WHEREAS the Alberta Farmland Trust is a new land trust organization pursuing charitable status and advocating for the advancement of mechanisms to support the protection, conservation and enhancement of agricultural lands in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) establishes “the protection, conservation and enhancement of the environment,” “the protection, conservation and enhancement of natural scenic or esthetic values,” and “the protection, conservation and enhancement of agricultural land or land for agricultural purposes” as valid purposes for conservation easements; and
WHEREAS Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program (EcoGift) offers “significant tax benefits to landowners who donate land or partial interests in land to a qualified recipient” by way of a conservation easement with the purpose of protecting and preserving ecologically sensitive lands, but no similar program exists in support of the protection, conservation and enhancement of agricultural lands; and
WHEREAS funding, tax benefits, and support offered to ecological conservation easements (such as EcoGift) have proven to be an effective tool for the conservation of ecologically sensitive lands; and
WHEREAS cultivated lands do not qualify under the EcoGift program;
WHEREAS many of Alberta’s high quality, productive soils are found in areas with high development pressure and therefore are at risk of loss without an effective mechanism for legal protection; and
WHEREAS agricultural land owners are unable to conserve agricultural land because of risks and costs that would be alleviated by supports currently offered only for ecologically sensitive lands; and
WHEREAS rural municipalities, due to their obligatons under regional land use plans and their role as a voice for rural landowners, have an interest in the availability of effective tools for the preservation of agricultural lands; and
WHEREAS financial barriers to placing conservation easements on agricultural land render them economically unavailable for legal protection at this time;
WHEREAS the ALSA establishes that the Lieutenant Governor in Council or designated Stewardship Minister is responsible for establishing, supporting or facilitating the development of conservation easements and instruments, including for agricultural land or land for agricultural purposes;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request that the Government of Alberta support the creation of agricultural conservation easements on lands within Alberta’s highly productive, food-producing areas through the following means:
FURTHER, BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA request that the Government of Canada work with Alberta and other provinces to establish an “AgriGift” program similar to the existing “EcoGift” in support of the protection, conservation and enhancement of Canada’s most valuable food producing agricultural lands.
In January of 2020 Wheatland County’s Agricultural Service Board received a presentation from Stan Carscallen, a lawyer, rancher, and co-founder of Alberta Farmland Trust. Carscallen described challenges faced by landowners and land trusts seeking to protect, conserve and enhance Alberta’s agricultural lands, and efforts made by Alberta Farmland Trust to improve supports available to them. Wheatland County’s Agricultural Service Board and Council were inspired to join advocacy efforts for the development and implementation of programs and policies that support agricultural conservation easements in Alberta, with recognition of the importance of preserving and protecting our most valuable agricultural lands. We hope that agricultural conservation easements will soon become a feasible option for the landowners in our municipality, and others, through this advocacy work.
Please see Carscallen’s attached paper titled The Urgent Need for the Formation and Support of an Alberta Farmland Trust as background support for this resolution. Background – Farmland Trust Carscallen Paper
Alberta Farmer Express: Alexis Kienlen. (2019, Nov. 20). New farmland trust aims to preserve good soil. Accessed on April 28, 2020 at https://www.albertafarmexpress.ca/news/new-farmland-trust-aims-to-preserve-good-soil-2/.
Alberta Land Stewardship Act, SA 2009, c A-26.8, <http://canlii.ca/t/5259q> retrieved on 2020-05-01
Carscallen, Stan. (2018, Aug. 2). The urgent need for the formation and support of an Alberta farmland trust. Work provided by Stan Carscallen, Q.C., on January 29, 2020.
Government of Alberta. (2020). Alberta land trust grant program. Accessed on April 30, 2020 at https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-land-trust-grant-program.aspx
Government of Alberta. (2018, May 1). South Saskatchewan regional plan 2014 – 2024: amended 2018. Retrieved on May 1, 2020 from https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/13ccde6d-34c9-45e4-8c67-6a251225ad33/resource/e643d015-3e53-4950-99e6-beb49c71b368/download/south-saskatchewan-regional-plan-2014-2024-may-2018.pdf
Government of Canada. (2019, May 8). Ecological gifts program: overview. Accessed on April 30, 2020 at https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-funding/ecological-gifts-program/overview.html
The Western Producer: Barb Glen. (2018, Nov. 1) Proposed program aims to conserve farmland. Accessed on April 29, 2020 at https://www.producer.com/2018/11/proposed-program-aims-to-conserve-farmland/