Source: Alberta Beef Producers
Alberta Beef Producers has sent a briefing note on election priorities to the parties running in the upcoming provincial election. We encourage all parties to consider the issues important to cattle and beef producers when reviewing policy positions that impact agriculture. Here are our recommendations on grazing leases and you can review the full document on our website.
Grazing leases and rental rates
Grazing on public lands
Rangelands, which include grasslands and forest areas used for grazing, are the foundation of the province’s cattle and beef industry and grazing on Crown land under agricultural dispositions is an integral part of our industry. Grazing leases are a fundamental component of a Crown land use strategy that provides benefits to the people of Alberta and the leaseholders while maintaining our province’s rangelands as functional, working landscapes. Our objectives for functional rangelands are that these lands support efficient and economical cattle production while also meeting the environmental and social objectives of Albertans for protecting land, water, plants, and animals.
Security of tenure on both private and public lands is essential for maintaining or improving health of the grazing lands. On most Crown lands under agricultural disposition, the leaseholders have relatively secure tenure. This security of tenure provides a strong incentive for leaseholders to manage the land sustainably. Secure tenure and sound oversight by Alberta Environment and Parks staff are key reasons why the land, water, and biodiversity on these lands are in good health. Secure tenure for grazing dispositions serves Albertans and leaseholders well and does not preclude the use of the land for other compatible activities or land uses.
ABP recognizes Canada’s commitments to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to achieve targets of 17% of land conserved for biodiversity in Canada by 2020, where Alberta can play an important role in achieving these targets. However, while parks (like the Castle and Bighorn, for example), could contribute to this goal, they are not the only way to conserve lands. Under UN guidelines for Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs), we believe that public lands under grazing dispositions that are healthy and well managed for stewardship will be able to contribute greatly to the 17% without the necessity of becoming protected parks. If grazing dispositions are accepted as contributing to this target, this recognition will also support our interest in valuing the ecosystem services that raising cattle provides such as clean water, abundant wildlife, and carbon sequestration. In addition, this will help build public trust by demonstrating how raising livestock can play a very significant role in environmental sustainability and health.
Modernizing the Grazing Rental Rate Framework
A source of extreme frustration for ABP is the refusal of government to implement the proposed Grazing Lease Rental Rates Framework that was developed and supported by all grazing organizations in the province, including ABP, the Western Stock Growers Association (WSGA), the Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association (AGLA), the Northern Alberta Grazing Association (NAGA), the Central Alberta Grazing Association (CAGA), and the Rocky Mountain Forest Range Association (RMFRA). We are all deeply worried about a countervail challenge from the U.S., especially with a strong protectionist sentiment and the completion of the CUSMA, and we know that the current grazing lease rental rate framework leaves us extremely vulnerable in this area. We know that producers will not unanimously support the proposed framework, but there is widespread support for it in the industry and unanimous support for it among grazing organizations.
- ABP recommends the government commit to long term (20 year) secure tenure of leases, grazing permits, and grazing reserves throughout Alberta and including the Castle Park and Bighorn Country areas.
- ABP recommends implementing “Tenure for Stewardship” to ensure greater security of tenure for those who maintain the health of public lands under grazing dispositions.
- ABP strongly recommends the government consider establishing public lands under grazing dispositions as OECM’s that would contribute to Canada’s Target 1 goals for conservation and biodiversity. This would also ensure long term stewardship and secure tenure for grazing disposition holders.
- ABP strongly recommends immediate implementation of the legislative and regulatory changes needed for the modernized Alberta Public Land Grazing Framework as developed by the grazing stakeholder associations.
- ABP recommends that government take the time to properly consult and develop management plans with grazing stakeholders in the Bighorn Area before the Bighorn proposal is finalized or fully implemented.
- ABP recommends the government explore increased grazing opportunities on public lands in Northern Alberta.