Grants to back Alta. land conservation easements

The Alberta government has budgeted $5 million this year for a new grant program to help protect “ecologically important” private lands against development.

The province on Wednesday launched the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program, which is to make grants available to land trust organizations to pay for conservation easements on private land, and to manage such land administered under trusts.

Conservation easements are legally binding and voluntary agreements between a landowner and a land trust.

While a landowner retains title on his or her land, the easement puts restrictions on future surface development while allowing current activities, such as grazing, to continue.

“Land trusts are worthy partners and a good resource to help identify and protect high-value conservation lands,” Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight said in a release.

The new program, he said, will help the province “achieve long-term conservation goals” whether it’s “maintaining large areas of native landscape, or conserving corridors for biodiversity.”

Any land trust — a not-for-profit, non-government organization set up to promote biodiversity conservation on private land — now operating in Alberta is eligible to apply for grant funding, the province said. The grant and matching funds must go toward a specific project.

An eligible land trust, however, will also have to provide other funding and demonstrate that its project “aligns with the government’s overall conservation objectives.”

A total of $5 million will be available for 2011-12, with an application deadline of Sept. 26, the province said. Interested landowners or land trusts can contact the province for more information or to get an application package.

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