The Alberta Wilderness Association is voicing its opposition to the provincial government auctioning off a small patch of native prairie east of Taber.

The 65-hectare plot is slated for auction Tuesday (Mar. 31) with the starting bid reportedly set at $440,000.

Cliff Wallis is on the AWA Board of Directors. He says this is public land and the public hasn’t been involved or had any say in whether it should be sold or not.

He says native grasslands are some of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet and contain most of Alberta’s species at risk, as well as Canada’s species at risk.

Government data says the land is home to at least three sensitive species including the Sprague’s pipit, the common nighthawk, and the plains spadefoot toad.

Wallis says it seems bizarre that the government is spending taxpayer money to restore cultivated land to native prairie when this section of land is already native prairie. He says “why don’t we just keep it instead of selling it off?”

According to a report published by the Canadian Press on Mar. 17, the land description from the auction company stated “the province of Alberta sees the unlimited potential in this quarter and has selected it for sale to the public.”

While critics have pointed to a statement made by Environment Minister Jason Nixon earlier this month that no Crown land would be sold, a spokesperson in his office clarified that particular statement referred to Crown land used for parks, not grazing leases.