Caring for Land

Update on ALUS Project in Norfolk County

Now that most of the tree planting is completed, I thought you might be interested in this update I received today from Dave Reid, Coordinator of the Norfolk Land Stewardship Council, regarding the status of the ALUS project in Norfolk County. Thank you, Dave, for keeping me in the loop.

When I first heard of ALUS at the Eastern Regional Stewardship Councils meeting held at Desert Lake some years ago, it struck me as the best "outside the box" thinking on the subject of land stewardship that I had heard to that point.

The basic concept is to compensate landowners for being good stewards of their land as this benefits the public at large. This is in marked contrast to the approach of our current Provincial Government with its Green Zone, and the Species At Risk Act about to come into force, where a landowners asset values are confiscated by a stroke of a pen with absolutely no compensation whatsoever.

It is encouraging to read about the progress made to date, and to see the growing interest in this concept from other jurisdictions across Canada.

Perhaps this is the sort of project we should consider getting behind here in Hastings County. Any thoughts or comments?

Status of the Ontario ALUS pilot in Norfolk County – April 21, 2008

• The Norfolk Federation of Agriculture, facilitated by Norfolk Land Stewardship Council, leads a collaborative of 56 partners to develop, fund raise for and implement the Alternative Land Use Services concept in Norfolk County, Ontario (see brochure for description of the ALUS concept).

• Over $1/4 million cash contributed by 24 partners was expended on actions during the pre-pilot phase from March, 2002 to September, 2007 (see attached pre-pilot summary). Pre-pilot actions to date resulting from this expenditure include: o hosting an evaluation/monitoring workshop; o publication of our pilot proposal in January 2004 with input from an organizing committee and the workshop; o establishment of a nine-member Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) to direct the pilot; o completion of a benchmark survey of public opinion on the environment in relation to farming and the quality of life in Norfolk County; o publication of an ALUS brochure summarizing the pilot proposal (20,000 copies printed); o establishment of four ALUS demonstration farms, and; o partnered on implementation of the South Creek watershed riparian buffer restoration project in 2006 led by MNR Aylmer District using GIS Services, a farmer to farmer approach and an ALUS type payment for EG&S over three year agreements … 26 of 30 priority sites identified by MNR now have minimum 4 m. vegetated buffers … all landowners chose the ALUS type annual payment of $150/ac/yr over 3-year agreement vs a one time payment of $2,600/acre to incorporate buffer into Drainage Report … this raised extent of creek length buffered from 36.4% to 71.1% affecting ~25 acres for a 3-year environmental service cost of $11,126 … additional landowners have since come on board and the extent of creek length buffered will surmount 75% , the amount which science says is required for a healthy stream ecosystem … this approach now incorporated into the Norfolk County ALUS pilot.

• Fund raising for the County wide pilot began in spring 2006 … currently we have $919,860 committed by 16 partners and another $72,500 tentatively committed to the ALUS pilot (see attached summary). Fund raising is on-going in order to apply the ALUS concept County wide. 22x letters of support were received from partners in support of our fund raising efforts (see summary attached)

• Taking a lead from the Manitoba pilot, the original 9-year pilot proposal for Norfolk County was scaled back in 2006 to a 3-year pilot proposal and a budget of ~$2 million for county wide implementation. Only about half that amount had been raised by late summer of 2007 and so the PAC decided to refocus our pilot proposal from a County wide pilot to a scaled back pilot including additional ALUS demonstration farms/sites to better reflect the County’s diversity of agriculture as well as targeting additional priority watersheds for riparian buffer restoration and forest corridor creation.

• A ½ time ALUS project coordinator was hired in late August, 2007 to coordinate the pilot project over the next 3 growing seasons, with a final report due by March 31, 2011. We hope this will feed into development of a provincial and national EG&S program.

• Norfolk County is providing financial administration, Long Point Region Conservation Authority is providing extension services and MNR Aylmer District is providing GIS services. The Norfolk County pilot was launched on September 20/07 at the Delhi German Hall with many dignitaries and 150 community members in attendance.

• Three half day long winter workshops were held this past winter to inform Norfolk farmers about ALUS opportunities and to encourage their expressions of interest to participate. These were attended by ~90 producers and resulted in 30 expressions of interest to date. Site visits by the project coordinator and extension staff are now occurring … conservation agreements will be signed with the producers resulting in 34,000 tree seedlings on ~35 acres and ~250 acres of tallgrass prairie (exceeding the SAR stewardship fund target of 100 hectares). Additional expressions of interest are expected. Participants must have a registered farm number, farm in Norfolk County and have an Environmental Farm Plan deemed appropriate through peer review and registered.

• Four farmer liaison have been hired and are beginning to contact landowners of 70 priority sites identified by MNR GIS services as requiring riparian buffers in Patterson Creek watershed. Buffers will be seeded next fall.

• Education and outreach about the ALUS concept and payments for EG&S, as required by some funding partners, has been on-going both in-County and across Southern Ontario. Since late 2006, we have conducted over 15x tours of ALUS demonstration farms attended by 300+ citizens, farmers, politicians and potential Funders. We have presented on ALUS at 29x events reaching over 1300x people from Ridgetown College to Toronto City Hall to Peterborough and many places in between. Interest in ALUS is growing as a result as well as from extensive major (eg. CBC radio, Toronto Star, Toronto Now magazine, Better Farming magazine) and local (CD 98.9 radio, Tillsonburg News, Simcoe Reformer) media coverage. Interest in developing additional ALUS pilots is growing across Ontario particularly in Chatham-Kent, Grey-Bruce and the Maitland River Conservation Authority. This has largely been facilitated by the Ontario Stewardship network.

Status of ALUS Across Canada

• An ALUS pilot has completed two field seasons in the Rural Municipality of Blanchard, Manitoba with about ¾ of their ranchers participating and early results that look very promising.

• An ALUS coordinator has been hired in Prince Edward Island and their provincial government intends to treat the whole island with an ALUS program . Four PEI folks are planning to visit the Manitoba and Norfolk pilot for advice (June 2 - 4, 2008).

• The Saskatchewan government recently announced confirmation of $1 million each for 10x ALUS pilots to be implemented across their province.

• The Wild Rose Producers of Alberta are negotiating with the Alberta government for funding for ALUS pilots there.

• Interest in ALUS has been expressed in British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

A Preliminary Overview of Potential Cost Reductions and Financial Benefits to Canada of a national ALUS program was prepared and published on Jan. 15/07 by Tyrchniewicz Consulting and indicated benefits exceeded costs.

• Norfolk representatives participate on a national ALUS conference call bi-monthly and a national ALUS website is in planning stages.