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Conservationists concerned over sale of Crown land in southern Alberta

Conservationists concerned after Alberta government sells ‘untouched’ Crown land
WATCH ABOVE: Several conservation groups are outraged after the Alberta government auctioned off a parcel of untouched Crown land near Taber on Tuesday. Emily Olsen reports.

The Alberta government has auctioned off a parcel of Crown land near Taber, Alta., to an anonymous bidder for $460,000, and that has some conservation groups in the area concerned.

“It was our understanding that the government would not be doing this sort of thing,” said Alberta Wilderness Society board member Cheryl Bradley.

“Also, [there’s] a concern about the lack of consultation. How does the public become aware that this has been proposed and how do we get input?”

READ MORE: Alberta to sell native grassland despite government promises no Crown land would be sold

The Alberta Wilderness Society is one of several organizations — including the Alberta Fish and Game Association, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and Action for Agriculture — to send letters to the government asking them not to sell Crown land, or to do so with the stipulation that it be protected and not cultivated.

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“Eighty per cent of species that are considered at-risk in Alberta are relying on habitat of native grasslands,” Bradley said.

She added that these grasslands offer a lot to both ecosystems and neighbouring producers in terms of water retention, carbon emission reduction and biodiversity, and that because of this, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan was created.

“One of the outcomes of that plan was a commitment to sustain native grasslands and to prevent their sale and conversion as much as possible,” Bradley said.

“That plan was agreed on by our government based on public input.”

READ MORE: Alberta government has no intention of selling Crown land in parks restructuring: minister

The government did not respond to the letters from the concerned groups, or to Global News, for comment on the sale.

Bradley said the suggestion of potential future irrigation in the advertisement is irresponsible.

“We all know that we’re not giving out additional licences for water because of how low the flows are in our rivers, and we realize that water is a scarce resource.”

She said she would like to see more transparency in future land deals and added that reclaiming those native grasslands costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and could take as long as a century.

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“We have very few examples of successfully restoring native grasslands that have been cultivated,” Bradley said.

“It’s a significant loss no matter which way you look at it.”