A field of dreams: Sask. residents purchase grasslands for preservation

Over 400 people contributed to the Field of Dreams project, which led to the purchase of a large tract of prairie grasslands for preservation.

It’s called the ‘Lonetree Lake property,’ and it consists of 1,500 acres of unbroken, prairie grassland that will be kept in its natural state.

“The property is even better than I could have imagined,” said Marc Spooner, the organizer of the Field of Dreams project.

Last year, Spooner, a University of Regina professor, initiated a Facebook campaign called Field of Dreams. Spooner encouraged Saskatchewan motorists to donate government insurance rebate cheques toward the purchase of endangered prairie habitat.

Contributions from the over 400 donors totaled $103,000 to help purchase the property.

“A little bit of radical hope of being part of something larger than oneself and thinking about the future and it was also connected to the past as well,” Spooner explained.

The land purchased is located directly south of Regina near the Montana border crossing at Regway. It was acquired from a rancher and will now come under the stewardship of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Jennifer McKillop, the regional vice president of the Saskatchewan region for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, explained that grasslands such as Lonetree are becoming rarer and rarer in Saskatchewan.

“There’s only about 14 to 17 per cent of our native grass that’s left in the province of Saskatchewan,” she said.

Many of the donors toured the property this week. The entire project cost a million dollars which included grants from the Canadian, Saskatchewan and U.S. governments and the estates of Margaret Smith and Norman and Sophie Headford. Ranching will continue through leasing of the now protected property.

“One of the reasons why we have the grasslands that we have left is because of ranchers and the grazing of cattle,” McKillop explained.

“The stewardship that ranchers have, (and the) understanding of those lands is what maintains that biodiversity.”

For Spooner, the Field of Dreams campaign brought light and some hope during a difficult pandemic period and seems to have left a legacy for future generations.