Agricultural Land Reserve (British Columbia)
The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a collection of agricultural land in the Canadian province of British Columbia in which agriculture is recognized as the priority. In total, the ALR covers approximately 47,000 square kilometres (18,000 sq mi) and includes private and public lands that may be farmed, forested or are vacant. Some ALR blocks cover thousands of hectares while others are small pockets of only a few hectares. The reserve is administered by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), consisting of a chair and six vice-chairs appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council of British Columbia (cabinet) and twelve regular commissioners appointed by the provincial Minister of Agriculture.
The ALR was established by the British Columbia New Democratic Party government of Dave Barrett in 1973, when it was considered to be the most progressive legislation of its kind in North America. It was intended to permanently protect valuable agricultural land that has among the most fertile soil in the country from being lost. Despite having been in existence for over 40 years, however, the ALR continues to be threatened by urbanization and the land development industry.
Since its inception, critics of ALR policy claimed that ALR restrictions prevented profit-taking by land owners — especially in British Columbia's rapidly growing Lower Mainland region — where in the early twenty-first century land prices are among the highest in North America. The claim is also made that owners of land in the ALR are not sufficiently compensated for their property, and that it constitutes unreasonable interference in private property rights. Critics also claim that the Agricultural Land reserve has inflated property values and created a severe housing shortage throughout British Columbia. Critics claim that much of the poverty caused in British Columbia is a result of regressive land use policies. Many ALR property owners, especially those closer to urban areas where commercial real estate prices are high, maintain vacant lots in anticipation of zoning changes, as the ALR does not stipulate that the land must produce, agriculturally speaking. However, media reports still indicate that the ALR has widespread popularity among British Columbia voters.
Defenders of ALR policy respond that the province has little arable land, especially of such productivity as exists on the Fraser River delta around Vancouver, and that the ALR protects British Columbia's important agriculture sector. They also suggest that a large part of the Lower Mainland's development pressure comes from the lack of a unified land use and transportation plan for the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and the failure of municipalities to replace sprawl with density. Finally, they claim that the ALR is a reasonable extension of the government's right to zone land for various uses. Defenders of the ALR have been distressed in recent years at what they see as the weakening of the policy, by the designation of golf courses as "agricultural land" and the removal of ALR-protected lands for residential, commercial, and industrial development. This type of cumulative, piecemeal erosion of the ALR landbase is incompatible with an ability to provide a significant portion of agricultural products from local sources to a burgeoning population.
- Greenbelt (Golden Horseshoe) a similar reserve in Ontario
- "B.C. farmers' anger turns to support for Agricultural Land Reserve". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 17 September 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
Richard Bullock, the Chairman of the Agricultural Land Commission said, "Farmers have accepted that the ALR is here to stay". On a tour of the province shortly after taking over the land commission in 2010, Bullock said he was astounded to find pro-ALR sentiment "almost universal. People want us to do the right thing."