The status of historic water rights for Alberta ranchers dominated the 2018 annual meeting of the Western Stock Growers’ Association February 21 in Red Deer, Alta.
Newly re-elected WSGA president Aaron Brower introduced the topic after running a two-month battle with provincial officials to avoid the cancellation of his water rights application that was filed in 2001.
After considerable discussion the members passed a resolution supporting Brower Ranching Co. Ltd. and any other affected water users. “… and lobby for files from prior to the 2001 Water Act deadline be treated as pre-2001 applications, thus retaining traditional agricultural priority and intention.”
Fortunately for Brower the province discovered in late February that the notice threatening to cancel his water rights was sent in error, but the experience has given Brower a whole new appreciation of the need for perseverance and good records when squaring off with public officials.
In other business, the WSGA members asked their board to seek “a clear and detailed position on the proposal from Alberta Beef Producers and Alberta Cattle Feeders Association” regarding proposed changes to the provincial check-off as this would affect all WSGA members.
The second resolution arose from the province’s decision to withdraw funding for the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). When the WCVM was established as a partnership between the four western provinces, Alberta funded this program and up until recently funded 20 seats for Alberta students annually. As the WSGA board believes that “Alberta’s withdrawal from the WCVM funding partnership will challenge the viability of the entire WCVM program — affecting not just Alberta students but Western Canadian students,” it was resolved to lobby both the provincial government and the official opposition “to re-establish funding for at least 10 seats annually for Alberta undergraduate students.”
The board also reported on the establishment of the James Hargrave Legacy Foundation. This began as a WSGA initiative to honour the memory of former WSGA vice-president James Hargrave who died fighting wildfires last year. Though still in the initial stages, the organization of the fund has moved beyond the WSGA’s reach and stands on its own. A board of directors was elected at the foundation’s first meeting during the Alberta Beef Industry Conference. Donations are now being accepted, and awards will be presented annually to support individuals whose interests and work in the beef and grazing industry exemplifies the philosophy of James Hargrave.
More details are available at the James Hargrave Legacy Foundation website. Donations can be sent to the James Hargrave Legacy Fund, Box 179, No. 14, 900 Village Lane, Okotoks, Alta., T1S 1Z6, e-transfers to [email protected].