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Local feelings on ALR expressed
By Derek Kaye
Castlegar News contributor
On March 27 the Liberal Provincial Government introduced proposed changes to the BC Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) that would see the province divided into two regions. Zone 1 would include the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Okanagan. This zone would remain unchanged in regulations. But zone 2, which would encompass the Kootenays, Central and Northern BC, would see relaxed rules concerning the removal of non-arable land from the ALR and the potential for supplemental land use besides farming on land in the ALR.
When the ALR had first been created in the early 1970’s as part of NDP Dave Barrett’s term in office, its boundaries were roughly drawn resulting in some land useless for agriculture being trapped within the ALR. In Pass Creek a portion of the lower section of the valley closer to Castlegar did have its ALR boundaries redrawn to allow for other uses. But past Norns Road toward the Slocan Valley the original ALR boundaries have remained largely unchanged. The Castlegar News spoke to several long-term resident land owners and as one land owner who prefers to remain anonymous put it, “They would take your $700 and deny your application and tell you to apply again and take another $700.”
Grant Piljek who owns a large section of land in Pass Creek within the ALR boundaries does use the land for farm purposes such as horse and cattle grazing as well as organic vegetable gardens. There is, however, a ten-acre portion of that property, mostly bedrock, that is totally unusable for farming which is trapped in the ALR.
Previous applications to have it removed have been denied. He welcomed the proposed changes with the hope that the relaxed rules would benefit his future planned uses of non arable land trapped within the ALR.
Former MLA Ed Conroy also owns a farm in Pass Creek where he has raised prize winning livestock. Only the arable portion of his property is within ALR boundaries. He has been supportive of the important role the ALR has had in preserving farmland in BC. He is concerned that the proposed changes and the administrative oversight of the ALR could threaten productive farmland, especially in the north.
“I believe in the Agriculture Land Reserve and I think we have a duty, especially those of us in agriculture, to preserve farmland,” he said. “We’ve all got to get along whether its industry, agriculture or whatever, and we should do what we can to try and accommodate each other. But I think they have tipped the balance in the north with these changes to really allow them (industry) to do what they want.”