WHEREAS the province (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development) requires that agricultural leaseholders provide access to recreational users on leased lands. This includes grazing and farm development leaseholders, who are required to provide “reasonable” access to the land for recreation;
WHEREAS the province requires that leaseholders provide an explanation of their rationale for denying access to the recreational users, and if disputed, SRD may issue an access order requiring the leaseholder to allow access;
WHEREAS leaseholders are required to provide access to recreational users, even if livestock are present, and the onus is on the leaseholder to prove the livestock are/may be impacted by the recreational users;
WHEREAS the leaseholder cannot deny access even if, in his opinion, the fire risk is too high;
WHEREAS the leaseholder cannot restrict the number of people who can access the lease;
WHEREAS the leaseholder may be held liable if recreational users become injured while engaged in activities on the leased lands;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties approach the Province of Alberta to request that Alberta Sustainable Resource Development review their policies concerning liability on leased lands, to ensure that leaseholders are not held liable for any injury or property damage resulting from the activities of recreational users while on leased land.
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the province should hold all liability on leased land where access is granted at the discretion of the province, not the leaseholder.
Leaseholders have legitimate concerns regarding access granted to recreational users on leased lands. Under current regulations, recreational users are not required to contact the leaseholder in advance of access, except where the land is under a grazing lease or farm development lease disposition. Even in those instances, the access is at the discretion of the local settlement officer at Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, not the landowner.
Our society is becoming more and more litigious, and the likelihood of litigation in the event of an injury or death to a recreational user on leased public lands, is increasing. Regardless of the behaviour or recklessness of others, the leaseholder may be held liable for injuries or property damages that may occur.
Recreational users have some legislated responsibilities and requirements, but often the users are unaware of their responsibilities or choose to ignore them. Penalties for failing to contact the leaseholder and request access are minimal. In addition, the responsibility for policing the lease and any infractions usually falls to the leaseholder and the penalty will likely be administered only if the individual is caught during the act of non-compliance.
The leaseholder is responsible for the expense of carrying liability insurance on property that he does not own, and cannot control access to. The province indicates that leaseholder liability is reduced unless negligence can be proven. But, in the event of injury or death to a recreational user and any subsequent litigation, the leaseholder is still obliged to expend considerable time and energy in defence of the lawsuit.
The current rules of access unfairly place responsibility for liability on the leaseholder, but restrict him from denying access to protect himself from litigation. The responsibility for liability should fall to the landowner (the Province of Alberta) who hold the power of discretion to allow access.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions related to this issue.
The changes in 2003 to the Occupier Liability Act have reduced the liability of agricultural disposition holders toward recreational users on an agricultural disposition to that of a trespasser. There is no lower level of responsibility.
Lease holders are not liable if a recreational user hurts himself, unless it is through a deliberate act or gross negligence by the lease holder, such as setting traps on a trail or leaving barbed wire loose in a pasture.
Recreational users are responsible for avoiding risks that might be present as part of normal lease management. Lease holders are also not responsible for features on the lease that are not under their control – like grizzly bear attacks, or other natural hazards.
Under the regulation, the lease holder may deny access, or apply conditions to access, when:
Based on clarification from the government, the intent of the resolution has been met. Liability is limited for agricultural leaseholders, and much of the onus of responsibility is placed on the recreational users. In addition, the AAMDC is pleased that leaseholders can limit access for motor vehicle access, and where livestock or cultivated crops are at risk. This resolution has been assigned a status of Accepted.