Public Land for the Taking: A Disturbing Prairie Tale


November 4, 2010 :: Cheryl Bradley
Moderated by Bob Campbell

Less than five percent of Alberta is comprised of native prairie on public lands. The 7000-year-old remnants of native prairie are of immeasurable value in preserving biodiversity, maintaining healthy watersheds, sequestering carbon, sustaining livestock production and providing outdoor recreation opportunities for a rapidly growing human population in southern Alberta. Albertans value native prairie and their public lands.

The speaker will suggest current law and policy regarding public land sale reflects an outdated ideology that defines progress as turning the prairie into a human enterprise, such as tame pasture, cultivated fields or industrial development. The taking of public land by individuals or corporations willing to pay for it is secretly sanctioned by Cabinet on an ad hoc basis without public input. Proposals to change this situation have fallen on deaf ears.

The storm over the recent application to Alberta’s Minister of Sustainable Resource Development that would see 25 sections of native prairie on public land near Bow Island turned into potato fields has been brewing for many years. Conservation interests appear to have been shut out. That Cabinet is surprised by the public outrage suggests they are disturbingly out of touch.

Speaker: Cheryl Bradley P. Biol.

Cheryl Bradley is a professional biologist who has worked in conservation biology and development of environmental law and policy for three decades. She is a long-standing and active member of Alberta’s Prairie Conservation Forum, the Alberta Native Plant Council, the Southern Alberta Group for Environment, and the Urban Team of the Oldman Watershed Council. She has served on the Board of the Environmental Law Centre and is a founding Board member of Water Matters. Cheryl has received several awards, including an Emerald Award, for her volunteer work in nature conservation.



NOTE correction to one of Cheryl's answer:

Here is a list of facts from an article about public lands by Joyce Hildebrand written in the December 2007 Wildlands Advocate:

Total Area of Alberta – 662,583 km2

Public Land - 60% of Alberta (397,550 km2)

Private Land - 28.5% of Alberta (virtually all in the White Area of southern Alberta) (188,836 km2)

Green Area (unsettled) - 47% of Alberta (311,414 km2)

Public Land in Green Area – 47% of Alberta (311,414 km2)

White Area (settled) – 31% of Alberta (205,400 km2)

Public Land in White Area - 2.5% (16,564)

(excludes federal land (10% of Alberta), provincial protected areas (4.2% of Alberta), tax recovery lands and areas covered by water (2.5% of Alberta)


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