Spotlight on Saskatchewan: where pipelines meet conservation trails

pipeline volunteers building a hiking track

Earlier this summer, pipeline workers walked a section of native prairie along the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan clearing brush and debris and carrying signposts. They weren’t working on a pipeline route. They were working on a low-impact hiking trail that will help the public better understand a threatened ecosystem.

“The native prairie is unknown to many people – how vital it is and how exciting it can be to explore,” explained Fred Hill, director of environment and sustainability at SaskEnergy/TransGas, a Saskatchewan-based pipeline operator.

The trail-building project is a Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) initiative, and SaskEnergy/TransGas sent volunteers on a day-long field trip to the NCC’s Fairy Hill conservation area, 36 kilometres north of Regina, to help clear the path, remove invasive weeds and install trail signs and small bridges.

It’s hard to believe, but in the Prairie province of Saskatchewan, only an estimated 17 to 21 per cent of the original native prairie remains intact. Hill, who was one of the volunteers, explained that by helping the NCC with the trail, his company can help raise awareness for this ecosystem which is home to endangered native plants and may be home to species at risk such as the northern leopard frog.

“In a lot of cases, people don’t have an easy way to begin to engage with the prairie or with nature,” he said. “Having self-guided trails on properties like Fairy Hill that are near major communities open up that opportunity.”

Backpacks

Pipelines and the prairie

Hill explained that SaskEnergy/TransGas tries to minimize the amount of new lines that cross areas of native prairie, and by having members of their team out working on the trail project, employees gain a better understanding of why their company is working to avoid this ecosystem.

“This is a way for us to give people from other areas of our company an opportunity to come out and appreciate the types of terrain, plants, animals and birds that we are working hard to protect as we amend our pipeline routes, designs, construction methods or alter project scheduling,” said Hill.

Can pipeline operators really be environmental stewards?

Volunteer pipeline workers building a hiking trail

Fred Hill, director of environment and sustainability at SaskEnergy/TransGas, carries a sign post for the new nature trail.

Pipelines are part of Canada’s economic and infrastructure development. And development is what often puts Canada’s natural landscapes at risk. However, pipeline companies are committed to doing their part to find a balance between growth and sustainability by working to continuously reduce their footprint.

“There is no question that constructing and maintaining pipelines has an impact on the environment,” said Hill. “The company I work for and the ones I’m proud to work with at CEPA are very committed to making sure that impact is minimized, mitigated and managed effectively.”

And by working with conservation organizations, like the NCC, Hill explained that pipeline companies can help ensure important landscapes are protected and preserved.

“We can achieve more by supporting the experts than we could ever achieve on our own,” he said.

Learn more about the NCC’s Fairy Hill conservation area in Saskatchewan.

Find out what pipeline companies are doing to minimize their environmental impact in our #PipelinesExposed blog series.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 117,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2014, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.