The Alberta government is looking to auction a patch of native prairie east of Taber that is home to at least three sensitive species on Mar. 31, 2020. (Pexels photo)

Alberta to sell native grassland despite promises no Crown land would be sold

Government data says the land is home to at least three sensitive species

The Alberta government is looking to auction off a small patch of native prairie to be plowed under despite recent promises that no Crown land would be put up for sale.

“The province of Alberta sees the unlimited potential in this quarter and has selected it for sale to the public,” says the land description from the auction company.

“Never privately owned and always in pasture, the land offers up unlimited options for added value production to today’s discerning consumers. This quarter will answer the bell for any new owner and produce big yields off the hop.”

The land east of Taber in southern Alberta is to be auctioned off March 31. The starting bid for the 65-hectare plot is $440,000.

ALSO READ: Alberta government says it is fully or partially closing 20 provincial parks

Government data says the land is home to at least three sensitive species: Sprague’s pipit, the common nighthawk and the plains spadefoot toad.

Environmental groups are angry that another bit of the remaining grassland that once covered Alberta is to go under the auctioneer’s hammer.

“It’s a bad idea,” said Neil Keown of the conservation group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

“It’s setting a precedent, despite the minister proclaiming to the exact opposite just two short weeks ago.”

On March 5, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon told the Calgary Herald: “We are not selling any Crown or public land — period.”

Nixon’s assurance came after the province announced it was closing 20 provincial parks and removing another 164 protected areas from the parks list. The province’s news release mentioned the possibility of sales.

Environment spokeswoman Jess Sinclair said Nixon’s statement to the Herald referred to Crown land that had been used for parks. Crown grazing leases have been sold off before.

The plot being sold has been used for grazing, which doesn’t require the land to be disturbed. Sinclair said proceeds from the sale will go into a fund to support conservation.

The province should let the public know under what circumstances public lands will be sold off, said Cliff Wallis of the Alberta Wilderness Association.

“Even though the minister has indicated these public lands are not for sale, they clearly are. We would ask the minister to make it very clear what the policies are going forward.”

ALSO READ: Conservationists want protection on ‘Canada’s most magnificent’ old-growth forest

Kevin Van Tighem, an environmentalist and former superintendent of Banff National Park, said the sale being announced in a real-estate ad raises questions about government openness.

“It’s very frustrating … having a minister who’s responsible for the environment to stand up and say ‘no Crown land sales,’ and then to discover something like this,” Van Tighem said.

“There’s a lot of pretty valuable special places that are potentially at risk if we have the kind of government that can only see the price of land and not its value.”

Keown said one prospective buyer is the same person who attempted to acquire the land in 2011 to convert it to potato fields. That much larger purchase was halted after a public outcry.

Provincial government figures show more than half of Alberta’s original grasslands have been plowed or paved over. Less than two per cent of what is left has been protected, despite three-quarters of the province’s endangered species being native to the prairie.

“Every piece of native prairie that we have left is precious. Temperate grasslands are one of the most rapidly disappearing habitats on the planet,” Wallis said.

He noted there was no consultation about the sale, just as there was none for the parks announcement.

“We have no confidence this government has a conservation agenda. There is no balance in this province.”

In its campaign platform last spring, the United Conservative Party promised to modernize parks and sell off public lands.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Alberta Environmentalists

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rimbey textile artists creating hand-made masks

Group has also been helped out by a local business

Red Deer County has three new confirmed COVID-19 cases

Government says Alberta up to 1,181 total cases

107 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, 5 additional deaths

More than 1,000 cases in Alberta total

96 new cases of COVID-19 announced in Alberta

Thirteen people have now died in Alberta as a result of COVID-19

VIDEO: How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens

Officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don’t feel alone

Stettler Emergency Services personnel will be doing an ‘appreciation parade’

Event is to show appreciation to both front line and essential workers in Stettler

Salute to health care workers set for Monday

Fire, RCMP and EMS to toot sirens, flash lights at 7 p.m. April 6

‘The Charter still applies’: Canadians urged to monitor civil liberties during pandemic

Civil rights advocates say citizens need to be vigilant about how authorities are using new powers

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Trudeau announces more financial help for country’s most vulnerable

$40 million will go to Women and Gender Equality Canada

Feds pulled between bailing out oil and gas and moving to cleaner energy

Number of national environment organizations demanding no cash be spent to help oil companies

The inexact science involved in predicting the likely path of COVID-19

Staying home could be the difference between 6,000 deaths by April 30 or 1,600 deaths

Most Read