An IRM alums passion for stewardship led to the restoration and protection of a centuries-old sharp-tailed grouse mating site

February 2024

Amidst the global call for ecological restoration, Dean Mamer, a graduate of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Integrated Resource Management (IRM) program, located at Prince Albert campus, stands as an example of the transformative impact individuals can have on preserving and healing our natural ecosystems.

In 2021, the UN announced the Decade for Ecological Restoration, which spans until 2030. This initiative centers upon restoration of ecosystems through human contribution, which in turn will help combat climate change and create a healthier planet. Across the globe, individuals, corporations and government entities have rallied to rejuvenate and restore damaged ecosystems, employing a range of methods, from advanced technological solutions to grassroots efforts driven by unwavering personal commitment.

IRM instructor Hamilton Greenwood says Mamer embodies the characteristics of a steward. He is someone who commits to leaving the world a better place than they found it.

After graduating from Sask Polytech’s IRM program, Mamer’s career journey started in 1995 at Williams Lake, British Columbia, working for Chiltech Forestry Ltd., a consulting firm in the forest industry. The six years he spent at Chiltech was valuable work experience in the forest industry, but in 2001 he felt the need to come back to his roots in Prince Albert. Driven by a fondness for home and a desire to channel his expertise for the development of his community.

“I always wanted to bring my career back home,” Mamer said.

His career path has been shaped by a passion for environmental stewardship. With extensive knowledge in different sectors within forestry including silviculture, forest renewal and site preparation, gained while working in British Columbia, Mamer’s knowledge earned him a role with the Saskatchewan Government in 2006, under the Forest Service Renewal Program.

The program, initiated in response to forests failing to naturally regenerate following the North Cabin Fire in 1989, identified and rehabilitated areas for replanting with commercial tree species. Host communities of these areas were engaged in public meetings to gain local knowledge in fostering meaningful dialogue and shaping informed decisions about the project.

However, in 2014, concerns were raised about a project encroaching upon a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek (gathering) site in Lily Plain, disrupting the communal breeding display of the Sharp-tailed Grouse, Saskatchewan’s provincial bird. Every Spring, male birds return to their lek sites and perform a mating ritual, commonly called a dance, to determine superiority among the birds.

This discovery made by Greenwood propelled Mamer and his team into action, driven by a commitment to restore and preserve the centuries-old lek site. Assisted by a dedicated team, including fellow Sask Polytech graduates Brian Poniatowski and Darcy Gerow, Forest Service staff Kendra Gusdal, Steve Oldford and Joshua Pol, Mamer lead the restoration, ensuring minimal impact on the sensitive habitat.

In addition to the land restoration, Mamer’s team also strategically employed technology— using a global positioning system (GPS) to map the area and import the mapped data into a Geographic Information System (GIS) layer—to safeguard the area from further encroachment. “This careful approach not only revitalized the habitat but also shields it from potential future threats, ensuring a haven for the Sharp-tailed Grouse’s annual spring rituals,” said Mamer.

Greenwood, acknowledging the immense efforts undertaken, expressed gratitude for the partnership with the Forest Service Renewal Program, emphasizing the successful restoration of the lek site.

“I’m really grateful for our partners in the Forestry Branch who took this project on with great gusto and restored the Sharp-tailed Grouse’s lek site back to its former status,” he said.

Mamer’s wisdom and experience serve as a guiding light for current and future IRM students. He speaks to the importance of learning about the field, engaging stakeholders to gain meaningful insights and valuing their local knowledge to navigate projects successfully, avoiding potential mistakes.

“Dean’s commitment to environmental restoration isn’t just a story of remediation; it’s a narrative of unwavering dedication to preserving our provincial bird, the Sharp-tailed Grouse,” he said.