About agricultural leaseholders
Agricultural leaseholders are individuals who lease public lands from the Alberta government for agricultural purposes. They are required to allow public access to the land as long as it poses no harm to the land or to their investment in crops or livestock. Leaseholders are stewards of the land, and as such, they manage our land resources in a way that benefits us all.
Alberta has about 100 million acres of public land, including over five million acres of land leased for grazing and/or cultivation.
Riparian areas are the green areas around lakes, rivers and streams. They are popular areas for animals, and humans to spend their time. Make sure to limit your impact on these very sensitive areas.
A leaseholder can refuse access if:
- access is by anything other than foot
- livestock are present in a fenced pasture
- a crop has not yet been harvested
- a fire ban has been issued by a municipal or provincial authority
- you intend to camp
- the proposed use is disallowed by the recreational management plan or a condition set by the government
Contact the leaseholder at least 2 weeks prior to your trip to confirm your plans.
Steps to accessing public lands
There are two steps you need to go through before you travel on agricultural public land:
- Find out if the land you’re planning to visit is privately or publicly owned.
It's your responsibility to know the land ownership before you go onto a piece of property. Detailed maps, leaseholder contact information and access conditions are available for leased land at Recreational Access Internet Mapping Tool.
You can also receive assistance by telephone toll free at: 310-3773.
- Contact the Leaseholder
If the land is under an agricultural lease you must contact the leaseholder before you go onto his or her lease. Talking to the leaseholder will allow you to discuss important information. For example, there may be sensitive areas, hazards or livestock that you need to avoid.
Not all agricultural dispositions need contact prior to access
No contact required
Grazing licences are longer term tenure commonly found in forested areas. Head tax permits, grazing permits, hay permits, and cultivation permits are dispositions issued annually. These dispositions require basic conditions be followed but contact is not required. Some licences and permits have specific conditions placed on them by a local settlement officer for management reasons. The basic conditions and local settlement officer conditions are available at Recreational Access Internet Mapping Tool.
Grazing Leases and Farm Development Leases are long-term tenures and require recreational users to contact the leaseholder prior to access. Contact and condition information can be found at Recreational Access Internet Mapping Tool.
In case of disagreement
If you cannot resolve a disagreement with a leaseholder, contact your nearest Lands office. A staff member will try to assist you in reaching an agreement. This process is designed to be informal and flexible, with the goal of resolving the issue quickly and effectively. If an agreement cannot be reached, a dispute resolution process is available to both parties through a local settlement officer. Further information can be found at Stage One - Informal facilitation.
Recreational use of Provincial Grazing Reserves (PGRs)
There are 32 provincial grazing reserves in Alberta. They are used primarily for cattle grazing during the summer. To prevent conflicts with grazing operations, some grazing reserves have restricted use during certain times of year.
When visiting agricultural public lands, please observe the following basic guidelines:
- access is not allowed in pastures where livestock are present or through locked gates,
- park vehicles clear of driveways and access routes and stay on designated roads or trails,
- obtain consent from the leaseholder to light a fire,
- camping is prohibited unless authorized by the grazing office,
- leave gates the way you found them — opened or closed,
- pack out all litter,
- take care not to damage land or property,
- organized recreational groups require a letter of authority from the grazing reserve office to use grazing reserves,
- always respect the land, fences, livestock and other leaseholder assets.
For further guidelines on recreational access to PGRs see Provincial Grazing Reserves - Overview.