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Your Trees do have Value

by the Agroforestry & Woodlet Extension Society 

Most people that live in Alberta have trees as part of their landscape. That can be in the yard around their home as ornamentals and fruit trees, or it can be in rural Alberta as large tracts of natural native trees that existed prior to any land clearing or shelterbelts and windbreaks that have been planted over the years. Those trees have a large variety of value to the owners and the communities in the province. So how do you find out those values and what can you do manage or improve those values?

In 2019 the Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society initiated a project, with support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, to assist primarily rural landowners of acreages and farms in learning about the value of their trees and also how manage aspects of the trees to improve the growth and quality of the trees and the overall value of their property. However, the project efforts can also benefit landowners in cities, towns, and small hamlets as all these areas have plenty to trees and can use some assistance.

The project involved meeting with landowners talking about their treed area or about an area they would like in trees and providing them advise on best way to achieve their goals. In many cases, the conversation turned to how to successfully plant more trees or how to improve the health and growth of their existing trees. Over the past year the program resulted in benefits to over 30 landowners, leading to six new planting projects that involved planting over 20,000 trees on private lands in central and northwest Alberta. It also has the potential of creating another 6-8 projects that will be planted in the spring of 2021, with a growing number as the project proceeds.

So, what are some of the values that might come from your trees? There are obvious values like producing wood if the tree is cut down, to be used in the manufacture of many things, including most of the homes in Alberta, but there are a lot of other values that they can provide as they stand and live in our backyards. As examples: trees will affect the microclimate (climate of a localised area) around them, primarily by altering wind, potentially reducing heating and cooling costs by 17.5% – 25%, and protecting livestock; they act as a physical buffer for odours and particulates, improving air quality; the reduction of wind speed prevents the movement of valuable topsoil off of fields and helps prevent the drying situation that leads to loose soils in the first place. One of the most beneficial synergies of trees is in how they interact with water and water bodies on a property. Their ability to control snow can be quite extensive, and they can act as water filters for runoff. Wooded areas also offer a variety of habitats for wildlife, which in turn offer their own benefits.

This partnership has allowed us to demonstrate that there are many and varied values the forested areas and trees can have, from their economic values to their inherent value as natural areas. Due to the complexity of these forested areas and trees, it is important to look at each case individually, and assess a forest or shelterbelt’s value on a case-by-case basis. All of this is explained in detail in the educational document produced as part of the project on the many and wonderful values that trees provide to people.

Enhancing Rural Property Values through Extension/Education

2018-2019 Annual Report Highlight

There are millions of hectares of privately owned forested areas in Alberta. This project is creating a variety of marketing materials, including postcards and fact sheets, that are designed to increase awareness among rural landowners about the services provided by Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension Society—AWES—and help them make “the most of their forest.”

The non-profit organization consists of people from government, industry, and non-profit sectors who all “share the common goal of encouraging sustainable forest management on private lands.”

AWES helps rural landowners across the province make the most of any forest they may have on their property. As well as being pleasing to the eye, healthy trees can serve a number of very important purposes on a piece of property— from acting as shelterbelt or windbreak to protect land, wildlife, and buildings against wind and erosion, to helping to maintain the health of riparian areas where land meets water to even encouraging native pollinators.

AWES holds a number of educational workshops and other events over the course of a year and is also available for a landowner to hire as a consultant to provide a number of services. After a site and individual tree health assessment, AWES can help a landowner with planting trees, rejuvenating or creating a shelterbelt, or restoring a riparian area.

In one-on-one meetings with landowners, AWES educates rural landowners about their forested lands and helps them improve how they manage their forested lands, thus helping landowners increase the property value of their land.

The $30,000 in funding from AREF is helping AWES promote its valuable services to landowners. And concurrently, the project is helping people working in the real estate industry better understand and promote the fact that well managed forest on rural parcels of land can lead to increased property values for the current and any subsequent owners.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2018-2019 Annual Report.

ReFraming the WaterShed raises the roof on sustainable building

Submitted by ReThink Red Deer

For the last five years, an ambitious group of organizations, businesses, and volunteers have been busy as beavers at the Piper Creek Community Gardens. Together, we’ve done some cool things like install one of Canada’s largest Food Forests and Pollinator Gardens, restore the banks of Piper Creek, and plant lots of new beaver habitat! Oh ya, AND we hosted some hungry goats with the City’s Parks Department!

But in the summer of 2017, we were sad to see the old iconic barn be demolished for safety reasons. The site looked so empty because, in spite of all the beautiful plants growing, it’s just not the same when you know what it looked like before.

So we teamed up with our friends at Top Peg Timber Frame Construction and Living Lands Landscape and Design to host a community barn raising that replaced the beloved structure and aims to break the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Pollinator Hotel…! With a lot of hard work and persistence we secured a $25,000 grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation to host local timber framers and coordinate the project, plus $27,766 from the Government of Alberta’s Community Facility Enhancement Program, $40,000 from Co-Op’s Community Spaces program for barn materials, and official approvals (permits) from The City of Red Deer.

The new barn design is an open-air timber frame structure to harvest rainwater for the planted areas of the site and the walls serve as space for installing pollinator habitat (with the help of Living Lands) making it Canada’s largest pollinator hotel and supporting – in a BIG way – the City of Red Deer’s Pollinator Parks initiative!

Check out photos of the barn raising held on the 2019 Alberta Culture Days weekend, alongside our Fall Harvest Supper and Garlic City Market – click here.

picture of raised timberframe barn

Piper Creek Timberframe Barn – constructed by Top Peg Timber Frame Construction and High Peak Timberframing (Sept, 2019), sponsored by Alberta Real Estate Foundation, The Government of Alberta, and Federated Co-Op’s “Community Spaces” program.

 

What do rural landowners need to know about inactive and orphaned wells?

Pembina Institute’s latest primer on oil and gas liabilities in Alberta

By Nikki Way and Morrigan Simpson-Marran

Increasingly, Albertans have heard about the number of oil and gas wells that sit inactive, neglected, or potentially orphaned in this province. Inactive and orphaned well numbers are growing in parallel with a prolonged energy recession in Alberta since 2014. Often this issue is discussed in an abstract way, mainly focusing on the financial implications for the province or referencing liabilities that companies do not have the funds to properly care for, which raises questions about whether some of these wells will be cleaned up at all.

At the end of the day, rural landowners are the ones who have this infrastructure on their land and have to live with these uncertainties. With support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the Pembina Institute has published the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells to help those who are most impacted. Designed as a complementary follow up to our 2016 publication, the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development , this primer addresses questions and examines problems landowners face when dealing with operators who are under financial strain and still have unreclaimed oil and gas infrastructure on landowners’ property.

Since the price downturn of 2014, multitudes of oil and gas companies that had accrued significant clean-up costs in Alberta have declared bankruptcy, in some cases leaving their infrastructure under the care of the Orphan Well Association. Many of the names of bankrupt operators have been in the news recently, such as Sequoia Resources, Lexin Resources, Trident Exploration, and Redwater Energy.

Although these are some of the high profile examples of operators who reneged on their responsibility to clean up hundreds – and in some cases, thousands – of wells, there are many other lesser known instances in which landowners are left with few answers for what might happen, or even who they could seek out to get questions answered. Currently in Alberta there are 90,000 inactive wells and 3,406 orphan wells that are up for abandonment (also known as decommissioning), while another 2,772 orphan sites need to be reclaimed.

Frequently, when wells are orphaned, sold off in bankruptcy, or even neglected and left inactive by companies that are financially struggling, landowners are left without an explanation of how to proceed and what their rights are. They may struggle to navigate the process of insolvency, or to understand the role of the operator or the regulator through this process.

The Pembina Institute’s Landowner’s primer outlines what a typical reclamation process should look like, and what issues may arise if the reclamation process does not go as planned. It explains what may happen if the operator on your land declares bankruptcy, and who might take over the responsibility of the well next. It offers guidance on issues such as missed lease payments and who to contact in case of a leak from the well. It also offers advice on how to navigate an untended well site. Should more questions remain, the guide has a list of contacts for landowners in order to get the help they need.

Without legislative changes that can ensure the timely reclamation of oil and gas infrastructure before companies reach their financial limits, many landowners will continue to experience this problem. It is important that as many landowners as possible have resources to navigate this situation.

Whether you are a real estate professional, an organization that works with landowners, or if you have an oil or gas well on your property, this primer is for you. You can download a copy of the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells. In addition, you can order a printed copy of the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development for the cost of shipping.

Download your copy of the Landowner’s primer. 

About the Pembina Institute
The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Learn more: www.pembina.org

U of L Study a First in Looking at the Use of Precision Agriculture in Irrigation Farming in Alberta

Given the importance of irrigation to the southern Alberta economy, two University of Lethbridge economists wanted to know if agricultural producers who irrigate are using precision agriculture technologies.

Drs. Lorraine and Chris Nicol have conducted the first study in Alberta examining the adoption of precision agriculture in irrigation farming. Their survey shows users are reducing farm inputs and seeing positive economic benefits as a result.

Last fall, they conducted a survey of irrigators in the Taber Irrigation District (TID) to find out the extent to which precision agriculture technologies are being adopted, the types of tools being used and the satisfaction with the technologies. They also looked at those who didn’t use precision agriculture technologies and their reasons for not adopting. Twenty-seven percent of irrigators in the TID participated in the survey.

“Based on the data collected, 81 percent of irrigators have adopted some form of precision agriculture, an average of five technologies per irrigator. Overall, those who have adopted are very satisfied with the technologies and almost all plan on using even more technologies in the future” says Lorraine. “Among non-adopters, most said their operations were too small to justify the high investment costs.”

Precision agriculture involves parsing fields into small parcels based on variability, allowing more precise application of irrigation water, fertilizer, chemicals and seed, compared to conventional methods. The study identified 20 technologies including auto-steering equipment, variable rate fertilizer and irrigation application, soil-moisture monitoring, terrain mapping and analysis, unmanned aerial vehicle mapping, satellite imagery and various data management tools, for example.

“Precision agriculture has fundamentally changed the way farming is done and it has the potential to reduce costs and increase profits for farmers. Precision agriculture is also critical for sustainable agriculture. Using less fertilizer and less irrigation water, for example, helps lessen run-off and conserve water so it’s also better for the environment,” says Chris.

The TID, one of 13 irrigation districts in the region, has one of the highest concentrations of specialty crops, including potatoes, sugar beets, canola seed, beans, peas, corn, sunflowers and onions. These inputs are vital to processing industries as well as the confined feedlot industry in the region. The TID consists of 115 to 120 irrigation producers who irrigate more than 80,000 acres. Its irrigation infrastructure also supplies water to several communities and many individuals.

The survey showed under precision agriculture, crop yields have increased an average 20 per cent and yearly crop quality has increased by an average of 16 per cent. Yearly reductions in irrigation water, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides have ranged between 14 and 24 per cent.

Non-adopters consist entirely of farms less than 2,000 acres. Those irrigators generally cited the smaller size of their operations, high investment costs and incompatibility of machines as the main reasons for not adopting.

“These results suggest irrigators are embracing precision agriculture and experiencing the benefits,” says Lorraine. “This also has positive implications for economic and community development, as well as environmental stewardship.”

…..

The study found:

  • 81% of irrigators have adopted some form of precision agriculture;
  • yearly crop yields have increased an average 20% and yearly crop quality has increased an average 16%;
  • yearly reductions in irrigation water, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides have ranged from 14% to 24%;
  • precision agriculture technologies are being applied largely to specialty crops;
  • for 85% of adopters, precision agriculture has affected their overall farm management approach;
  • 89% of adopters are highly satisfied with the technology;
  •  92% of adopters plan to adopt additional precision agriculture technologies in the future;
  • non-adopters indicate small operations, high investment costs, and incompatibility of machines are the main reasons for their non-adoption of precision agriculture technologies.

 

 

Read the full report here. The study was funded by a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Back by popular demand: Green Acreages Guide

If you or a client escaped the city to a small acreage, would you know how to protect and maintain it? Would you know where your water comes from or where your septic tank resides? What are your responsibilities when it comes to weed control and how could municipal bylaws affect you? These are just some of the topics explored in The Green Acreages Guide Primer, Stewardship for Small Acreages. This Primer was written and released by Land Stewardship Centre, accompanied by a more detailed and self- directed Green Acreages Guide workbook for landowners.
Land Stewardship Centre (LSC) is an Edmonton-based organization, working throughout Alberta and western Canada, that helps people improve their understanding of healthy ecosystems. They encourage the development of practices and policies that support sustainable resource use. LSC has watched the ownership of small acreages, hobby farms and recreational properties grow over the years. In 2002, LSC developed its first booklet for this audience entitled “Tips and References for Owners of Acreages and Small Farms.” A subsequent production was released in 2005. Demand for this publication was strong and in 2010, LSC was approached about reprinting the original. The demand for information on how best to manage rural properties in a sustainable manner was still strong. This provided the ideal opportunity for Land Stewardship Centre to update their information and try something a bit different.
Land Stewardship Centre has published two connected documents: a Primer and a Workbook. When property owners understand the basics outlined in the Primer, they may be ready to discover new ways to steward their acreage or recreational property. At this point they are ready for the Workbook. This comprehensive guide features charts and templates they can use to plan and store information about their property.
The Alberta Real Estate Foundation was the key sponsor of the Primer and in helping distribute both documents through real estate professionals. Cheryl De Paoli, Executive Director at the Foundation said, “We welcomed news of this initiative as it provides a single source for this type of information. We believe it will become a valued resource for new and existing landowners who wish to be more sustainable.”
The Green Acreages Guide Workbook is available for purchase from Land Stewardship Centre for $29.95 plus GST. For a REALTOR, it may be the perfect gift to give a new rural customer. For more information on the Land Stewardship Centre, or to purchase the Workbook, visit their website at www.landstewardship.org