Area of Study: Agriculture

Fragmentation and Conversion of Agricultural Land - Analysis of Values to Inform Policy


This project builds upon work completed as part of the project Economic Evaluation of Farmland Conversion and Fragmentation in Alberta.

In Canada and elsewhere around the world, the public often expresses concern at the loss of agricultural lands, particularly as a result of sprawling patterns of development. Research in the United States has shown that motivations and specific reasons for concern are broad: maintaining a secure food supply; preservation of a traditional agrarian lifestyle with historical significance; preservation of the beauty of rural landscapes; conservation of open space; and environmental benefits, such as wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge and flood mitigation. These attitudes and values affect the local development, implantation and effectiveness of policies to prevent the conversion and fragmentation of land.

To date, few studies have been undertaken to understand why Canadians care about farmland loss, despite public interest in the issue and local planning conflicts across the country. As decisions to protect agricultural land or curb development are often met with controversy and debate or fail to achieve desired goals, empirical and impartial information is required to inform the discussion.

This research will seek to evaluate, qualify, quantify and analyze attitudes and values related to agricultural land loss in Canada, using Alberta communities as case studies. It will seek to explore how different individuals and groups view agricultural land loss and land use policies related to it from their perspectives. This will include the general public, land owners, municipal workers, and others. This research will also explore how these attitudes and values affect policy development, implementation, and effectiveness as reported by participants.

The research will involve three to four case studies in Alberta communities and a quantitative survey across Alberta.


Research Questions

The research has three major objectives:

(1) To develop an improved understanding of the diverse attitudes and values related to agricultural land loss and land development issues.

(2) To investigate how alternative policies to address agricultural land preservation are perceived by individuals and groups involved in the research and how these perceptions relate to the values and attitudes expressed in objective 1.

(3) To investigate how the costs and benefits of alternative policies to address agricultural land preservation could be expected to be distributed in one of the case studies.

These objectives all feed into further analysis of policy and considerations that municipalities can draw from in setting policy regarding agricultural land preservation and development.