president Western Stock Growers’ Association
The Western Stock Growers’ Association (WSGA) extends an invitation to the Alberta government to restart a valued pilot program exploring the use of market-based environmental goods and services.
In the spring of 2010, on the advice of the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development Mel Knight, the WSGA proposed that a small pilot program be implemented to study a market-based system which could provide rewards and compensation to private land managers and owners. The program was to target those who supply Environmental Goods and Services (EGS), such as agricultural producers whose provisions benefit grizzly bear and elk habitat.
Section 23 of the recently passed Alberta Land Stewardship Act provides new tools for the support, research, and development of a market based approach for the objectives of the Act. The WSGA, in partnership with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, had started to develop a marketplace for these important environmental services, but the pilot project did not move ahead. The concept of a marketplace for EGS has continued merit and the general public needs to be consulted as new land planning is developed and implemented.
Canadians have a desire for clean water, air and wildlife habitat, and as a result comes environmental public policy. The land-management decisions of many rural landowners have a direct impact to these environmental services to our nation as a whole, but the responsibility tends to fall into the lap of the agricultural landowner.
Ranchers have traditionally provided these important EGS services to Albertans for free. We now have a significant change in the way the public perceives wildlife and environmental habitat. With the increase in wildlife numbers ranchers also experience an increase in problems.
For example, ranchers in the Peace River area, hit hard by drought last summer, are now experiencing significant losses of expensive forage to both deer and elk. Many ranchers, in an effort to be low-cost producers as well as to reduce their carbon footprint, now incorporate swath grazing, bale grazing and stockpiled grass. Any forage that has not been protected by hauling into a wildlife-proof central area is now being eaten by local wildlife. Even a low-cost livestock operation can experience as much as $.70 per animal per day in extra costs by having to haul feed every day to livestock.
Ranchers, who have long been environmental stewards helping to maintain the sustainable environment everyone cherishes, require the ability to turn this issue with wildlife into an asset. Environmental goods and services can be developed into another profitable agricultural product. WSGA encourages the Alberta Government to restart the pilot EGS marketplace program.