Grassland group: Members of the Kootenay Livestock Association hosted B.C. Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick (far right) on a field tour of grasslands and open forests on Wednesday

Grassland group: Members of the Kootenay Livestock Association hosted B.C. Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick (far right) on a field tour of grasslands and open forests on Wednesday

Local ranchers meet with Agriculture Minister

Group tours sites in the Agricultural Land Reserve, including an ecosystem restoration treatment area near Cranbrook.

  • Aug. 14, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Trish Barnes/For The Townsman

The Kootenay Livestock Association hosted Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick on a field tour on Wednesday, Aug. 6. The group toured sites in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which included an ecosystem restoration treatment area near Cranbrook.

Letnick was in town as part of his Summer Farm Tour.

“I want public input on Bill 24,” he said. “I’m encouraging people to learn about it and comment on it via our website.”  Bill 24 proposes some changes the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission Act.

Deadline for comment is August 22, 2014 at engage.gov.bc.ca/landreserve.

Letnick also announced his Ministry’s goal to help B.C. farmers, ranchers and food producers increase overall revenue to $14 billion per year by 2017. (Revenue is just under $12 billion per year currently.)

“I’m asking ranchers and farmers how we can do that,” Letnick said.

Kootenay Livestock president Randy Reay, along with past president Jordy Thibeault shared ideas with the minister, as did representatives from the Trench ER Program and the East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council.

Dan Murphy, representing the Trench ER Program, told the minister it is cheaper to maintain restored grasslands than to re-thin sites that have grown in again.

“If we treat only our core grassland areas, we’ll need to maintain 63,000 hectares over the long term,” Murphy said.  “To do that, we’d need about half a million dollars per year.

“About 50 per cent, we hope to maintain with spring and fall prescribed burns, the other 50 per cent would be by slashing

“If we do not maintain some of these areas, we’ll have to start over again on re-treating areas—at a cost of between two and a quarter to three and three-quarter million dollars per year.”

Both livestock and wildlife in the Trench rely on grasslands and open forests to thrive.

Letnick is continuing his tour of the province. “I’m meeting with people in coffee shops, around farmhouse tables and on field trips from Cranbrook to Fort St. John,” he said.

KLA president Randy Reay said “We’re glad Minister Letnick came out to hear the concerns of East Kootenay ranchers. We hope to work more closely with him in the future.”