 Ramsar sites in Canada, but the last one was designated in 2005.
Saskatchewan has 2 sites that were both designated in the 1980’s: Last Mountain Lake and the Quill Lakes.
The Ramsar Convention at the Saskatchewan River Delta
A Ramsar designation at the Saskatchewan River Delta would give the Delta the international recognition that it deserves. The Ramsar criteria are based on rare, representative, or unique wetland types and conserving biological diversity. The Delta qualifies for the first 8 of the 9 Ramsar criteria.
Designation of the Delta would promote responsible and wise use of the Delta’s wetlands on a larger than local scale. Wetlands are crucial for protecting against floods and droughts, are home to many local and migrating species, help clean dangerous sediments, and provide many ecosystem services.
The Ramsar designation of the Saskatchewan River Delta will be one more step towards the long-term protection of this shining ecological gem for generations to come.