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MD of Willow Creek councillor Glen Alm says province’s biodiversity management framework puts land owner rights at risk

LAWRENCE GLEASON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR

glen alm

MD of Willow Creek councillor Glen Alm spoke about the province’s biodiversity management framework on Friday at the Foothills-Little Bow District meeting.

Ranchers are not having enough input into the province’s biodiversity management framework, according to MD of Willow Creek councillor Glen Alm.
The framework will soon become provincial legislation when it was originally considered to be a guideline.
Alm made the remarks in a speech Friday to a receptive audience from 13 southern Alberta rural municipalities of the Foothills-Little Bow District that met in Lethbridge.
The Foothills-Little Bow district is the most southern one of the five districts of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.
Alm said if the framework becomes legislation it will prevent farming and ranching without compensation to land owners while not providing any method of remedy to protect land owners rights.
“They have singled out farming and ranching as an enemy of biodiversity,” Alm said. “This framework will have legal authority to control, regulate, and prevent farming and ranching, according to the provincial government’s directives.”
Alm expressed concern there is nothing in the framework to protect land owners’ rights, or compensate for lost productivity.
The framework regulatory component is based on “triggers” of wildlife and aquatic species populations that will be counted. A decline in species numbers could trigger regulatory action from the province.
Those species include sage grouse, bull trout, grizzly bear, western spiderwort, and the short-horned lizard.
The framework states the grassland of the South Saskatchewan Region, part of the Great Plains, is “one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems,” and “Eighty per cent of the province’s species at risk are found in the South Saskatchewan Region.”
Alm said, “There is “zero acknowledgement by the federal and provincial government that 80 per cent of the province’s species at risk are found in the South Saskatchewan Region because agriculture’s best practices have provided an environment for those species to co-exist.”
Alm added, “The provincial government considers agriculture as an enemy of biodiversity and is something that needs to be controlled.”
There would be four levels of management steps of enforcement, Level 1, which means current practice is okay. Level 2 means an improvement of knowledge and understanding of those impacting the land is needed. Level 3 requires an adjustment of land management practices. Level 4 could include “regulatory approaches” that could “. . . . further increase the stringency of management actions, including regulatory approaches . . .” to “. . . reduce the extent and duration of land disturbance . . .”
“It doesn’t seem like a voluntary document to me,” Alm said.
First Nations appear to have a prominent role as a stakeholder group in the framework. Alm referred to one section, 7.6.3, on provincial investigation, deciding if “management actions” are required and mentions “relevant parties” that may be invited to work with the province on those.
The relevant parties mentioned are “other government departments and agencies, local governments, First Nations, industry, and other stakeholder groups . . .”
Ranchers, farmers and land owners are not mentioned.
“It seems the first thing this part of the document is the ability of the First Nations to be consulted,” Alm said. “The province and municipalities have zero input on First Nations land, yet they may be directing what is happening outside of their lands.”
Alm also told the Foothills-Little Bow District audience he was suspicious of how the province handled feedback from their municipalities.
“When rural municipalities met with government as a group and shared their concerns, the group was separated and individual meetings were held with each municipality to reduce the impact of their concerns,” Alm said, adding it was a “divide and conquer” tactic.
Alm was only given 10 minutes to speak due to the list of speakers on a variety of topics, but after his address, how much support he had for his speech was indicated by the first question he took, which was blunt, “You’re preaching to the converted. Now what do we do about it?”
“It’s a hard document to understand,” Alm said. “Government thinks we shouldn’t worry about it, well our council thinks we should be worried about it.”
Alm said the framework was now a draft but it will not be long before it is provincial regulation.
“This document just doesn’t pertain to the Crown land, it is for you and I,” Alm said. “That makes our municipality very uncomfortable. Land owner rights seem to be at risk.”

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