A growing agricultural issue across southwestern Saskatchewan and the prairies was the topic of discussion yesterday at a workshop in Swift Current.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) hosted the shrub encroachment event at the Coast Hotel with about 35 people attending in person and another 20 via Zoom.

Agriculture producers, conservation organizations, Parks Canada, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Parks, Culture, and Sport, and the Association of Manitoba Community Pastures all had representatives at the workshop.

Krista Ellingson, the manager of the Working Landscapes Program for the NCC, said having people from a variety of backgrounds joining together for the conversation produced some great insight.

"[They were] reporting back on what they're seeing, what they're doing, and if they're having any positive impacts on the shrub encroachment problem," she said. 

The workshop's focus was one issue the NCC had been hearing a lot about and figured organizing the meeting would help offer solutions.

"It's not that shrubs are bad or that we want to eliminate all of them, it's a much more nuanced and complex," she said. "We're all trying to maintain a balance in the ecosystem so that it continues to function the way we need it to and that might be slightly different if you're looking at it from a conservation, agricultural perspective. The broad goals are very similar."

Several ways to manage the shrub encroachment were shared including ruminants (goats/sheep) browsing, prescribed fire, herbicide, mowing/mulching, and cattle trampling.

"The overall consensus was the earlier that we start to manage it, the more likely we are to prevent it from happening in the first place," she said. "We talked about tools that work really well early and other types of tools that you might want to use once shrub encroachment becomes advanced."

No plans for a future NCC workshop have been established at the moment but they did collect feedback from attendees to help build their next event's topic.