Landowners organize to oppose peat burning ban
New association formed to lobby for "right to farm."
The impending peat-burning ban in Westlock County has inspired dozens of landowners to come together to push for their rights.
In response to the proposed ban, which was first made public after the June 26 county council meeting, the Westlock Right to Farm and Improve Land Association was formed at a July 18 meeting at the Linaria Hall.
Association chair Richard Crickey defended burning peat as an essential part of a successful farming operation — particularly in areas when the peat layer on top of the land can be very deep.
“Peat doesn’t produce, really, and it freezes early,” he said. “It’s just to make us more productive.”
The loss of the ability to improve the land could have significant repercussions on local farmers, he added, because land values in the area would almost certainly drop.
“That type of land will drop, yes. How much I don’t know,” he said. “Guys are buying this land with the intent to develop it into good production.”
Crickey emphasized that while the proposed ban was the major motivation for area landowners to get together and get organized to lobby the county, there are other considerations as well.
Within the county, for example, he said there are some roads farmers cannot use for hauling, and in some areas farmers are required to provide their own dust control.
“We can’t use certain roads any more for our harvesting because of dust issues, and we have to use dust control,” he said. “It’s basically about the right to use the rural system for farming and agriculture.”
The association also has a proactive agenda, with respect to preventing further limits on farmers that are seen in other areas.
In many other jurisdictions, there are limits to how and when farmers can burn, combine, harvest, haul and all the other things that are crucial to the agricultural industry.
“We look at it, and we say, ‘When is it going to come here?’”
The most pressing issue for the association right now, however, is peat burning.
Crickey said he hoped the association would be able to appear as a delegation at the July 31 council meeting, but as of Friday that appointment had not yet been confirmed. If not that meeting, he said, the association would make a presentation at one soon after it to try to influence the council’s decision.
“That’s the whole point of this organization, is to work with the county to help develop rules that work for agriculture,” he said. “We still believe we have a right to farm and we don’t want to lose that right, but we have to be considerate of our neighbours as well.”
Crickey acknowledged there could be dangers to burning peat, and conceded that some days the valley in the northwest corner of the county can get “thick with smoke.”
Having limits on when to burn, and enforcing regulations about how long peat must dry before it’s burned could effectively address the problem.
For more information about the association, contact Crickey at 780-307-5023.
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