Review of Alberta grazing leases unlikely to please cattle producers

An independent review suggests the Alberta government would have as much as $45 million in extra annual revenue if it revamped how it handles grazing leases.

CALGARY — An independent review suggests the Alberta government would have as much as $45 million in extra annual revenue if it revamped how it handles grazing leases.

The long-standing program allows cattle producers to rent vast swaths of Crown land and was criticized last summer by the province’s auditor general.

Merwan Saher said the government manages 5,700 grazing leases on more than two million hectares of public land on behalf of Albertans, which contributes about $4 million each year to government coffers.

Saher said it appears ranchers leasing from the government are deriving personal financial benefits when they turn around and accept compensation from oil and gas companies to gain access to wells on that land. He said the province is forgoing more than $25 million each year as a result.

The independent review by the University of Alberta’s Land Institute looked at alternative models for grazing leases, including one in place in neighbouring Saskatchewan. Each would result in increased compensation to the province ranging from $36 million to $45 million a year, the review suggested.

“We went into it somewhat naively looking at how those revenues would change … but as we dug into the system, we realized it’s a lot more complicated than just flicking a switch,” said research director Vic Adamowicz.

“I think we went into it thinking it was a little more black and white than it was.”

The government is doing its own review of the leasing program and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips has met with the land institute.

“The information they presented, and that provided by other stakeholders including agriculture and oil and gas producers, helps to inform and support future policy decisions,” Phillips said.

Adamowicz said the government must consider rental payments leaseholders make as well as compensation they receive from energy companies. Oversight from Alberta’s Surface Rights Board is also needed, he said.

Cliff Wallis from the Alberta Wilderness Association said leaseholders have been doing a good job caring for the land, but some are making a lot of money that could go elsewhere.

“It’s super flawed. It basically creates haves and have-nots between the have ranchers who have oil and gas wells and those who don’t,” Wallis said.

“The money that comes from surface rights payments should be going back into a grassland conservation fund or a public land conservation fund to deal with wildlife issues, compensating ranchers for various things, help with conservation.”

Wallis said his group would “scream like stuck pigs” if the government tried to divert any new lease money into general revenues.

The Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association admits the program isn’t perfect, but believes the auditor general should have done more homework.

“There are a lot of people who don’t understand it and don’t want to listen to why it works the way it does, but it’s been a very good instrument over the years to ensure these lands were settled and cared for,” said Larry Sears, who leases about 2,300 hectares in southwestern Alberta.

“The vast majority of the leaseholders in the province have five or less installations and less than half of the leaseholders get any oil and gas activity at all.”

Just Posted

More than $25k raised for Red Deer firefighter who is recovering in hospital

‘I think the support he’s getting is because of the person he is’

Lacombe backs Blackfalds stormwater plan

Stormwater management plan will open up more land for development in Blackfalds

Two men facing charges in alleged abduction

RCMP issued alert for woman on Wednesday morning who was found safe later that day

Red Deer RCMP seek public assistance to identify suspect in indecent acts

Red Deer RCMP are looking for a man believed to be responsible… Continue reading

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

Leon Draisaitl has overtime winner as Edmonton Oilers down Boston Bruins 3-2

EDMONTON — Connor McDavid set up Leon Draisaitl for the overtime winner… Continue reading

Edmonton girl guide sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store on first day

EDMONTON — She’s being called one smart cookie. As people lined up… Continue reading

New vacuum needed: Calgary family adopts three bonded St. Bernard buddies

EDMONTON — Three adult St. Bernards who couldn’t be separated because they’re… Continue reading

Film with Fan Bingbing, Bruce Willis cancelled after tax case

BEIJING — The director of “Air Strike,” featuring Chinese actress Fan Bingbing,… Continue reading

Michael Buble shuts down rumours of retirement from music

LOS ANGELES — Michael Buble is shutting down rumours that he’s going… Continue reading

After Canada legalizes pot, industry eyes rest of the world

MONTREAL — Cam Battley is a top executive at one of Canada’s… Continue reading

Facebook’s election ‘war room’ takes aim at fake information

MENLO PARK, Calif. — In an otherwise innocuous part of Facebook’s expansive… Continue reading

Military to overhaul morale-boosting trips after review finds serious problems

OTTAWA — Canada’s top general is overhauling military morale-boosting tours after an… Continue reading

Most Read