Land sale panned

It came to light last week a piece of native prairie grassland, near Taber, had been put up for auction online.

“It was brought to my attention by someone just through the actual auction site. The auction site listed it as never been private, meaning it is public land. Some other folks did a little more digging to make sure that was the case - that it is a piece of public land the government is looking to sell,” said Katie Morrison, CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter conservation director.

According to the auction website, the listing reads “Golden Sunrise For Sale” and the auction starts March 31.

“Plenty of options with this quarter located 18 miles east of Taber. Ideal pasture land that could easily be converted to grain, oilseed, or pulse production. Never privately owned and always in pasture – great for raising organic foods,” it was stated in the listing.

For over 50 years, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) southern and northern Alberta chapters have been collaborating with industry, government, Indigenous partners, communities, and like-minded organizations to protect invaluable parks and wilderness areas and connect Albertans to nature through sustainable outdoor recreation.

While an Alberta Parks media release recently was amended to remove the mention of “sale of parks,” CPAWS continues to be concerned with the massive changes to the parks system without transparent decision-making or consultation with Albertans.

“The changes, including the full or partial closure of 20 sites - where full closure is stated as 'entire site will be closed to public access,' and the removal of 164 Parks from the Alberta Parks system - results in the loss of the protections to conservation values and quality of recreation experience provided through a parks designation,” it was stated in a recent media release issued by CPAWS.

According to the CPAWS-issued media release, the Alberta government-released media release also stated, “Sites removed from the parks system would have their legal park designations removed, and could be open for alternate management approaches. This includes potential park partnerships through [sale or] transfer to another entity such as a municipality, so sites could continue to provide important economic and recreational benefits to local communities. Some of the sites could also stay open under a public lands management model or revert back to vacant public land.”

“From our perspective, we don't support the sale of public land, ever. Public lands are held in trust for Albertans and once they are lost from that public pool of land, they're gone forever. They are then private, so people lose access for any use,” Morrison explained.

“Grasslands are one of our most endangered ecosystems. Most of our spaces at risk are in grasslands. It's doubly concerning because it's public land and it's a grassland system that has a huge risk of being lost to cultivation,” Morrison continued.

For CPAWS and other organizations, Morrison said, moving forward it's about putting pressure on the Alberta government and stating this type of land sale isn't appropriate. “There hasn't been any consultation on this land sale or broader public land sales.”

Another concern, Morrison added, is the Alberta government's announcement of the de-listing of over 150 parks in the province. “And reverting those to public land. They've been really emphatic saying, 'No, we're not selling land and we're not selling any public land, so you have no reason to be concerned about these park areas reverting to public land because we're not selling land.'”

Then, days later, Morrison noted, “Seeing this listing of public land is concerning for the native prairie lands, but also for any of those pieces of public land no longer protected. Because sometime in the future, there is a possibility they could be sold because they've lost their protections.”

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