YXE Underground: Trusting in nature through the Restoring 71 Project

Six years ago, Katie and Aaron Suek purchased an 80-acre acreage 10 minutes west of Saskatoon. They wanted their children to feel a strong connection to nature, something they both enjoyed growing up on the prairies.

When they purchased the acreage, a large wetland was home to plenty of wetland bird species. However, that wetland has since dried up and is now prairie grasslands.

“It was really sad at the beginning because we didn’t know if this was forever, or if we did something wrong,” explained Katie Suek. “It’s been a learning experience because as the habitat and shorebirds started to deplete, the grassland birds started to increase significantly.”

Trusting in nature is one of the many lessons Katie Suek has learned in creating the Restoring 71 Project. The conservation and restoration project consists of 71 acres of natural prairie grasslands with four kilometers of groomed trails. Visitors can book a trail time and visit Restoring 71 for free to experience the land on their own.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 700 people have visited Restoring 71.

“When COVID-19 hit and everything shut down, I looked at Aaron and said, ‘oh thank goodness we’ve got the trails,’ so we don’t feel claustrophobic. Then we realized there are 250,000 people 10 minutes away who do not have this anymore. That’s when we really started advertising the trails,” Suek explained to YXE Underground host Eric Anderson.

This past summer, the Suek’s created an outdoor classroom space on their land that has been used by elementary and high school classrooms, as well as support groups looking to reconnect with nature. Katie is excited to see more people using Restoring 71 for education and hopes more people from the city make the drive to their acreage to experience their backyard.

“We’re going to be here until we retire. Probably a lot longer than that and this will be our lifelong legacy.”

To listen to this episode, and all previous episodes of the podcast, visit yxeunderground.com