Working with agricultural leaseholders

Agricultural leaseholders are individuals who lease Crown lands from the Alberta government for agricultural purposes. They are required to allow recreational access to lease land as long as the activity does not put the land, crops or livestock at risk. 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 Crown land, including over five million acres of land leased for grazing and/or cultivation.

The Recreational Access Regulation clearly specifies when a recreational activity affects a lease and allows the leaseholder to deny access. A leaseholder can refuse access if:

  • access is by anything other than foot
  • livestock are present in a fenced field
  • a crop has not yet been harvested
  • a fire ban is in effect
  • recreational users intend to camp
  • recreational use involves hunting at a location that is unreasonably close to a fenced pasture where livestock are present
  • the proposed use is disallowed by the recreational management plan or a condition set by the government

Learn more about Leaseholder responsibilities for recreational access.

Steps to accessing Crown lands

There are two steps you need to go through before you travel on agricultural Crown land:

  1. Find out if the land you are planning to visit is private or Crown land.

    It is your responsibility to know the land ownership before you go onto a piece of property. If you are accessing private land, the landowner can deny access for any reason. If you are visiting agricultural Crown land, the Recreational Access Regulation applies.

    Detailed maps, leaseholder contact information and access conditions are available for leased land at Recreational Access Internet Mapping Tool.

    For information on how to use the mapping tool, see Recreational Access on Agricultural Public Land Instruction Guide (PDF, 1.4 MB).

    You can also receive assistance by telephone toll free at 310-3773.

  2. Contact the Leaseholder

    If the land is under an agricultural lease you must contact the leaseholder before you go onto the lease. Contact the leaseholder at least 2 weeks prior to your trip to confirm your plans. You should plan your trip well in advance, and expect that it could take a few days for the leaseholder to respond to the inquiry.

    Talking to the leaseholder will allow you to discuss important information like sensitive areas, hazards or livestock that you need to avoid.

Recreational user responsibilities

Contact the leaseholder

The recreational user must contact the leaseholder before accessing the lease. Proper contact allows the leaseholder to deny access to portions or the whole lease as per the Recreational Access Regulation and to provide additional information about the land.

Recreational users are required to give the leaseholder the following information:

  • type of recreational activity proposed
  • time and location the activity will occur on the land
  • number of people in the group
  • contact name and method of contact
  • other related information that is requested, such as the names of all recreational users and licence plate numbers of vehicles used to transport people to the land

If the recreational user does not contact the leaseholder first or comply with the conditions of use, this is a contravention of the Recreational Access Regulation, and a fine of up to $500 can be issued to the recreational user.

Recreational users should keep a record of their contact calls. The onus is on the recreational user to show that proper procedure has been followed to contact the leaseholder.

Alternate contact

Recreational users cannot access a grazing lease without proper contact with a leaseholder. If they have tried several times and are unable to contact the leaseholder, the user may request approval from the department to access the lease land under the basic conditions of use. Contact for your local agrologist at Land Management – Contacts or call toll free 310-3773.

Other responsibilities

The recreational user must always:

  • pack out all litter
  • park vehicles so the approach to the land is clear
  • refrain from lighting fires without consent
  • leave gates in the same state in which they were found (for example, closed if found closed)
  • not cause any damage to the lease land or the property of the agricultural leaseholder

Rules for hunting and fishing on lease land

All of the rules under the Wildlife Act apply.

To learn more, visit:

Not all agricultural dispositions need contact prior to access

No contact required

Grazing licences, as opposed to grazing leases, 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.

In case of disagreement

We encourage both leaseholders and recreational users to show respect for each other and the land. If there is a disagreement between the leaseholder and the recreational user, either party may contact the rangeland agrologist at the local Lands office.

The agrologist will then discuss the concern with both the leaseholder and the recreational user to find a solution. Often this type of communication and/or mediation can help to resolve the majority of issues. If an informal resolution cannot be reached, a formal dispute resolution process is available to both parties through a local settlement officer. To find your local agrologist, see Land Management – Contacts.

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.

Contact

If you have questions about getting access to agricultural Crown land for recreation activities, contact the Alberta Environment and Parks Information Centre.