The provincial government introduced the Land Commission Act in 1973
By Diego Flammini
Millions of acres of B.C. farmland will reach a milestone in 2023.
The Agricultural Land Reserve, which encompasses nearly 17 million acres (4.7 million hectares) will celebrate its 50th anniversary next April.
On April 18, 1973, NDP Premier Dave Barrett and his government introduced the Land Commission Act in response to the loss of prime farmland.
At the time, B.C. was losing about 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) of farmland annually.
For context, the country of San Marino’s entire area is about 15,073 acres.
The initial ALR plans protected about 5 per cent of the province’s land, and the ALR remains roughly the same size today.
The ALR hasn’t been without controversy in its nearly 50 years of existence.
In 2018, for example, the provincial government introduced Bill 52, legislation that would limit the size of new homes on the ALR to about 5,400 square feet (500 square metres).
That bill passed in 2019.
Also in 2019, the B.C. government awarded a $70,000 contract to U.S.-based MDA Systems Ltd. to use satellites to provide continuous surveillance on parts of the ALR.
And the two parties agreed to keep the project hidden from the public.
Still in 2019, the Agricultural Land Commission informed the owners of Chemainus River Campground they had to return their property to the ALR after applying for a permit to add sites to the location.
But despite any ups and downs over the years, the ALR is celebrated by many who wish they had something similar, said Lana Popham, B.C.’s minister of agriculture and food.
“We’re the envy of other jurisdictions that failed to protect their food-growing lands,” she said in a May 8 column. “As we embrace the idea of resiliency and food supply security, we can be thankful that we have these lands to fall back on. The ways we produce food are evolving, and that is reflected in how the Agricultural Land Commission balances its responsibilities to manage these lands.”