WHEREAS changes to policy have forced not for profit (NFP) organizations to turn to local municipalities and seek unbudgeted financial support and administrative guidance to renew dispositions for which they have historically been upstanding, long-term stewards; and
WHEREAS the new disposition system for Crown land has been designed for industrial applicants and is not practical or financially sustainable for NFP organizations wishing to maintain or renew their dispositions; and
WHEREAS the current requirement by Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) of a one-thousand-dollar-per-acre security deposit for NFP organizations occupying Crown dispositions is not realistic; and
WHEREAS the current requirement by AEP to have NFP organizations upgrade previously held survey plans to current Crown standards places a significant and unforeseen financial burden on NFP organizations which also is not realistic; and
WHEREAS the process to apply and complete an AEP application for Crown land dispositions is complicated and cumbersome for NFP applicants thereby resulting in additional expenses to hire a consultant to file the application; and
WHEREAS there is interest from municipalities, community organizations and volunteer service groups to provide feedback to the Government of Alberta on the current process involving dispositions and NFP applicants;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request the Government of Alberta to amend their policies and requirements on Crown land dispositions (leases) for not for profit organizations and municipalities;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA request the Government of Alberta to engage in additional public consultation with municipalities and not for profit organizations on the policies, requirements and process to lease Crown lands.
Historically, not for profit organizations that hold dispositions on Crown land have demonstrated excellent stewardship of the land, while simultaneously encouraging public participation in physical activities for all levels of ability, providing outdoor education opportunities and demonstrating environmental protection. Dispositions are typically long-term with not for profits investing capital funds to develop approved infrastructure on the Crown lands. Maintenance of the disposition falls solely to the not for profit organization, a majority of which are volunteer driven.
To date, the County of Grande Prairie has heard concerns about the disposition renewal process from several not for profit groups including Camp Tamarack (an outdoor activities center for persons with disabilities), Wapiti Nordic Ski Club and Beaverlodge Boys and Girls Camp.
The new requirement to provide a one-thousand-dollar deposit per acre upon disposition renewal is not something that most organizations are aware of until their lease renewal comes around and therefore they have not typically budgeted for it. Not for profits typically operate on a break-even basis and do not usually have reserves for unforeseen expenses such as this. They are being forced to reallocate funds away from core programming to cover disposition deposit and renewal expenses or seeking funding from local municipalities. Alternatively, the not for profit group may seek to have the municipality apply for the disposition in their name (AEP does not require a deposit from municipalities), and then request that the municipality sublease the Crown land back to the NFP group.
The requirement to upgrade survey plans to AEP current standards can only be achieved by not for profits if they engage a professional surveying company, which in itself presents an expense of approximately $10,000. This too places an unexpected and additional financial burden on the not for profit organization, forcing them to seek additional funding from municipalities or increase their fundraising efforts.
The process to apply and complete an AEP application for Crown land dispositions is complicated and not easily understood by the general public. Not for profits must either engage a land management company to complete the application on their behalf at an expense of $2,000 – $5,000 (in addition to First Nations consulting fees of approximately $2,000) or request help from local municipalities via their administrative staff.
All of the above requirements discourage not for profit organizations from leasing lands from the Crown and could even result in these community groups ceasing operations completely. The new requirements also represent another example of provincial downloading without resources or funding.
Not for profit organizations occupying Crown recreation dispositions benefit Albertans in their health, wellness and education as well as maintaining Crown lands to provincial standards which otherwise may not be maintained.
Amendments to AEP’s current policies, requirements and processes are required to promote fairness and transparency to the not for profits. Municipalities are not being asked to meet the same security deposit requirements as the not for profits to maintain, expand or obtain new dispositions.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Parks
Albertans deserve a fair, straightforward and comprehensive approval process. The province’s environmental and economic vibrancy depend on it. Alberta Environment and Parks recognizes the concerns that municipalities and not-for-profit organizations have shared with us regarding recreation disposition applications and renewals. Alberta Environment and Parks also recognizes the excellent stewardship demonstrated by not-for-profit organizations and their work to protect our environment and ensure all Albertans have opportunities to explore our amazing landscapes.
The Government of Alberta has committed to strengthening partnerships with not-for-profit park societies across Alberta, including setting aside $1 million over four years to pilot an expanded role with park societies. Initial scoping discussions are underway with Friends of Fish Creek on outcomes of this pilot at Fish Creek Provincial Park. Beyond this pilot, the Government of Alberta is committed to ensuring all parties and stakeholders, including not-for-profits, have access to the information and have efficient, consistent, and easy-to-use tools and resources they need to navigate the disposition renewal process.
The Government of Alberta’s response indicates some recognition of the concerns that municipalities and not-for-profit organizations have shared regarding disposition applications and renewals. However, the intent of the resolution is not addressed through the creation of the Fish Creek Provincial Park pilot. This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met and the RMA will continue to work with the Government of Alberta to fulfill the intent of this resolution.