Every year, we receive a lot of variations of the same question: “is land under an agricultural lease open to public access?” When Albertans ask this question, what they often really want to know is whether or not they can hunt, ride, hike, or camp on this land, and if they need special permission to do so.
Agricultural leases are often surrounded by fences and gates and can seem like private property. But leased public land is typically accessible for recreation – as long as you do so responsibly. Here are the steps you need to follow.
1. Figure out who owns the land you want to visit.
Some agricultural land is privately owned; it’s your responsibility to find out land ownership before you go onto a piece of property. You can find detailed maps, access conditions, and the contact info for public land leaseholders here or call 1-866-279-0023 to get this info toll-free. You can also request a map from the County or Municipal District that includes the area’s private and public lands and the name of the landowner or leaseholders associated with them.
2. If the land is not privately owned, find out whether or not you must contact the leaseholder.
If the land you want to visit is held under a permit – like a grazing permit, hay permit, or cultivation permit – or a forest grazing licence, you don’t need to contact the holder. You must still follow basic conditions to use this land as well as any specific conditions that have been established for the site.by the local settlement officer.
Basic conditions are as follows:
- No littering on public land.
- Park vehicles clear of driveways and access routes.
- Do not use a building or other improvements found on the agriculture disposition.
- Leave gates the way you found them – opened or closed.
- Do not cause any damage to the land or the property of the agriculture disposition holder.
- Any animals brought onto the land must be under direct control of the recreational user.
You are required to contact the leaseholder of any land held under a lease for grazing or farm development. The majority of agricultural public land in Alberta falls into this category. You can find contact info for your area – as well the conditions for using the land – here.
If the leaseholder chooses not to provide any contact or condition information, standard access conditions will apply, and recreational users will be allowed to access the lease without making contact.
3. Contact the leaseholder, taking steps to solve any disagreements.
You should contact the leaseholder at least two weeks prior to your trip. Talking to the leaseholder for your destination will give you important information about the area, including any sensitive areas, hazards, or livestock that you need to be aware of.
There are certain circumstances under which the landowner can refuse access to you – namely, when:
- Your access will be by anything other than foot (motorized vehicle, horse, etc.)
- Livestock are present in the area in a fenced pasture
- A crop has not been harvested
- A fire ban has been issued for the area by a municipal or provincial authority
- You are going to camp in the area
- Your proposed use of the land is prohibited by the area’s recreation management plan, or a condition set by the government
If you have a disagreement with a leaseholder and can’t resolve it, you can call 310-0000 – AEP staff will try to assist you with reaching an agreement. If one cannot be reached, we can guide you to a more formal process for resolving the dispute.
4. Respect the land – minimize your impact.
Regardless of what kind of agricultural land you are accessing, you need to follow basic steps to minimize your impact and protect the landscape, as well as some unique steps for protecting leased land:
- Park your vehicle clear of any driveways and/or access routes for the property.
- Leave gates the way you found them (i.e. open or closed).
- Pack out all litter and take care not to damage land or property – leave things the way you found them.
- Get special consent from the leaseholder prior to lighting any fires.