The Poll Haven Community Pasture near Cardston, Alberta was closed off to recreational users in 2016, other than daytime hiking. The claims are that recreational users were causing environmental damage to the area. The Notley government has also cited potential damage to headwaters as a reason for closing off the area, which as far as Public Land Alliance has found, do not exist in the Poll Haven boundaries.
The government is not the only culprit however, the Poll Haven Grazing Association voted (with many members not in attendance) to close the area off to all recreation, except daytime hiking in February 2016. This decision should not have been theirs to make in the first place as the ones making the decisions are the ones who profit, being the farmers using the area for grazing. This situation falls outside of the rules of engagement for government.
Due to this governance issue, the grazing association has used the power they should not have had to cut off access to public lands that are subsidized with tax dollars, and the public can no longer take part in activities such as:
- Overnight camping, including a cabin maintained by the Boy Scouts, as noted in the Poll Haven Integrated Resource Plan (1989) under 6.7 Recreation Resources, p. 18
- Horseback riding
- Off-road vehicles
- Gathering firewood
- Christmas tree cutting
Families in Cardston County and the surrounding area have used these lands for generations. Many families, including PLA board members, used this area as a place to make lasting memories and introduce the next generation to the outdoors, instilling an appreciation and respect for the environment. Youth groups, in particular, have used this area for decades as there aren’t many public lands available to them for overnight camping.
Closing off the entire area for recreation is a ridiculous solution to solve a perceived problem when only a few individuals were wreaking havoc in the area.
Public Land Alliance wants Poll Haven reopened to the public and are offering to work with the grazing association and the government to manage the area by putting an organizational system in place to protect the land through responsible use, and create an enforcement system where an officer patrols the area on a regular basis.
Enforcement has been an issue for Poll Haven in the past with little to no patrols occurring throughout the area as enforcement officers are spread way too thin in the region.
The current grazing association is paying much lower rates per AMU ($2.75 per month) than what today’s market dictates ($40 to over $60 per month on the open market). As such, PLA believes there are many options to raise these low prices to cover costs of maintaining the area properly. Alternatively, PLA has spoken to other interested parties who would be more than willing to take over the current leases and use the land as it was intended, for grazing and for public use.
These are public lands. The public should be allowed to use them. Cutting off Poll Haven to any recreation beyond daytime hiking is unreasonable.
PLA has also submitted a FOIP application to gain further details about the current lease and leaseholder rights of the Poll Haven Grazing Association. These records could arrive at any time and we will share our findings.