About Us


a livable Future for all species

Who We Are

The Swale Watchers are a group of concerned citizens who have been working since 2011 to ensure a healthy future for the Northeast and Small Swales—important refuges for nature and nature lovers right here in Saskatoon. We envision a livable city for all species through inspired urban planning and thoughtful management.

We gratefully acknowledge that we live and work on Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation. We thank the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada for teaching us “that reconciliation will never happen unless we are also reconciled with the earth.” Our work as Swale Watchers is illuminated by this guidance.

In February 2023, we were successful in persuading City Council to accept our expanded boundaries for the Northeast and Small Swales, thereby securing an additional 60 hectares (140 acres) for conservation. We are hopeful that this enlarged Swale Protected Area will provide adequate protection for a sharp-tailed grouse dancing ground in the Northeast Swale and also protect the wetlands in the hydrologically sensitive Small Swale. As development pressures in the area intensify, we will continue to press for generous buffers and wildlife corridors and for biodiversity-sensitive land use within and around the Swales.

Did you know…

The sharp-tailed grouse is Saskatchewan’s provincial bird. The dancing of male grouse is the inspiration for the Prairie Chicken dances performed in ceremony and at pow-wows.

Photo by Arthur Savage.

Current Challenges

The Swales link the memory of the past with the promise of a livable future. For one thing, they serve as a kind of “life raft” or refuge for hundreds of prairie species, many of which are declining or rare elsewhere. For another, they provide a multitude of services for people, by encouraging cultural understanding, supporting mental and physical wellbeing, facilitating education and research, and creating economic opportunities.

While acknowledging these values, the City of Saskatoon is nonetheless pressing ahead with a new neighbourhood, University Heights 3, which will be inserted between the Small and Northeast Swales. At the same time, the Government of Saskatchewan is planning to construct a high-speed, eight-to-ten-lane highway, the Saskatoon Freeway, that will cut across and fragment both Swales.

Through more than a decade of engagement, Swale Watchers have earned a place as a stakeholder in discussions about these developments. In partnership with our conservation allies, we have won significant additions to the Swale Protected Area and a shift in the route of the Saskatoon Freeway to protect the Northeast Swale.

Although we do not have a commanding vote in these discussions, we are not powerless, and we are committed to continuing to speak up for the Swales and for future-friendly responses to these challenges. If we don’t stand up for these precious and irreplaceable places, who will?

Did you know…

As “green infrastructure,” the Swales purify air and water, sequester carbon, prevent floods and provide other services with an estimated value of more than $2.36 million per year.

Buffalo beans at the Small Swale.

A Message from our Chairs

Since 2011, Swale Watchers have been a voice for Saskatoon’s urban prairies and wetlands, and for the dazzling array of creatures that rely on these special places. To the best of our ability, we have defended the interests of life and wonder, for ourselves and for future generations.

Although the context in which we are working is difficult and often discouraging, we are grateful that our concerns are being heard and, increasingly, taken into account. Given the David v Goliath nature of this struggle, we have not been able to stop the projects that threaten the Swales. This has not been for lack of trying. We have, however, been able to mitigate some of the worst impacts of these developments.

Thanks to insistent demands from the public and our conservation allies, the route of the proposed Saskatoon Freeway has been shifted slightly in the hope of reducing damage to a major wetland in the Northeast Swale and the Small Swale. The Swale Protected Areas have been enlarged to provide wider boundaries for life. As a result of our lobbying, City Council has set a high bar for the new neighbourhood that is being planned for the area between the Swales. These are meaningful successes.

In the past, most of us have been used to thinking that nature “begins where the sidewalk ends.” But at a time when the number of people living in cities is going up – and when the populations of other species are cascading down — urban landscapes are being recognized as critical sites for conserving and enhancing life. Designing cities that meet human needs—including the need to be surrounded by and participate in healthy ecosystems—is both an opportunity and a challenge. As Swale Watchers, we will continue to look for solutions.

ê-miyonâkwan kitaskinaw. Our land is beautiful. Please join us!

Meghan Mickelson
Candace Savage

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The Swale Watchers gratefully acknowledge that we live and work on Treaty Six territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation.

© 2024 Swale Watchers

Photos By: Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen & M. Mickelson