Al­ter­na­tive Land Use Ser­vices pro­motes ‘re­tire­ment’

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

Yes, land can be ‘re­tired,’ but it’s not ex­actly put out to pas­ture, thanks to the re­gional chap­ter of a grass-roots or­ga­ni­za­tion that sprung up in the Prairies al­most a decade ago.

Al­ter­na­tive Land Use Ser­vices (ALUS) Inc. is a com­mu­nity-led, farmer-de­liv­ered pro­gram that places landown­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers at the cen­tre of lo­cal con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

Bren­dan Ja­cobs, On­tario East ALUS pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor, ex­plained the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s man­date in a re­cent in­ter­view with The News.

“We’re work­ing with the wa­ter­sheds of the Raisin Re­gion and South Na­tion con­ser­va­tion author­i­ties, in­clud­ing near Hawkes­bury and StEugène, where they don’t have a con­ser­va­tion au­thor­ity, and with lo­cal, ac­tive farm­ers to ‘re­tire’ frag­ile and mar­ginal lands from pro­duc­tion,” said Mr. Ja­cobs.

“We work to­gether to help farm­ers de­velop plans to re­vert that land back to a nat­u­ral state.”

Those plans morph into projects that deal with a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, from tree-plant­ing and the cre­ation of wood­lots, to the de­vel­op­ment of wind-breaks and buf­fers, to ex­pand­ing wood­lots, to wet­land cre­ation and/or restora­tion, to im­prov­ing habi­tat for lo­cal fish and wildlife.

“The area of land, is ‘re­tired,’ and then mea­sured out, and the farmer is paid a fee per acre, ev­ery year that his/her land is ‘en­rolled’ with the pro­gram,” said Mr. Ja­cobs.

“It’s akin to say­ing they’re be­ing paid to grow a buf­fer or a wet­land or a wood­lot, in­stead of some­thing like corn or to raise beef on a sec­tion of land.”

Mr. Ja­cobs em­pha­sized that ALUS is not in­ter­ested in usurp­ing choice agri­cul­tural land.

“We work a lot with ar­eas that are ei­ther ad­ja­cent to ex­ist­ing lands or creeks, or drains...ar­eas that may be too stony or too wet, for in­stance...that aren’t ideal for farm­ing,” he said.

“The pro­gram is not look­ing to ‘re­tire’ prime land and take it out of pro­duc­tion, or any­thing like that.

“And ev­ery farm, un­der ALUS pro­grams, is capped at 20 per cent, so no more than that amount of a farm prop­erty can be en­rolled with the pro­gram, which en­sures that prime land is not taken out of pro­duc­tion.”

ALUS projects are strictly com­mu­nity-based, run by part­ner­ship ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees in their re­spec­tive ar­eas.

The On­tario East com­mit­tee cur­rently con­sists of 15 mem­bers – seven farm­ers who re­side in ei­ther the Raisin River or South Na­tion River wa­ter­shed, plus eight ad­vi­sory mem­bers com­ing from the two afore­men­tioned con­ser­va­tion author­i­ties, as well as the Delta Wa­ter­fowl Foun­da­tion, the pro­vin­cial ALUS chap­ter, On­tario Na­ture and the On­tario Wood­lot As­so­ci­a­tion.

“It’s a farmer-led and farmer-de­liv­ered pro­gram, so only the farm­ers on the com­mit­tee have a vote on projects,” said Mr. Ja­cobs.

“They’re the ones who pro­vide di­rec­tion to the pro­gram. The oth­ers are there just to give ad­vice.”

The On­tario East ALUS branch has three projects in South Glen­garry that have ei­ther been com­pleted or will be un­der­taken later this year.

One that has been com­pleted, just north of Lan­caster, is a pol­li­na­tor patch that re­quired the ‘re­tire­ment’ of about an acre-and-a-half of field along a drain.

That par­cel was then planted with na­tive shrubs and trees, as well as wild­flow­ers that would at­tract and pro­vide food sources for bees and other pol­li­nat­ing in­sects.

Plans are also un­der­way to cre­ate a wind-break and buf­fer – com­posed of na­tive trees and shrubs – along a sec­tion of drain that cuts through two prop­er­ties near Wil­liamstown this spring.

The third pro­ject in the town­ship in­volves the plant­ing of a conifer and hard­wood tree mix­ture that will take place on a small wood­lot near Bainsville.

At this time, there are no ALUS projects sched­uled for North Glen­garry.

How­ever, Mr. Ja­cobs is hop­ing that will change soon.

“We’re hold­ing a cou­ple of landowner work­shops, and one of them is go­ing to be in Alexandria, at the end of the month,” he said.

“So hope­fully, we’ll be able to drum up some sup­port for projects in that area.”

Although fi­nal de­tails still have to be ironed out, Mr. Ja­cobs said the Alexandria work­shop is slated to take place on March 25.

ALUS be­gan as a vi­sion of Key­stone Agri­cul­tural Pro­duc­ers (KAP), Man­i­toba’s largest farm or­gani- za­tion, and the Delta Wa­ter­fowl Foun­da­tion.

KAP and Delta pro­posed that farm­ers be paid to pro­vide eco­log­i­cal goods and ser­vices from their land, and that in­cen­tives be de­liv­ered through com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions, lead­ing to the cre­ation of ALUS and its ini­tial pi­lot pro­ject, launched in Blan­chard, Man., in 2006.

That con­ser­va­tion ini­tia­tive wrapped up in 2008, hav­ing en­rolled 70 per cent of el­i­gi­ble lo­cal landown­ers, half of whom had never par­tic­i­pated in a con­ser­va­tion pro­gram be­fore, ac­cord­ing to the ALUS web­site. For more in­for­ma­tion about ALUS, please visit alus.ca.

FILE PHOTO

NO CLEAR- CUT CON­SEN­SUS: On­go­ing de­for­esta­tion through­out eastern On­tario con­tin­ues to raise con­cerns about the long-term im­pacts of clear-cut­ting. Farm­ers note they are merely cre­at­ing more acreage for crops while crit­ics warn of the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences.

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