EDMONTON, AB: A new report from the Alberta Land Institute found that high quality agricultural land in Alberta continues to be fragmented and calls for greater discussion around land use policies to preserve quality agricultural land as Alberta grows.
The report was conducted by Dr. Brent Swallow and Dr. Scott Jeffrey from the University of Alberta. It found that most of the farmland converted for developed uses between 2000 to 2012 was of the highest levels of suitability and prime crop land, with 35 per cent of the highest suitability and 34 per cent of the second highest suitability found in Alberta.
“This conversion and fragmentation of agricultural land has led to concerns about rural landscape preservation, loss of food production capacity, high service costs, and conflicts between farmers and new rural residents,” Dr. Swallow said. “Given the current legislative tools available to public officials under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act and the Modernized Municipal Government Act, it is important for all officials responsible for decisions about land use understand the magnitude and causes of the problem.”
A survey conducted for the report shows that attitudes among residents in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region revealed concern about the rapid expansion of urban areas and the consequential loss of natural and agricultural land in the area. About 80 per cent of the respondents indicated that they were willing to make a $20 one-time contribution toward farmland conservation.
“Alberta’s landscape is undergoing substantial changes due to growth in its economy and population. The agricultural industry, which uses approximately one third of the provincial area, is significantly affected by these changes,” Dr. Swallow said. “Albertans are interested in discussing the best methods to both develop and grow, while conserving important land areas for farming.”
While there has been an overall decrease in high quality farming soil in Alberta due to urban expansion, there has been an increase in overall farm land due to the conversion of grasslands and forests into croplands and pasture.
The report can be read here.
- Analysis of satellite imagery shows that between 1984 and 2013 the amount of land in urban uses in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor increased from 3,127 km2 to 4,763 km2, an increase of 52%
- From 1984 to 2018, the Calgary urban area expanded from 242 km2 to 754 km2
- Around Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, expansion of urban areas was higher in the 1984-1992 period than in either the 1992-2001 or 2001-2013 periods
Based out of the University of Alberta, Alberta Land Institute exists to connect research and policy for better land management.