March 29 - April 5, 2004

Sask Environment reorganizes, renews partnership accord with Ipsco

A restructuring of Saskatchewan's Environment Department has been carried out in order to reduce costs and "to better focus its activities on areas of highest risk to the environment and resources," said Environment Minister David Forbes.

"The department's key priorities," he added, "are protecting human health and safety through the safe drinking water strategy and wildfire suppression, sustainable resource management, provincial environmental assessment and providing economic and social benefits for current and future generations."

A special enforcement unit will be established to create a new focus on investigations of significant environmental damage or resource abuse. A new integrated monitoring unit is also being established. It will direct monitoring activities on broader strategic issues such as the cumulative effects of environmental impacts, better understanding of air and source water quality issues and the impacts of climate change. The base budget for wildfire management has been increased from $37 million to $65 million, although there will be a downsizing of some ground fire fighting capacity.

A new initiative, The Green Team, will provide an opportunity for Saskatchewan students to gain work experience and training in the environmental sector. This is a summer employment program being undertaken by Saskatchewan Environment in partnership with the department of Culture, Youth and Recreation. It has been allocated $200,000 in funding for 2004-05.

In order to reposition resources to priority areas the department is reducing activities related to lower-risk issues. For example, Saskatchewan Environment offices will no longer sell fishing, hunting or trapping licences. These licences are widely available through private vendors such as stores and gas stations or on Saskatchewan Environment's Web site, www.se.gov.sk.ca.

The department is also closing offices in nine communities. Staff in these offices have either been reduced or transferred to other locations. Communities affected by office closures and staff reductions will be serviced from the next closest office. No staff reductions are being made in the drinking water quality or environmental assessment programs. Some 200 employees will be affected by the changes in the department and about 12% of the total staff complement will have their positions eliminated, their seasonal employment reduced, or hours of work shortened.

More information is available from Michele McEachern at Saskatchewan Environment, 306/787-0412.

In other activities, Environment Minister David Forbes and Ipsco Saskatchewan President Peter MacPhail have renewed an environmental agreement designed to foster co-operation between the province and Ipsco on a broad range of environmental issues including regulatory compliance, pollution prevention and environmental management and protection.

A key element of the partnership is a joint working committee which meets regularly and encourages free and open discussion on topics related to environmental management. It provides a forum where mutual environmental issues can be addressed in a timely and responsible manner.

"This agreement is a good example of the government and industry working together to facilitate a continued open and collaborative relationship and I am pleased that it is being renewed," Forbes said. "It recognizes that co-operative decision making is essential to good environmental management and the achievement of sustainable development."

A five-year agreement, first signed in 1998, expired last year. The environmental partnership agreement with Ipsco is one of several between Saskatchewan Environment and a number of sectors and industries in the province.

More information is available from Victor Chang at Saskatchewan Environment, 306/787-6185, or from Kelly Brossart at Ipsco, 306/924-7475.

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