Monday, September 13, 2010

Alberta gov't selling grassland for potato farming

If the Alberta Government has its way, 100 quarter sections of ancient grassland could look something like this in spring:

We thought we had it bad in Saskatchewan when the Wall government last year quietly announced it would sell Crown grasslands to leaseholders. The Alberta provincial cabinet is right now considering the sale of 100 quarters (16,000 acres) of native grassland near Bow Island, all of it habitat for endangered species, to a company that wants to break the prairie and seed it to potatoes, which will be made into potato chips.

The Alberta Wilderness Association is rallying forces to oppose the sale. Here is their letter to the Alberta Government:

Dear Premier Stelmach and Minister Knight
Re: Imminent Destruction of Endangered Species Habitat to Grow Potatoes

AWA is asking for an emergency response from the Alberta government to prevent the
imminent destruction of more than 100 quarters of public land, known to be habitat for a number of endangered species.

AWA is very disturbed to learn that the sale of a huge area of public land – more than 100 quarters – is going through without public knowledge or opportunity for comment. The land is known to have several species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act, including burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, Sprague's pipit, chestnut‐collared longspur, McCown's longspur, shorteared owl, and long‐billed curlew.
AWA is led to believe that the decision to sell this land is before Cabinet. It is our understanding that the majority of the 100 quarters of native prairie is to be ploughed up for potato farming, to be used in the manufacture of snack food "potato chips".

The public has made it very clear on numerous occasions that they do not want their public land sold.

Public Lands are managed by the Alberta government on behalf of all Albertans. Selling and trading Public Lands with no opportunity for public comment is a failure of public duty. We are asking the Alberta government for an emergency response from the minister to stop this sale going through, and to allow for full public discussion before any irreversible decisions are made.

Yours truly,

Christyann Olson,
Executive Director

On Monday, Alberta's Minister of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD), Mel Knight said on radio that proceeds from the sale of the Bow Island land would be handed over to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to help them purchase perhaps as much as ten times the amount of native grassland that is going to be destroyed in the potato farming deal.

The Alberta Wilderness Association thought this sounded pretty funny so they made a call to NCC, who denied that they were going to be involved in any way. Here is the AWA press release on the topic.

The industrial potato operation that stands to benefit from this deal and wants to turn 7,000 year old grasslands into potato fields is SLM Spud Farms; 1317748 Ltd.

It would be worth someone's time to see if these folks have "responded" to any of the Alberta Conservative party's requests for funds in recent years. Writers like Richard Manning say that Big Ag in the U.S. usually hedges its bets and donates to both political parties, but that is not necessary in Alberta, Canada's home of the one-party state, where the powers that be have figured out how to cut in half the costs of influencing government.

If there is any doubt about just how big this "farm" operation is, take a look at this statement of claim available online, where they took the American Government to court under NAFTA, after the U.S. closed the border to Canadian Beef. The Alberta corporation sought damages of more than $3.9 million because they had invested in a cattle-feed operation dedicated entirely to fattening big holsteins on potato by-products and then shipping them to American processors who are set up for these larger animals.

Should we be surprised that people who want to convert 16,000 acres of native grazing land into the first stop on the potato chip conveyor belt are the same agri-industrialists who fatten cattle on potato by-products left over from the factory that makes potatoes into unhealthy processed food? We know things have gone awry when we are feeding the ancient prairie to the potato factory to make junk food and then feeding the scraps to cattle in feedlots to produce fatty beef tainted with anti-biotics and hormones.

Postscript, a reader, Lauren, made the comment suggesting I include addresses in case people would like to send letters to the Alberta Government. I should have thought of that. Here they are, belatedly:

The Hon. Ed Stelmach
Premier of Alberta
Room 307, Legislature Building
10800 – 97th Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6

Honourable Mel Knight
Minister of Sustainable Resource Development
#404 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6


  1. so what do we do? give us addresses!!

  2. Oops! Good idea. I went back into the post an inserted some addresses.

    Thanks for the suggestion.


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