Farm stewardship about pay off

Some Red Deer County farmers are one step closer to getting paid for environmental stewardship on their land.

Some Red Deer County farmers are one step closer to getting paid for environmental stewardship on their land.

Red Deer County council unanimously approved a motion on Tuesday to join a partnership with two other counties, Vermilion River and Parkland, and Delta Waterfowl, a conservation and research group, to ask the province for money to pay producers for providing environmental goods and services.

The County of Vermilion River is the lead applicant on this partnership and is responsible for administering the grant, and any Red Deer County contribution would be in-kind using existing staff, time and conservation partners. As a result, there would be no new cost to the county for the project.

The partnership is requesting $250,000 over two years from Alberta Municipal Affairs’ regional collaboration program.

Red Deer County’s foray into Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) was approved late in April as they became the third county in Alberta to join.

“We have some sensitive land and I think it’s really important we preserve conservation and at the same time allow ag to go forward,” said Philip Massier, Red Deer County Councillor and agriculture service board chair.

“Development is an economic driver as well. To me this is a good way for the three of those to work together.”

The program was first introduced in Alberta in 2009 when four pilot project farms in the County of Vermilion River attempted some environmental stewardship projects.

Examples of those projects include building buffer zones around wetland areas to separate them from grazing areas, building duck nesting tunnels and animal friendly fences and seeding native grass.

“ALUS raises funds to pay a landowner to do the ecologically right thing,” said Massier. “If they take some land out of ag production they are compensated.”

The partnership they signed looks at getting the funds together to pay producers.

Massier said the county was thinking about ways to work on a conservation project and the need for extra funding.

Prior to joining the ALUS partnership the county ran a program, off the creek. It provided funding and technical resources to landowners who wanted to manage their land in environmentally beneficial ways, including water bodies, riparian areas, native range and shallow groundwater.

Off the creek and another initiative, the riparian fencing initiative, saw 87 projects completed by 64 landowners to protect natural areas.

More than 1,700 acres of riparian and native range areas, 438 acres of wetlands and lakes and more than 40 km of river stream were improved by the program.

“In development agriculture and environmentalism have to work together,” said Massier.

“We can’t not do agriculture, we can’t stop development and we have to encourage conservation.”