Policy to convert P.E.I. farmland to forest under review, says minister
'We take 12 bulldozers and put them through the forest to make our highways in Bonshaw'
A plan to convert 700 acres of P.E.I. Crown land from agricultural use to forestry is facing criticism not just from an Opposition MLA, but from the minister responsible for the province's climate change action plan.
That plan still hasn't been released to the public. But in the legislature Friday, the PC MLA for Souris-Elmira said a farmer from his district is being forced to give up agricultural land he's leased from the province for decades, and Lavie said he doesn't understand why.
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"I do have a farmer in District 1 that has been farming land leased from the government for the last 30 years," Lavie said during question period. "He received a letter … that he had to be off this land in May."
Opposition MLA, minister agree
"We take 12 bulldozers and put them through the forest to make our highways in Bonshaw and in Cornwall," Lavie said, "[and] we're taking land from the farmer for reforestation. It doesn't make sense to me."
"I agree with the member from Souris, that farmland is important and agriculture on this Island is the number one industry and we must protect it," said Environment Minister Richard Brown.
"I did ask my department to review this policy because, quite frankly, if we can keep farmland in production, it's good for Prince Edward Island. It's good for the economy."
Climate change action plan on the way
After question period Brown told reporters the initiative is part of the province's climate change action plan, expected to be officially unveiled next week.
"We want to see as much of the land as we can reforested," Brown said. But he said he'd like to see his government do that without taking agricultural land out of production.
"I think there's other ways that we can find to increase forests on P.E.I. It's needed, let's make sure of that, but if there's property we can find elsewhere, maybe in the watershed areas or in the buffer zone areas, where we can increase forestry, we will go with that."
Besides asking his department to review the policy, Brown said any farmers who might be affected will be allowed to stay on their land until the review is complete.
Brown said government's current target is to convert 700 acres of Crown land from agricultural use to forestry. The province leased out 1,327 acres of farmland last year.
That 700 acres represents just over one-tenth of one per cent of the total land cleared on P.E.I. for agriculture, which according to the province's website is 575,790 acres.