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Groups pushing to prevent reforestaton of farmland

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With the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) convention weeks away, dozens of resolutions are up for debate.

Looking back on last years convention, one of the biggest was an attempt to stop the planting of trees on farm land for carbon offset credits.

The resolution was in response to over 500 hectares of fruit and alfalfa producing farmland near Fort Fraser being purchased by foreign company, Reckitt Benckiser, and planted with pine, spruce and fir trees. The company championed their ‘Trees for Change’ program, saying it has planted several million seedlings in B.C. on “previously deforested land.”

“Fortunately Reckitt Benckiser put it on pause themselves, much I would credit to the local outcry and public pressure.” Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) Frank Leonard said “They thought they were doing something that would get them good media and it got them bad.”

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While the Reckitt Benckiser problem has been solved in the short term, Leonard noted they have asked for further regulation to prevent the problem in the future, as multiple other foreign companies are carrying out the same practice.

“We’ve said to the government that stronger legislation or regulation would help. We believe what they were doing was a non farm use, but we would be worried about proceeding legally based on the legislation we had.”

NCLGA President Brian Frenkel says they too are waiting on a permanent solution, but have been told it’s not as simple as one would think.

“The wording isn’t as simple as ‘don’t plant trees’, because you can’t do that. We plant trees for apple trees and peach trees down in the Okanagan. So we are awaiting to see what the Ministry of Agriculture comes up with wording.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Agriculture says they are “continuing to work with the ALC on a more permanent solution”, noting that regulation is already in place that requires anyone to restrict the use of farmland to receive a covenant from the Ministry. However the ALC has said that those laws still don’t go far enough and would like to see them tightened up.

Meanwhile, Frenkel says they will continue to work towards protecting the region’s farm lands from reforestation.

“They know exactly where it is, and what it means, and I think we keep our nose to the grindstone on this.”

(Files from Colin Dacre with MY PRINCE GEORGE NOW)

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