What we heard: talking agriculture and property rights in Milk River

SSRP banner

This month, we’re in 21 communities talking to Albertans about the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan – a long-term land use plan for the region. These summaries, posted the day following each session, try to capture the main themes expressed during each session – which weren’t necessarily agreed upon by everyone.


Ten people were in attendance at yesterday evening’s public session in Milk River. Attendees were a mix of ranchers, landowners, and recreationalists – all with different ideas about land use planning.

The morning’s stakeholder workshop was attended by former Alberta Environment minister Lorne Taylor, as well as mayor David Hawco and councilors from the counties of Warner and Forty Mile. The Alberta WaterSmart folks were also in attendance.

Milk River hall exterior 2013

Here’s what we heard: 

The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Plan needs to recognize and respect generations of responsible land management by landowners and leaseholders
  • More respect for property rights needed – may need new laws, renewed respect for leaseholders and landowners
  • Plan may be too vague and may not include enough change
  • Concern about too many plans (SSRP, sub-regional plans) – which one takes precedence? Do various plans include conflicting direction?
  • People who do not live in an area cannot truly understand or appreciate local issues – more local input is needed.
  • Plan should put more emphasis on protecting agriculture

Healthy economy:

  • Need more focus on how development impacts agriculture – better understanding of how water supply impacts agriculture, more incentives for producers
  • Need to limit fragmentation of agricultural land – but also need to define ‘fragmentation’, as it means different things to different people
  • Concern that other developments are happening on the best agricultural land
  • Support for a ‘right to farm’ where development encroaches on farmland
  • Concern that the plan favours the energy industry over other economic activities – that energy ‘has government’s ear’
  • Concerns that economic outcomes and biodiversity goals do not mesh, will collide
  • Lack of infrastructure for tourism development in the area
Prioritizing agriculture was a big theme of the Milk River talk

Prioritizing agriculture was a big theme of the Milk River talk. Photo credit: public domain

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Need more details about conservations areas – they are too loosely defined, lack enforcement provisions
  • Some concern about new conservation areas on public lands – not enough details about how this will impact long-term leaseholders
  • Implementation plan for framework a concern – need more details about funding, etc
  • Too much attention paid to biodiversity when this focus is not needed or even beneficial in some areas (e.g. some areas have too many grizzly bears)
  • Most landowners already prioritize biodiversity – this needs more recognition
  • Plan is too ‘top-down’; local input is key. Biodiversity management can only be effective when informed by local knowledge.
  • Heard from a landowner with a grazing lease interested in adding it to heritage rangeland
  • Concern that restrictions imposed by framework will hurt economy
  • Without good enforcement, protecting Eastern Slopes will only cause ATV problems elsewhere
  • “Southern Alberta is not just a playground for Calgarians”

Public land:

  • Need more focus on repercussions of breaking up native grasslands
  • Potential conflict between intact grazing leases and irrigation land
  • Conflict between the plan’s promotion of agriculture and conservation of grasslands
  • Cost to leaseholder when there is more activity on public land – liability, potential for ‘idled’ land – needs more recognition
  • White area and green area public lands need to be treated equally in terms of disaster response, liability
  • Invasive species control important in Milk River

Stewardship and conservation of private land:

  • The plan’s offset conservation program is vague – specifics must be tailored to particular regions
  • Conservation easements do nothing to prevent oil and gas development – need recognition of this
  • No discussion of conservation directives which could appropriate private land

Air and water quality:

  • Need to increase storage and explore more storage alternatives, including aquifers and coulees
  • More funding needed for implementation of Water for Life
  • Need to ensure water security – little control over quality and flow; more focus needed on maintaining monitoring, particularly local groundwater monitoring
  • Local watershed groups need increased authority
  • Air quality is not an equal issue for all areas – more relevant for industrial areas
  • More funds for air quality needed – but also need more concrete definition of ‘quality’
  • Question – what is the strategy of the Calgary regional airshed monitoring groups?

Strengthening communities: 

Photo of hoodoos in Writing-on-Stone provincial park

Writing-on-Stone provincial park is nestled in the Milk River valley

  • Plan’s focus on communities is too urban-centric; economic formulas proposed are not working for rural communities
  • More investment is needed in infrastructure
  • Government should be responsible for preparing flood mitigation measures, plans
  • More engagement is needed between the government and rural communities
  • Question – why are First Nations groups not included with other stakeholders?
  • Concern about the impact of Writing-on-Stone’s designation as a World Heritage site – potential impact on landowners, property rights, infrastructure (from tourism)

Intrigued? Remember – you can provide feedback on the draft plan through an online workbook or by attending one of the information sessions being held throughout November. Feedback on this blog or the session? Tweet us – @AENV_SRD.

Our next stops:

2 thoughts on “What we heard: talking agriculture and property rights in Milk River

  1. I went to the SSRP conversation in Milk River Nov.6. I read the comments and summary put on line by the facilitators. I have a problem with their reporting. There were issues discussed that do not appear in the report. I think the G?OA hired the facilitators to cherry pick what the govt. wanted out of the discussions and leave the controversial but necessary aspects out of their report. Property rights was one. People in cities and rural should wake up before the govt. takes all our rights away “for the common good.” Property rights include every thing you own, not just land.

  2. Hi Will,

    Thanks for your comment. The goal of the sessions is to capture all feedback and comments – they are all taken down and will all appear in the final summary report published when these sessions conclude. These online summaries are meant to capture the main themes of the conversations – usually, there’s more than one comment made on each of these points during the sessions, but we don’t have space to include each one.

    Property rights is one of the themes captured in the Milk River summary – under ‘SSRP vision and proposed goals’ (“Need greater emphasis on private property protection, safeguarding local autonomy”). I understand that there might have been many comments on this topic – those will all be captured in the final summary, but we can’t include them all here.

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