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

Masters Dissertation; This qualitative research looks at the root of the social tensions surrounding the loss of agricultural land and how these tensions affect policy. It is a mix of sociology, political theory and a little bit of ecology. ( It is in line with Elenor Ostrom’s work)In 2008, the Government of Alberta Canada introduced the Land Use Framework (LUF). The LUF is a ‘cumulative effects management’ approach (CEM). It has been ten years since the introduction of the LUF and AB is still loosing prime Ag land at an alarming rate. There have been several research projects measuring the spatial context and implications, but few have attempted to asses and synthesise the non-spatial aspects of urban encroachment. Based on a qualitative comparative case study (3 regions within Alberta) approach, this research explores the informal institutions (social norms & values) and formal institutional path dependency. How do these institutions interact to inform values that may ultimately influence land management decisions? And considering the influences of informal norms, can horizontal/polycentric governance (Foundation of the LUF) be effective as a CEM approach by delivering the desired outcomes prescribed in the LUF? Through assessment of local land-use planning frameworks and interviews with local decision-makers, landowners and developers, several policy gaps are identified at both the provincial and the local municipality level. The LUF and subsequent municipal level land-use policies do not incorporate and or anticipate the influence of informal institutions.Alberta provides an interesting location to examine public perceptions about the loss of agricultural land for some reasons. Due to the province’s broad historical agricultural base and its current population and urban growth, local conflicts regarding agricultural land conversion to urban development are becoming more common. While Alberta has made strides in improving land-use policies and protective management efforts, the debate is ongoing regarding whether or not a provincial policy is indeed necessary for this protection.Please use Elenor Ostrom’s ‘Understanding Institutional Diversity’ and her other works regarding informal institutions and common pool governance and cumulative effects management. Also, use Douglas North’s Theory of Institutions and Patha Dependency and Arild Vatn’s book ‘Institutions and the Environment. Please use any references you feel is relevant to this project.