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Alberta Crown land being sold for potato farm


October 22, 2010
By The Canadian Press

Topics

October 22, 2010, Bow
Island, Alta – Ranchers, conservationists and politicians are speaking out
against a plan by the Alberta government to quietly sell off environmentally
sensitive land to a political supporter for a huge potato farm.

October 22, 2010, Bow
Island, Alta – Ranchers, conservationists and politicians are speaking out
against a plan by the Alberta government to quietly sell off environmentally
sensitive land to a political supporter for a huge potato farm.

The sale of the
65-square kilometres of Crown land southwest of Medicine Hat to Louis Ypma of
SLM Spud Farms of Taber is expected to be approved by the Progressive
Conservative
cabinet this month.

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The Alberta Wilderness
Association
says it is against the sale because the patch of native prairie
grassland is home to endangered species, including burrowing owls and
ferruginous hawks. Plowing up such land for potato chips doesn't make sense,
association spokesman Nigel Douglas said.

“If you have the right
connections, then they will sell you our land and even turn a blind eye to all
of the endangered species habitat that will be destroyed,” Douglas said.

The president of the
Alberta Fish and Game Association has written a letter to Premier Ed Stelmach
opposing the sale.

In his letter, Quentin
Bochar calls the area an island of nature that is enjoyed by people who hunt,
fish, berry-pick and view wildlife. Bochar points out that there is less than
five per cent of native prairie grasslands left in Alberta.

“This further
destruction will help to seal the fate of these species as well as any outdoors
enjoyment by future generations,” he wrote.

“We have continually
urged the Alberta Government to stop selling public lands but all it seems to
have done is drive you underground and make these decisions behind closed doors
where the public cannot let their feelings be known.”

Ranchers in the area say
they oppose the move because they use the land to graze cattle.

Sustainable Resource Development
Mel Knight and members of his staff could not be reached. Ypma declined
comment.

Elections Alberta says
SLM Spud Farms contributed $2,000 to the Progressive Conservative Alberta
election campaign in 2008 and donated money to the Cardston-Taber-Warner
Progressive Conservative riding association last year and in 2007.

In 2005, Ypma was named
one of the top 10 potato growers in Alberta by McCain Foods.

Earlier in the week
Knight told the Lethbridge Herald that the provincial government is legally
allowed to sell Crown land to anyone without holding a public hearing or
offering it publicly to the highest bidder.

Paul Hinman of the
opposition Wildrose Alliance calls the Crown land sale a form of patronage.

“To find out that the
government is selling this off to a politically connected group is just wrong,”
Hinman said.

“It is appalling that
government would think that this is the way to operate.”