Ag minister meets with residents
Politics: Berger addresses land use planning, engaging youth
Wednesday, Feb 08, 2012 06:00 am
Alberta’s agriculture minister heard from residents on the foothills over how their land will be developed in the future and how it is being used now – particularly by off-road enthusiasts.
Minister of Agriculture Evan Berger spoke to a crowd of about 70 people at the Priddis Community Hall on topics such as engaging youth in agriculture and addressed residents’ concerns on issues such as electricity costs, land use planning and property rights.
Coun. Suzanne Oel raised issues about people in off-road vehicles abusing lands and accessing them through private property and asked Berger about new regulations under the Public Lands Act. While he didn’t disclose the new fine structure, Berger said penalties for people abusing lands while off-roading will be “significant” with the possibility of the vehicle being seized.
“There’s opportunity to put some real teeth into this because it hasn’t been respectful before,” he said.
Luke Ball owns land against McLean Creek and told Berger how people trespass onto his property and how one of his cattle had been shot with a bow and arrow. He suggested creating buffer zones between private land and forestry to prevent people from trespassing.
“There’s just no control out there, there’s no enforcement,” he said, adding he wouldn’t be bothered by people walking dogs, but explained how off-highway vehicles create noise and damage the land.
“I think it’s definitely something that should be looked at going forward because who really wants to have deeded land up against off-roaders,” he said.
Berger also discussed land-use planning and related legislation which has garnered a lot of attention across the province.
He explained how irrigation is done through man-made reservoirs, which were built mostly on private land, which had to be purchased. He said ditches don’t travel along road allowances, but by topography.
“There’s a lot of these balance points that are always tough when you’re dealing with it on a personal level, it’s an emotional issue,” he said. “But our very success is actually pivotal on the fact that we’re able to do these things and move us as a society forward.”
He said legislation is in place to facilitate discussion with landowners in order to build infrastructure. Berger added the Land Stewardship Act (formerly Bill 36) only enforces what is presently in effect and will enforce the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan once it is finalized.
Berger discussed the need for youth to continue to work in agriculture and funds the Province recently allocated are going to agricultural societies across Alberta for related programming.
“We’ve been through a lot of tough years in agriculture, but I really see a new degree of hope and optimism that I have never seen before,” he said after the meeting.
Oel, who helped to organize the event, said she was pleased with the turnout and Berger’s presentation. She said it was interesting to hear diverse point of views from residents on issues such as property rights.
Oel explained how often people can be isolated in their own experience and not understand how many aspects there are to an issue.
“They might not understand why we need the Land Stewardship Act because they think that we should just go the way we’re going,” she said. “But in order to be a really effective managed agriculture province and manage where we’re putting all our industry and all of our uses in our recreation, we have to have a plan.”