Lacombe County is partnering with Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) that lets landowners tap into funding for conservation improvements.
The project was narrowly approved during Lacombe County’s regular meeting Aug. 11 in a split vote.
Reeve Paula Law, along with Coun. Rod McDermand and Coun. Brenda Knight were against the county partnering with ALUS.
Reeve Law pointed out that ALUS is “on the uptake from a number of municipalities” and asked if this could be sustained by ALUS.
She added that there are a number of programs already available that deal with wetlands.
“I’m concerned that if we go down this road the funds dry up from ALUS there will be pressure on us to continue once it’s started.”
Another issue said Reeve Law, was how do you determine who gets the money.
“How do you decide if there are lots (landowners) competing and only x amount of dollars?”
And Reeve Law said she doesn’t agree with a push to make Lacombe County producers more environmentally astute.
“I’m taking exception with that. They (landowners) spend (a lot of money) to make sure they are environmentally astute. They don’t do it just for the bottom dollar, they also know they have to look after the land. It’s their livelihood. Their income for their kids and grandkids.”
Coun. Brenda Knight said she sees the program’s merit but the $15,000 total offered for a target of 858 acres wouldn’t go far in the farming community and asked if there would be pressure on the county to increase the amount of acres.
“Potentially how big could this get for the county? I’m a little concerned about what it will become.”
Coun. Rod McDermand said there were only 10 counties participating and those numbers didn’t “excite” him about the program.
Coun. Barb Shepherd, Coun. Keith Stephenson, Coun. Dana Kreil and Coun. Ken Wigmore voted in favour of the county participating in ALUS.
“It would encourage a producer to potentially be more environmentally conservative and sensitive,” said Coun. Shepherd. She added ALUS gives the county’s producers another avenue to manage their lands.
Coun. Dana Kreil said Red Deer County’s participation in ALUS is a good example of the program working.
“These young farmers are getting paid in slough areas,” she added. “It’s money from the outside. It enables agriculture and I want to be a part of something that enables agriculture.”
A Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) will be created to set ALUS program’s goals, objectives and determine compensation rates for participating landowners.
The program is voluntary. Landowners can design and construct projects that work within their agriculture operation, Lacombe County Agricultural Fieldman Dion Burlock said in his report to council.
The cost to the county over the next three years is $75,000 for in-kind work. ALUS will contribute $60,000 to Lacombe County over the next three years as part of the project funding partnership.