Conservation of wildlife and native habitat on private land in Alberta: private stewardship programs, agricultural policy and legal considerations

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Conservation of wildlife and native habitat on private farmlands is more than just an ecological problem. It crosses into the realm of legal, social, political and economic systems. This study approaches the complex issue of protecting habitat on private lands from several frameworks, focusing on the region of rural southern Alberta, where much of the province's native habitat and wildlife has been lost. To encourage farmers to protect some habitat on their land, an array of private stewardship programs has been created. Private stewardship is simply the conservation of habitat on private lands which may or may not involve government assistance. Methods which range from transfer of ownership to voluntary hand-shake type· agreements are compared. Each situation should be treated as unique and the type of stewardship agreement should best suit that particular landowner. For certain situations, there are also several statutes which may be useful for protecting wildlife or habitat on private lands. Lacking in the provincial or federal wildlife laws are explicit sections directed at native habitat and wildlife protection on private land. As a case study of a private stewardship program, I developed Operation Burrowing Owl as a provincial program in 1990 and acted as co-ordinator for 1990 and 1991. This case study demonstrates that while there are certain advantages to voluntary stewardship such as reduced cost and a high degree of flexibility, there are also drawbacks such as lack of economic incentives for farmers. Given the current farm crisis, farmers are faced with many difficult decisions related to reducing their debt load. In this economic climate, protecting wildlife may not be a high priority. An overview of the highly complex network of agricultural policies which in many instances encourage farmers to convert native prairie to agricultural land is offered. This policy system has an interesting history which shows that to a great extent, policies have been established on an ad hoe basis rather than from a more holistic approach which would also consider potential effects of agricultural policies on the environment. In order to illustrate some of the concepts explored, this study concludes with an examination of a single farm using a Map Processor / Geographic Information System. The manipulations performed demonstrate that agricultural systems can be compatible with habitat retention. This type of exercise is important for policy makers and wildlife agencies since the management unit affected by agricultural policies and programs is the family farm. key words: private stewardship, endangered species, lease, easement, management agreement, registration, burrowing owl, agricultural policy, GIS, windbreak
Bibliography: p. 150-163.
Lord, S. (1992). Conservation of wildlife and native habitat on private land in Alberta: private stewardship programs, agricultural policy and legal considerations (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/22772