British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was established under law in 1973 – its genesis was the significant and growing loss of valuable farmland.
Fundamentally, the NDP government of the day was becoming increasingly aware that high-quality farmland was scarce in a province characterized by high mountains and narrow, steeply-sloped valleys – and that it was becoming scarcer. Gary Runka (2006) has contributed a useful history of the ALR, noting in particular that:
“Only 2.7% of BC’s land base is suitable for growing a reasonable range of crops and only 0.6% is Class 1, having the option of the widest range of crops”, and
“Prior to 1973, it was estimated that 6000 hectares of farmland per year was being lost to urbanization and non-farm uses in BC.”
While there have been some changes over the years, the purposes of the Act remain largely unchanged. These are:
A) to preserve agricultural land;
B) to encourage farming in collaboration with other communities of interest; and
C) to encourage local governments, First Nations, the government and its agents to enable and accommodate farm use of agricultural land and uses compatible with agriculture in their plans, bylaws and policies.
At present, about 4.6 million hectares of land in BC are protected within BC, which represents a small but real decline from the 4.7 million ha originally designated as ALR in 1973. In northern BC, substantial new areas have been designated as ALR. Conversely, in the south, many areas in southern BC and Vancouver Island have been excluded from the ALR and are permanently lost to agriculture.
The situation in Powell River roughly mirrors that of other regions in southern BC. We’ve been slowly but surely nibbling away at it – a process you can learn more about in this and subsequent Occasional Posts.