BARRHEAD - The County of Barrhead believes joining ALUS Canada will increase access to more funding for conservation projects.
ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) is a community-led, farmer-delivered initiative that supports stewardship activities on agricultural lands.
With its origins in Manitoba, ALUS came to Alberta in 2010 and currently has chapters in a dozen rural municipalities, the closest being Lac Ste Anne County. In addition to Alberta and Manitoba, ALUS is active in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island.
Councillors unanimously voted during their Feb. 4 meeting to send a letter of expression of interest asking to allow the Highway 2 Conservation (H2C) group to rebrand and join ALUS. Membership in ALUS is $5,000 annually.
H2C is also an environmental stewardship group and is a partnership with Westlock County and Athabasca County. The County of Barrhead joined in 2011 and became the managing partner in 2015.
County fieldman Kyle Meunier said they first learned about the program when Lac Ste Anne ALUS gave a presentation to the Barrhead Agricultural Services Board (ASB) in October.
Meunier and H2C coordinator Lisa Card then followed up the visit up by having a conference call with ALUS western hub Christine Campbell.
“After hearing what we do and they do for programs, we are very much aligned,” Meunier said.
Card agreed, but noted it goes further than that, adding the rebranded H2C is an attractive partner for ALUS.
“We are established, they wouldn’t have to hold our hands to get this off the ground,” he said but noted it isn’t a given that they would be granted membership.
Meunier and Card noted the reason why the ASB is recommending to join ALUS is that they have more resources.
A request for decision states that H2C is funded primarily through the Enhanced Environmental Stream funding grant through Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, which is approximately $73,000 annually. The three-member municipal partners contribute $17,850.
And although Meunier said the funding is enough to provide for basic services it leaves room for little else.
“I know Lisa hunts for grants all the time all the time,” Meunier said, noting it is through one of the grants Card found that they were able to create the riparian management program.
The program helps agricultural producers manage areas close to rivers, lakes and streams.
“ALUS looks for grants on your behalf,” Meunier said.
Card added the grants ALUS has access to pales to what she would be able to find.
“Big donors like the Weston Group, with millions of dollars available to them, while I’m scratching and clawing to find and receive a $5,000 grant.”
Coun. Bill Lane asked what would happen to H2C if ALUS granted their membership.
Card said H2C would be rebranded to ALUS and would still be a partnership with Westlock and Athabasca County.
Meunier said they have reached out to both of their partners and they have both granted support in principle through correspondence and they would make it official at their next council meetings.
“One of the things that is nice with ALUS, if I have a project I want to get off the ground, such as say 20 acres of tree planting, which would have been impossible to leverage funding for, I can just build it into the cost of the project and ask ALUS to find the funding,” Card said.