Online Survey: What We Heard

We asked you to complete our 2025 Business Plan Survey online or in print by April 2, 2024. Now here’s a look at what we heard.

Scroll down for survey results, or click HERE to download a PDF.

(Please keep in mind that these survey results, along with the ideas submitted to our online Brainstorm Board and all feedback from our Coffee with your Councillor event, have been evaluated by Council during the review of the Program and Services Priorities and will be considered by Council in the development of the 2025 Business Plan and Budget.)

Win $500 in Flagstaff Bucks!

County and hamlet residents, there are three ways to earn an entry in our spring draw for $500 in Flagstaff Bucks! In fact, it’s as easy as ABC!

A) Another Survey

Complete our 25-question, multiple-choice 2025 Business Plan Survey and you’ll earn an entry in our draw for $500 in Flagstaff Bucks! Plus, your valued input will be considered in the development of the 2025 Business Plan.

To take the survey, visit: Thank you for your feedback!

B) Brainstorm Board

Got an idea for a new program or service worthy of our online “Brainstorm Board” at:

Don’t keep it to yourself! Share it at:!

Each innovative submission will earn you an entry in our draw for $500 in Flagstaff Bucks!

C) Coffee with your Councillor

Be sure to stop by the Flagstaff County Administration Building between 2 and 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2 for Coffee with your Councillor! Each attendee will receive an entry in our draw for $500 in Flagstaff Bucks! Tours of the shop next door will be available.

Click HERE to find out who your councillor is.

More on Flagstaff Bucks

So what are Flagstaff Bucks, anyway?

Well, the Flagstaff Bucks Program allows consumers to spend “Flagstaff Bucks” at participating small businesses in the Flagstaff Region. The program offers denominations of $25 and $50 to be spent at any participating retail location or small business in the Flagstaff Region.

The Flagstaff Bucks Program was created to keep money in our local economy. With every dollar spent locally, a story unfolds as that dollar circulates within the economy. Understanding that story and knowing what you can do as a business owner and individual consumer to keep the most of each dollar here in the Flagstaff Region can make a difference.

If you are a business owner in the Flagstaff Region who wants to participate or learn more about the Flagstaff Bucks Program, email

Podacst Episode: Rules of Engagement

Flagstaff County Reeve Don Kroetch and Communications Coordinator Cary Castagna chat about the importance of engaging with the public, roll out this year’s public participation plan, and then look back at the findings of last year’s public engagement.

Whose Responsibility is it?

By Nick Dunn

Many landowners in Alberta are facing challenges with abandoned oil leases that no one seems to know whose responsibility they are. What once put dollars in landowners’ pockets is now adding to their financial burden and potentially placing our environment at risk. According to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), the last decade of oil production has left us with hundreds of thousands of wells throughout the province. Various energy maps within Alberta can be accessed through the AER website at Here are some of the many classifications throughout the well process of well drilling to know:

Active oil leases – do not pose a threat for financial burden as they are usually managed and upkept or have an entity claiming ownership and responsibility. Oil leases that have been properly reclaimed are also not a threat and set the example of provincial and landowner expectations. I give credit to the oil producing organizations that do have reclamation plans and implement those plans within their business strategy. Leaving the land in better condition than when they developed it so the land can go back to its original state, which in our area is dominantly cultivation but also in native pasture lands.  

Inactive oil leases – pose a threat to be a financial burden for the landowner and place our environment at risk. When an oil lease becomes inactive it goes through a suspension period which includes plugging and temporary lockouts. Once it has been deemed that it is no longer needed, it must go through the abandonment process that includes permanently sealing and taking the well out of service. Once the well has been properly closed it will then be reclaimed to its original state. According to the AER, licensees (oil and gas companies) will always be held accountable for what’s beneath the surface to help ensure that sites have been properly shut down to protect our environment. Well sites pose a risk to the environment by acting as an entry point to our resources below ground if not properly capped. Whether it’s for water or oil, well sites need to be properly managed to reduce possible contamination of our underground resources.

Orphan wells – can be in any state, whether it’s active, inactive, suspended, or even abandoned; and are the heart of the problem. Wells are classified as orphans when there is no responsible party to take care of the reclamation. Orphan wells are then the responsibility of the Orphan Wells Association (OWA) and are handled in a triage manner. The OWA is a nonprofit funded by an annual levy paid by industry based on a calculation of their share in liability. The pace of OWA seems to be behind the pace of orphaned wells being added to the list.  

If you are a landowner and are experiencing issues with orphaned wells, unfortunately it’s true, that the process involves reporting the issue and then relying on regulatory bodies to take appropriate action. The AER has a reporting page to get you added to the list. After that, it is in their hands. I believe we are experiencing issues with abandoned wells because there are not enough boots on the ground to enact enforcement.

Some other ways to bring attention to your orphan wells might include seeking legal advice regarding debt collection or reclamation, and contacting local MLAs and other elected officials to share concerns and experiences. This problem is common to Albertan producers and is only going to get worse if accountability isn’t enforced. Increasing public awareness can lead to greater pressure on regulatory bodies and collaboration with others can amplify your voice. Additionally, staying informed and documenting issues relating to orphan wells is crucial.

Nick Dunn is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.

2024 Business Plan now available

Under the Alberta Municipal Government Act, Flagstaff County is mandated to adopt a three-year operating budget and a five-year capital budget in anticipation of future revenues and expenditures across the organization. This Business Plan and Budget provides a detailed view of the programs and services currently offered and the financial cost of their delivery. It serves as the financial direction for Flagstaff County.

The most recently approved Business Plan is now accessible on our website. View it HERE.

RALP applications open

Applications for Year 2 of the Resilient Agricultural Landscape Program (RALP) are now being accepted.

The RALP objective is to increase the environmental resiliency of agricultural landscapes by accelerating adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs) that maximize provision of ecological goods and services (EG&S), particularly increased carbon sequestration and enhanced climate resilience.

Up to 100% of eligible expenses may be covered for approved grants to support producers in their ability to implement and maintain projects over a three-year term. Funding of up to $150,000 for Primary Producers, and up to $300,000 for Indigenous applicants or groups such as Grazing Reserve Associations and Community Pastures is available for eligible BMP projects.

For more details, click HERE.

Precision Livestock

By Nick Dunn

The world has been evolving with technology for many years and the agricultural industry has changed to adopt these new technologies in many accelerated ways. With crop production, our equipment has evolved to include the latest technology at our fingertips. This allows us to be more efficient and ultimately enables us to implement the 4R stewardship model, which is applying the Right source, at the Right rate, Right time and Right place. This same implementation is starting to hit the livestock sector and I believe it is going to change the industry, like how GPS changed the cropping sector, in due time. The reason we have adopted these changes to how we crop land is for an obvious reason: to save time and money. Now that tech companies have been establishing themselves in the livestock industry, if they can prove they can save ranchers’ time and money, then they will have a permanent seat at the table.

If you ask a producer what the most utilized piece of equipment is on the farm, he/she is going to tell you that it’s all of it. It takes the full fleet and then some to produce crops and livestock. It’s the same reason why you have more than one wrench in your toolbox or screwdriver; you need many tools. Another tool that has a big role on the farm is drones, and that’s not only to do with crop scouting and taking elevated photos or videos. Drones can be utilized for many daily activities to manage livestock such as infrastructure inspection, herd counts, reading tags, livestock recovery, thermal imaging (disease and stress detection), temperature measurements and more to come with continued software development. A drone equipped with an optical zoom and thermal imaging camera will have the capability to achieve all that you would need to with livestock and on the lower side costs around $7,000. With the new Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (SCAP) there is funding available for producers to cover 50% of the costs of purchasing a drone for your farm.

I went to a conference last December and they had a speaker who spoke on new smart ear tags. These ear tags were equipped with GPS, and thermal reading capabilities. This gave producers the benefit of tracking their livestock from time spent in feeding and watering locations and if there were any sudden changes to body temperature.

He also spoke on virtual fencing, which in my mind has some major trust issues, but if you could overlook that, would provide a major benefit and allow producers to do something that seems impossible. Each animal is equipped with a GPS collar like the shock collars we have on our pets. The boundaries can be set with any device and can be done in seconds just like drawing border lines on satellite imagery.  The collars will work directly with the map boundaries you have drawn. Producers can make changes so fast that they can actually herd their animals with this process. The possibilities are endless when you can put up gates and fences and take them down in seconds, and virtually anywhere. I could even see this going to the next level with autonomous herding and organizing.

Another device he mentioned were the boluses that were swallowed and sit in the reticulum of cattle. This provides more data in terms of feed efficiency and heat detection, which will also change the way we manage cattle and provide us with more data that can be used to make inclined decisions.

Technology does have many benefits, but like everything there are also challenges and the biggest one is the high costs. Luckily there are some grants available through SCAP, but still, efficiency isn’t free. I believe these costs will come down in time just like we have seen with other technologies that we use day-to-day like computers, TVs and cellphones. Technology will be integrated further into the livestock industry to help producers enable their stewardship, which is managing the Right animal, Right feed, at the Right time and at the Right place. We are pioneers of technology integration into the agricultural industry.

Nick Dunn is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.

2023 Year-End Review

By Nick Dunn

This year the Ag Services department faced many challenges along with producers in Flagstaff County to achieve its successes within our programs and services. The Ag Services department consists of 11 seasonal employees, myself the Agricultural Fieldman, and Matthew Pfeffer the Agricultural Foreman. Roadside mowing is expected to be completed twice annually and due to the early drought conditions we experienced this spring we were delayed by two weeks and started mowing in mid-June. Overcoming some adversity meant playing catch-up for what felt like the entire summer. However, with our motivated crew we were able to catch-up on our second cut and in the end accomplished 1.75 cuts. All roadsides are mowed with our Kuhn disc mowers that cut 10 feet down to the edge of the slope. Some may have noticed their roadsides were cut with our Shulte blade mower, which cuts 15 feet along all arterial and collector roadsides. This was the first year we have mowed collector roadsides with the Shulte mower as they were previously cut with the Kuhns.

The Ag Services department also offers roadside and custom spraying services. When trees and shrubs reach full leaf, our roadside sprayers start the season spraying previously hydro-axed roadside shoulders, which is conducted by the Public Works department. Vegetation that’s above 4 feet tall will be spot-sprayed with Garlon XRT while vegetation under 4 feet will be sprayed with Navius Flex. After brush spraying, we will then move into our weed control program that consists of treating one-third of the municipal roadsides. Last year we sprayed the southern third of our county, which consisted of Hwy 53 and Hwy 608 South and this year we sprayed the northern third, which consisted of Twp Rd 440 North. Our roadsides are currently sprayed with Navius Flex, which has a residual effect to suit our spraying program and provide long-term control on tough-to-kill weed species. Herbicide groupings are altered throughout the program to ensure that we do not promote the buildup of weed resistance. Crews also found themselves spraying gravel sites, stockpiles, municipal grounds including many recreational areas, Hardisty areas as part of our new leafy spurge program, and now even provincial highways. Flagstaff County entered an agreement with Alberta Transportation in 2023 to spray problematic areas throughout our borders that they were struggling to manage at full cost-recovery. We’re hoping that Alberta Transportation will continue to work with us as I believe our inspectors and sprayers can perform maintenance in a more timely and accurate manner as it is part of the Weed Control Act to control noxious weeds, and destroy prohibited noxious weeds. The Ag Services department also provides custom spraying on private land at cost-recovery with UTVs, ATVs, backpack sprayers, an Intelli-spray truck, roadside sprayers, and when it comes to scentless chamomile (mayweed) we will even pick it. As of 2023, Flagstaff County is now a registered vendor for herbicides and pesticides with the Province of Alberta and is happy to provide rural acreage owners and producers access to certain herbicides and rodenticides.

The Ag Services department also operated in some pest control duties that included removing beaver dams at cost-recovery and providing free rental traps accompanied with a damage deposit. We will continue to host extension events including Between the Roots news columns, workshops, webinars, certification courses, podcasts, Conservation Easements, other ongoing programs and projects such as Shelterbelt Establishment, Wetland Resiliency and Replacement Program (WRRP), and Alberta Land Use Services (ALUS). NEW in 2024 there will be three satellite mulch sites that will be located in Sedgewick, Galahad, and Strome. These sites will aim to give Flagstaff residents free access to wood mulch, keep mulch out of our Regional Landfill, and reduce costs for arborists performing maintenance within our borders.

The park’s crew consists of a park’s caretaker, and two labourers that are tasked with maintaining Flagstaff County owned campgrounds, playgrounds, and recreational areas. New in 2023, Flagstaff entered into an agreement with the Diplomat Mine Museum Society to assist in the grounds and facility maintenance. Many playground repairs were made to Strome and Fish Lake as well as the replacement of the Galahad playground. Other repairs included rebuilding the Fish Lake aerator, rebuilding picnic tables, fire pits, campsite utilities and restoring the ball diamond areas in Strome.

If you would like to stay updated or learn more about the Ag Services or Parks and Recreation departments, you can view our quarterly reports in the report’s sections of the Council Meeting Minutes or our ASB Meeting Minutes that we also have quarterly or as needed. I would like to thank our seasonal crews for their contributions in the 2023 season. Their hard work and passion doesn’t go unnoticed.

Nick Dunn is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.

CAO earns prestigious award

Flagstaff County is pleased to announce that CAO Shelly Armstrong has been awarded the 2023 R.W. Hay Award as outstanding rural CAO at the recent Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) convention in Edmonton.

Shelly’s career in public service has so far spanned 36 years, including more than 30 as CAO – longevity that reflects her dedication to serving her community, said RMA Vice President Kara Westerlund during the award presentation.

“This CAO has been a driver of constant innovation and improvement,” Westerlund noted, “including advocating for and facilitating long-term strategic planning and integration of asset management, risk assessment and long-range financial modelling within all municipal departments and as key council decision-making tools.”

Flagstaff County Council nominated Shelly for the prestigious award, stating in their nomination package that Shelly “has consistently demonstrated professionalism, trustworthiness, and transformative leadership. … Our relationship has been built on trust and mutual respect. Her consistent professionalism has been instrumental in nurturing the highest potential within Council and the entire organization.”

Beyond her municipal work, Shelly was also commended for the countless hours she has committed as a director and volunteer for many local organizations.

“As a local leader, this CAO regularly goes above and beyond to make sure local voluntary organizations and other service groups are supported and thriving,” Westerlund added. 

The RMA established the R.W. Hay Award in 1997 for Excellence in Rural Municipal Administration to recognize the superior service provided by rural administrators.

The winning CAO is chosen annually by an evaluation committee consisting of three past winners, three representatives from the Society of Local Government Managers Board of Directors (SLGM), and one member of the RMA Board of Directors. No individual may receive the award more than once.

Please join us in congratulating Shelly on this well-deserved honour.

Fall Fertilization

By Nick Dunn

Now that harvest 2023 is behind us, it’s time to start planning for the next growing season. For some, that means servicing equipment and placing it back in the shed, and for others, it means bringing machinery out of the shed to go back to work. This year came with many challenges but the opportunity to do some fall work was not one of them. Finishing harvest ahead of our average coupled with an extended fall has allowed producers to get a head start on the upcoming season.

Fall can be a great time to apply fertilizer on next year’s crop. It all starts with a soil test that can be done by yourself or contracted out through agronomists and local retailers. The information gathered through the soil tests can help you make informed decisions with your fertility plan. The first step is to set a realistic yield goal and figure out what nutritional values you will need to reach that yield goal based on uptake. Yes, there are many variables to make a yield goal but one of them we can control is our inputs. You are more likely to reach your yield goal by giving your crop the best opportunity nutritionally than banking solely on a good growing season, although they go hand in hand. The final part of that equation is to know how much you have, and that comes from soil testing and analyzing data gathered from previous growing seasons. What you need – What you got = What you apply. Soil sampling is only as good as the one who samples it. The soil sample needs to represent the whole field to be a good representation. It doesn’t necessarily matter on the sampling method if it be benchmarked or average sample. It needs to be taken from certain areas in the field with consistent depths. Stay away from the low and high spots as it could throw the sample off. For a better picture sample as far down as 24”. Today, software and technology has made this process much easier and can integrate variable rates into the farming machinery based on data, which of course comes at an extra cost.

Applying fertilizer in the spring can often affect producers’ bottom line as fertilizer prices typically go down in fall due to lower demand. Not only can it lower producers’ expenses but can also give them a head start in the upcoming year. When applying fertilizer in the fall, producers need to be aware of the loss risks that are associated with fall fertilization. Nitrogen especially is susceptible to many forms of losses including volatilization, which occurs when nitrogen in the form of ammonia is lost to the atmosphere, typically in dry conditions. Denitrification is when warm saturated soil bacteria convert nitrate nitrogen into gaseous forms. Leaching occurs when excessive water carries nitrogen down past the root zone leaving it plant inaccessible. Losses are also incurred through soil erosion, whether it be through wind or water. Applying the fertilizer in a tight band reduces a lot of these losses but does not eliminate the risk. It is recommended fall fertilizer application be done when soil temperatures reach 5˚ C or less, but before freeze-up. There are products on the market to help mitigate losses with dry fertilizer such as Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN). ESN has a biodegradable polymer coating the nitrogen prill that enables the nitrogen to be slowly released over approximately 45 days. Applying phosphate, potassium, and sulphur in the fall is less sensitive compared to nitrogen. You can combine them without worrying too much about losses. While sulfur can leach with excessive water, phosphate and potassium will remain in place as they are rather immobile within our soils. Some producers will apply sulphur fines on their upcoming canola ground in the fall to keep it out of the drill in spring as it may increase chances of plugging when paired with high humidity and nitrogen. Sulphur fines are also cheaper than sulphur prills.

Regardless of whether you apply fertilizer in the fall or not, it is still a good opportunity to test your soil and start planning for the upcoming season. Soil testing coupled with realistic yield goals will set the foundation of your fertility plans and depending on the markets, it could possibly save you money compared to the high-demanding spring.

Nick Dunn is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.

Maintaining Pasture Lands

By Nick Dunn

According to the 2006 Agricultural Profile, in Flagstaff County there are more than 1,000,000 acres of farmland, 250,000 acres of them are pasture or hay land. Of that 250,000 pasture acres, it is estimated that 100,000 acres are tame or seeded, and 150,000 acres are natural. These lands produce high-quality forage for our livestock producers and maintaining these lands is predominantly crucial to their operations in beef production as most of their cattle feed is forage based. When pastures are seeded, they are typically forgotten about, and over time we have seen pasture plant stands and quality decrease, affecting livestock producers’ bottom line. Ultimately rainfall and fertilization are the main dictators of how well a pasture is going to perform in a season. We have seen depleting growth within our pastures as we have been experiencing drought-like conditions and high temperatures that have burnt both our seeded and natural pastures.

Pasture management can be very complicated and can change over time according to the conditions. It is important that landowners closely monitor their pastures to help them make timely decisions when needed. Some of the best management practices that have been set to the side are weed and brush control, fertilization, and other mechanical practices. Controlling weed and brush within pastures is crucial to promote the growth of the native forages and to prevent unwanted vegetation from establishing. Some of the noxious weeds within pastures are poisonous to livestock and landowners are legally obligated to control them. When legumes are present and needed, producers will often have to sacrifice areas to control certain weed infestations with selective herbicides and spot spraying. Like every weed problem, the more it is neglected the greater the infestation and cost will be to control it. Flagstaff County has a Pesticide Vendor Registration with the Province of Alberta and carries range and pasture products to sell to landowners on a cost-recovery basis. You can also find these herbicides at selected retailers throughout the County.

Fertilization is also an important part of pasture maintenance and soil testing will help identify deficiencies that are within the soil. A common practice at a minimum is to broadcast dry urea in the fall or early spring. Soil testing is always recommended prior to application.

Other maintenance strategies include mechanical practices such as investing in the land and infrastructure to help with rotational grazing. Grazing the land too hard will deplete forages and legumes to a point where you might have to reseed much earlier than expected. Optimizing pasture utilization and cattle management is crucial to conserve the pastureland.

Sometimes our pastures have reached the end of their life cycle and it becomes necessary to undertake a more extensive rejuvenation process, including re-seeding with a forage blend. This is particularly the case when pastures have become severely degraded or overgrazed, resulting in poor forage quality and consistently reduced growth and vegetation. During this time, we often start to see weed infestations starting to take over the land and grass weaning down. Older pastures usually have high compaction, which decreases their ability to take on and retain soil moisture, leading to low productivity. Some producers or landowners will break the ground up and plant annual crops for a couple years. This process will rejuvenate soil quality by breaking up hardpan layers, decreasing compaction, weed and brush control and increasing organic material. After 2-3 years of implementing annual crops, producers will then select the appropriate forage species that will be best suited for their land and livestock nutritional needs.

It is important that we do not sideline the maintenance of pastures. Neglected pastures will end up costing producers more by increasing the cost of rejuvenation. It is important that we monitor the conditions of the pasture throughout the year as they do change, address issues promptly and stay informed about best management practices.

Nick Dunn is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.