B.C. committee launches citizen engagement on revitalization of Agricultural Land Reserve

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      In the last election campaign, the B.C. NDP promised to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

      A public engagement is currently underway about the future of the reserve, where agriculture is the priority use.

      The ALR was created in 1973 by the first New Democrat government in the province in response to the loss of farmlands.

      The reserve comprises 4.6 million hectares or five percent of B.C.’s land area.

      In January this year, the B.C. NDP government created an independent committee to advise the province about the future of the ALR amid continuing pressures, including residential development.

      The committee has released a discussion paper, paving the way for a public engagement about the ALR starting Monday (February 5).

      The nine-member committee is chaired by Jennifer Dyson, a former member of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), an independent body tasked with preserving farmlands.

      “Upholding the integrity of the ALR, the ALC and the agricultural land base is critical,” according to the committee’s discussion paper.

      The panel hopes to engage the public in a conversation that will “ensure there is a legacy of farmland for future generations of British Columbians”.

      The discussion paper identified 10 themes, which include a look at a decision by the previous B.C. Liberal government to split the ALR.

      In May 2014, a B.C. Liberal legislation was passed, creating Zone 1, which covers the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Okanagan, and Zone 2 for the Interior, North, and the Kootenays.

      In Zone 1, the legislation provided that land use decisions will be based primarily on the objective of preserving farmlands. The law made it easier to remove land out of the ALR in Zone 2.

      Another theme identified by the committee was food security.

      “Concern over the source and quality of food we eat has raised public attention to the issue of food security and to the long-term ability of the ALR to provide a safe and adequate agricultural land base to accommodate continuous, secure food production for domestic consumption and export,” the discussion paper noted.

      Members of the public can submit their comments either through an online survey or by email and mail until April 30, 2018.

      The committee will also hold meetings in areas across the province, including Richmond and Abbotsford.