If push comes to shove, a First Nations group is prepared to take legal action to block the sale of 1.6 million acres of community pastureland that is up for grabs in the province.

The federal government is transferring control of the pastures to the province and the process will be complete by 2018.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart says ranchers currently using the pastures should have first crack at buying or leasing the land.

However, an organization calling itself the First Nations Sustainable Land Management Joint Venture wants to manage the land.

The group is headed by former FSIN chief Roland Crowe.

Crowe hopes to work out a deal with the province — but he says if that doesn’t happen, legal avenues may have to be explored:

“There maybe has to be legal ways of getting a moratorium for our plan to work.”

Crowe is trying to arrange a meeting with Stewart, something the minister says he is prepared to do.

For his part, Stewart says PFRA pastures in the province are considered “occupied Crown land’ and will be sold or leased to ranchers and farmers.

Stewart is aware the First Nations group has proposed taking over management of the pastures, but he says there are other options:

“First Nations can make TLE applications on any Crown land.  But if the Crown land is occupied, the current occupants have to be in agreement with that . . . I would consider them as such (occupied Crown land), as long as the patrons are continually involved.”

Stewart says the province has received several other offers from those who would like to purchase and operate the pastures individually or all together.