Unused land to house new environmentally friendly projects in Rocky View County

A southern Alberta county is partnering with a national non-profit group to roll out a new program that helps farmers develop environmentally beneficial projects on their land.

The project, which makes use of existing marginally productive agricultural land, is a new partnership between ALUS Canada and Rocky View County, Alberta.

It helps farmers, ranchers and other rural landowners develop methods to restore wetlands, plant shelterbelts, and manage sustainable drainage systems on land that's not being used for crop or cattle operations.

"I just think it's environmentally responsible. It's a great thing for us to do. In most cases, farmers and ranchers are doing this anyway, and so it just helps to reward them for the good things they're doing," said Jeff Fleischer, manager of agriculture and environment services with Rocky View County.

The program provides an annual per-acre payment to its successful participants.

The county is now accepting project proposals, and they hope to have some started by summer or fall of this year, Fleischer said.

Dave Gilson/CBC

ALUS Canada provides the county with the tools and resources it needs to run the program while the community makes the decisions on the ground, said Christine Campbell, Western Canada hub manager at ALUS Canada.

"It's unique in that we're not trying to take good agricultural land out of production, and lock it up for nature. What we're trying to do is look at opportunities on those marginal lands and find an alternative," Campbell said.

She added that the program also uses skills that farmers and ranchers already have.

"We're just translating those skills from crops or livestock and moving them into producing clean air, clean water and things like that."

The program is funded by both ALUS Canada and the county.

Campbell said ALUS runs about 25 programs across the country, and the waiting list is growing. There are 13 municipalities participating in similar programs throughout Alberta.