Fees for recreational Crown land use in Alberta government’s new proposed bill

From sledding to camping, Alberta’s foothills and backcountry is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts — but soon, accessing the Crown land loved by many will come at a price.

Alberta government has introduced a new bill that would have anyone using the province’s Crown land for recreation to pay a fee.

The government said it is introducing Bill 64, the Public Lands Amendment Act, so fees could be used to improve the experience of those visiting Crown lands, as well as and conserve and maintain it.

“Alberta’s Crown lands are the foundation of our province’s rich, natural heritage and are used for recreation, conservation and economic development,” Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said.

“Bill 64 will ensure that Crown land recreation is sustainably funded and will help conserve our wild and beautiful landscapes for generations to come.”

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The Alberta government is intending to begin charging a camping fee on Crown land along the eastern slopes, or foothills, starting on June 1.

The government said the money collected from the Public Land Camping Pass will be used to upgrade infrastructure, improve education, fund conservation officers, enhance public safety and improve environmental and waste management.

“Outdoor enthusiasts from around the world cherish Alberta’s wilderness. With increased pressure every year in our backyard from visitors, a Public Land Camping Pass means we can provide sustainable reinvestment on public lands for the boots on the ground needed to promote better conservation and waste management,” Alberta Fish and Game Association president Brian Dingreville said.

The public land pass was a United Conservative Party platform commitment in 2019 and was included in this year’s budget.

Clearwater County is a popular destination for many backcountry enthusiasts, with Abraham Lake and the land west of Rocky Mountain House a covered spot for camping and off-road recreation. The county’s reeve supports the government’s move.

“A random camping fee revenue would provide an essential source of funding to ensure public lands have sufficient facilities and services to respond to increasing visitor demands,” said reeve Cammie Laird.

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NDP environment and parks critic Marlin Schmidt said with more Albertans looking to enjoy the province’s outdoor due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting recreational options, it is not the time to implement an additional fee.

“We know that our parks and campsites are seeing record attendance. This is a good thing. Alberta’s beautiful outdoors has provided a welcome refuge for so many who needed to get away from the difficulties of the public health emergency and our economic recession,” Schmidt said.

“We need to be encouraging people to spend their summer and their time outdoors in the province, not charging them more to do so at a time when so many Albertans are struggling to make ends’ meet.”

The pass would only be required by those 18-years-old and over when camping on public land in the backcountry bordering the Rocky Mountains.

The cost would be $20 per person for a three-day pass and $30 per person for an annual pass.

The pass will not apply to the exercise of rights and traditional uses by First Nations, Metis communities or Aseniwuche Winewak Nation.

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