Improving and protecting wetlands, through increased buffer zones, is another of the projects that ALUS is promoting for better use of marginal agricultural land. Image: Lacombe County

Friends of Chain Lakes Society looking for alternate land usage support

Presentation at annual meeting about getting an idea on how to implement similar program

The idea was to find out more on what to do with marginal land and hopefully generate some local interest in a project that is being done just to the south of Ponoka County.

Around a dozen people showed up to the Friends of Chain Lakes Society AGM at Scott School Hall on April 26 to listen to a presentation about Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS).

Lacombe County’s ALUS program coordinator Jalene Makus was the guest speaker and spoke about how it operates in their area.

Makus explained the fee for service initiative compensates landowners for making management changes that generate both environment and economic benefits.

“Eco-system services are products or services from the environment that benefit humans and have an economic value. It can include cleaner water and air, flood mitigation or habitat for species at risk,” she stated.

“And the compensation comes in two ways — through grants to pay for supplies to get the project done and in annual payments, all of which are done on a per acre basis.”

Makus added projects that could be considered are riparian buffers, erosion control, habitat creation, pollinator habitat and shelterbelts.

“ALUS doesn’t want the high value agricultural land, but rather that marginal land for these projects. Land that is inefficient, low production value or is environmentally sensitive,” she stated,” Examples of the land being targeted include riparian areas around water courses, steeply sloped and those that are awkward to make productive.”

Lacombe County started to put the pieces in place in 2016, before awarding funding to four landowners via five projects that took in about 97 acres.

The PAC has set its top four priority areas for determining which projects would be best to fund, starting with riparian conservation and enhancement along waterways. Creation of eco-buffers and traditional shelterbelts is next on the list followed by lake water quality enhancement and wetlands conservation or enhancement.

“We have seen a lot of interest in pollinator gardens lately, so we are working on developing a per square metre payment rate for this type of project,” Makus stated.

Ponoka County Coun. Bryce Liddle — who was at the meeting — explained the main concern is how such a program would be run.

“The idea of sharing (a program) makes sense as my one concerns is if we have to hire a bunch of staff, paying out $50,000 or $60,000 only to get back $19,000,” he said.

“It might be better to take some of that money or just keep that money and do something with it.”

Makus and Liddle both commented that the sharing idea isn’t new, either for the two counties or ALUS.

Both the counties of Leduc and Wetaskiwin share an ALUS program coordinator, while Ponoka and Lacombe counties are partnering with Red Deer County on an agricultural plastics recycling program.

 

Portable solar watering systems is one of the big ways farmers can get ALUS money as it keeps cattle off of sensitive land and away from water bodies. Image: Lacombe County

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