WHEREAS many municipalities in Alberta operate provincial recreational areas with no financial contribution from the Province; and
WHEREAS many municipalities may choose to establish new public recreational areas for enjoyment by the general public; and
WHEREAS the provincial government applies timber damage assessment fees to all new or expanded recreational areas that locate within a forest management agreement area;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to change its policy by waiving the timber damage assessment fees on the expansion or new construction of public recreational areas if development is designed to limit the impact on the natural landscape.
Many municipalities invest in their recreational areas to improve the standard of living for their residents, to attract tourism that boosts economy, and to attract new residents and new specialists to their areas.
Many northern Alberta areas are within a forest management agreement area, therefore timber damage assessment fees have been applied to the municipalities that expand or acquire new recreational areas from the province.
Under the Public Lands Act, all dispositions are required to pay timber damage assessment fees. These fees represent compensation for the loss of standing timber and, if the land in question is within a forest management agreement area, the loss of annual allowable cut. It also includes a discounted payment to cover future costs that may be incurred to maintain the productive forest area through reforesting of these or other sites. Timber damage assessment fees are based on the area impacted and the volume of timber removed. Any proposed future expansion of the public recreational areas in the north will likely involve the loss of productive forested land based in the forest management agreement areas held by several timber companies. The provincial view is that this would have a notable impact on their future business activities.
As municipalities continue to struggle financially, with continued downloading by the provincial government, the timber damage assessment fees put additional financial strain on the municipalities.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
The GOA, communities and the forest industry are partnering to develop a strong forest industry. Forest Management Agreement holders have significant investments and obligations in the management of Alberta’s forests. This includes significant public involvement in the detailed management plans for these forests.
Changes from integrated sustainable resource management to single purpose management, such as recreation areas or trails, need to be planned in a coordinated manner with the Forest Management Agreement holder and the GOA. Where such changes are warranted, the agreement holder and the province will make arrangements for such conversion by redefining the Forest Management Agreement area. However, where a local interest has a desire to change the forest management unilaterally, it is important to recognize the need to protect private property rights of the agreement holder and compensate them for the loss of those rights.
Parks Division of the former Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation (now part of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development)
Proponents should pay for the value of provincial crown-owned timber resources to ensure responsible planning, development and management of projects, as well as development plans, that involve clearing of trees. Capturing these timber costs is important to informing trade?offs and the most appropriate allocation of crown resources.
Maintaining timber fees is very important in terms of providing fairness, equity and consistency across all clients (e.g., industrial, utility, commercial recreational/tourism developments).
Timber fees are an important mechanism to ensure that footprint is minimized and “development is designed to limit the impact on the natural landscape” (re: Resolution 8?14S, Mackenzie County). Without fees, there are no incentives (i.e., costs) or parameters to ensure that design takes into account, and limits, the impacts of the development on the natural landscape.
Timber Damage Assessments (TDA) should be based on hectares of actual cleared timber, or expected area of cleared timber, within the lease and not be imposed over the entire lease. Therefore, if a development involves clearing a large area of forested land, the TDA is based on the full area cleared. If clearing is restricted to trails or paths, then the TDA would be calculated only on the actual clearing of the trail areas. As a result, the less timber cleared, the smaller the TDA.
The cost of the TDA varies from $116-$820 per hectare based on ESRD’s TDA rate for the adjacent area. Since new or expanded recreational developments within a Provincial Recreation Area are typically fairly small, the overall TDA should not impose an unreasonable development cost.
Municipalities that are operating existing provincial recreational areas would not be subject to TDA costs on pre-existing development. Any subsequent expansion of facilities or trails would likely be small and, therefore, have small TDA costs.
Municipalities typically charge fees for the campgrounds (which do not come back to the GOA). Increased revenue would therefore be expected as a result of expanding or improving the amenities. These additional revenues should help mitigate TDA costs.
The government response does not indicate a willingness to waive timber damage assessment fees (TDA) for the expansion or construction of municipal campgrounds or recreational areas under any circumstances. According to the Government of Alberta, TDAs serve to prevent municipalities from over-damaging forested areas in the process of expanding or constructing campgrounds or recreational areas. The assumption that municipalities would have no incentives to design these expansions in an environmentally-friendly way without TDAs is problematic, and does not reflect the stewardship role that many municipalities play in protecting and conserving their local natural environments. As such, this resolution is assigned the status of Intent Not Met