Trees Against the Wind: The Birth of Prairie Shelterbelts

William R. ‘Bill’ Schroeder has released a new book detailing the history of prairie shelterbelts in Canada. Many people think of that the prairie shelterbelts were a response to the prolonged drought of the Dirty Thirties, but, as Trees Against the Wind illustrates, this story actually begins much earlier and for different reasons. It is an interesting and enlightening history that increases appreciation for prairie trees and the people who planted them.

“Others … saw that shelterbelts would improve living conditions on the harsh prairies. Land companies viewed tree planting as a means of making the prairie more appealing to settlers. They believed a good shelterbelt would increase a farm’s value, not only to prospective buyers, but also to future generations, who would enjoy the shade and comfort provided by the trees.”

Beginning work at the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Agency’s Tree Nursery in 1981, Bill discovered the trees he was working with had been brought to the Canadian prairies almost a century earlier as part of a government planting initiative. In spite of the significant challenges involved in growing them in a dry land, the results had been dramatic. Eighty years on, the program was flourishing and open prairie had effectively been transformed into a tapestry of treed farmyards and planted shelterbelts.

For this book, Schroeder scoured archives in Indian Head, Regina and Ottawa to learn more about the people whose foresight and conviction had made this success possible. With the help of over archival photos and maps, Trees Against the Wind tells the story of the program’s origins, dedicated staff and the thousands of innovative prairie farmers who planted trees to shelter their homes and land. This book provides thought-provoking perspectives on prairie history and a heightened appreciation for the trees in your life, especially those that still grace farmyards and fields, providing valuable biodiversity and habitat.

Trees Against the Wind: The Birth of Prairie Shelterbelts is available from Nature Saskatchewan’s online store

Please note: I have NOT received any compensation for helping to promote this book, nor am I participating in an affiliate link program should you order this publication by following the links on this website. Text included in this post was provided by Bill Schroeder and Nature Saskatchewan.