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Ontario Gets ALUS Funding, Manitoba Doesn’t

Ontario is getting money for Alternative Land Use Services projects while Manitoba, where the idea for the program originated, is not.

An ALUS project in Ontario’s Norfolk Country recently received $1.5 million to help farmers carry out environmentally sound practices on their land.

Meanwhile in Manitoba, ALUS remains stalled after its lone pilot project ended two years ago.

“It’s frustrating,” said Ian Wishart, who developed the concept while president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

The Norfolk County’s ALUS project received a $1.5-million three-year donation from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a private foundation established in the 1950s by the Weston family which owns the food retail company Loblaw.

The foundation funds projects in land conservation, education and science in northern Canada, according to its website.

The Norfolk ALUS project was originally piloted in 2007. This money allows the pilot to move into a second phase, enabling it to “expand and make the ALUS concept a permanent way of life in Norfolk,” according to a statement from program administrators.

Wishart said he was glad to see his brainchild, developed in 1999, moving ahead in other provinces.

“Sometimes you have to export an idea before it becomes a good one,” he said. “There’s no more verification of a good idea than to have other people use it.”

But Wishart, who resigned as KAP leader last fall to run as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the next provincial election, expressed disappointment that ALUS appears to have ground to a halt in Manitoba.

Although born here, ALUS has spawned only one project in this province: a three-year pilot launched in 2006 in the western Manitoba municipality of Blanshard. Over 70 per cent of the landowners in the municipality participated.

A provincial working group is trying to keep the concept alive with a proposal for a province-wide program, using ALUS as a basis. The committee consists of representatives from KAP, Manitoba Beef Producers, conservation groups and five provincial government departments.

Progress appears to be slow. The group last met in June 2010.

But Yvonne Rideout, KAP general manager, said a draft report is currently being circulated among member organizations for comment. A final report should be ready later this year.

Wishart said government leaders support the idea of ALUS but money appears to be a stumbling block.

KAP tries to show that paying farmers to conserve land would actually save government money in the long run. But “(i)t’s very, very hard to show that to Treasury Board,” Wishart said. [email protected]

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There’snomore verificationofagood ideathantohave otherpeopleuseit.”

– IAN WISHART

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