By Harry Brook
In 2018, Flagstaff County Land Use Bylaw 09-18 was passed. It states: “No trees, brush or native wetland vegetation shall be cleared from any land within 30.0 m (98.4 ft) of any spring, creek, wetland, river or lake.” Exceptions are given to construct a road, trail or fence or if clearing is in conjunction with a recreational development where a development permit has been issued.
Despite this bylaw, there are numerous examples of brushing that has occurred in the last two years from around sloughs. Why is it happening? With water levels up this year, those brushed areas are knee-deep in water. What possible benefit can accrue from clearing these areas? Low, wet areas that are cleared tend to be unproductive, subject to salt accumulation when dry and flooding when wet. They provide little, if any, additional dry land for annual crop production. On top of that, all permanent bodies of water, no matter how small, are considered Crown land under the Lands Act.
How can these areas be best utilized? Rather than wasting time, money and resources trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, have you considered leaving the brush, managing the area or getting some small recompense for the environmental benefits they provide to society?
ALUS, Alternative Land Use Services, is a charitable organization that works with farmers and ranchers to provide ecological benefits to both the producers as well as society. It is locally driven and farmer-delivered to provide a win-win. Producers are helped to improve less productive areas on their farms for wildlife while getting recognition for their contributions to the greater benefit of society. It does not have to be a large area, and projects are only limited by your imagination. Specifically, ALUS helps farmers and ranchers restore wetlands, reforest, plant windbreaks, install riparian buffers, manage sustainable drainage systems and create pollinator habitat, as well as other beneficial projects.
Flagstaff County's ALUS program has coordinated several existing projects that encompass a wide range of landscapes, soil types and projects. If you are interested in looking into how ALUS could work on your operation, please contact Brenda Martin or Harry Brook, at the County office at 780-384-4100. Why waste your resources trying to make the small, unproductive areas productive? Look at what the land is best suited for and try enhancing the ecological benefits to get some of those for yourself