Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS)
The majority of land on PEI is owned by farmers. With this land, farmers not only grow food and are the largest sector of the PEI economy: farmers are also providing our communities with environmental services.
In order to minimize the impact of agriculture on the environment and promote good wildlife habitat and clean water, farmers use a wide range of techniques and management practices that promote good stewardship. Putting grass waterways in fields to reduce erosion, avoiding cropping high sloped land, expanding buffer zones, fencing streams and wetlands from livestock; are all good practices, and result in an additional cost of farm business. Governments have reacted by supporting programs that provide recognition when a service that is being provided, in this case an ecological benefit that is appreciated by rural and urban citizens alike.
Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) is such a program. Established in 2008, the ALUS program encourages farmers to do more than simply meet provincial regulations. This voluntary program rewards farmers through an annual subsidy for the areas of land set-aside for conservation purposes. The subsidies are not large, so the true cost of retiring these lands is shared by farmers and governments. Island farmers are well aware of provincial regulations that set minimum environmental standards, but often, minimum standards do not go far enough. That is the beauty of the ALUS program as it positions farmers to voluntarily do a lot more for the environment without bearing the total cost themselves.
PEI offers the only province wide ALUS program in Canada. The incentives provided by ALUS have assisted in the creation of thousands of acres of grass waterways, expanded buffer zones, and a host of other ecological benefits in recent years. ALUS has helped raise the bar for environmental practices across PEI. The proof is in reduced soil erosion, improved fish and wildlife habitat, and cleaner water as compared to the years prior to the ALUS program being implemented. Farmers and government are both to be commended on this story of environmental success.
This column is presented by the Kensington North Watersheds Association and the East Prince Agri-Environment Association to inform our communities of the ongoing efforts farmers are taking toward good environmental stewardship.