A Few Steps Forward, A Few Steps Backward: Beekeeping in Alberta in 2015

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As we deal with the changes in Bylaw for the MD of Foothills which declines the ability for anyone to keep honey bees on their property with less than 21 acres without a Development Permit for fear of allergies and stings in our rural areas, we are EXCITED to support the changes in Bylaw in the City of Edmonton to allowing honey bee care within their city limits (with a greater population density, obviously).

So, why the anxiety of bees in rural areas, and the warm embrace of bees in urban spaces?

The MD of Foothills New 2015 Rules:

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Cherie Andrew’s, of Chinook Honey (found in the MD of Foothills) wrote to the Calgary and District Beekeepers Club the following information:

“Those members who keep bees in the MD of Foothills may not be aware that this MD does not allow bees on land classified as Country Residential (basically any piece of land less than 21 acres) WITHOUT obtaining a Development Permit. To obtain a permit various conditions must be met, including beehive setbacks from the property line in accordance to normal building structures. Development permits may take 4-6 months to obtain and if the neighbours contest it, you may not get one at all.

In other words, this MD does not consider bees as livestock, does not give bees the same consideration as all other livestock, and considers beehives to be buildings. However, you won’t actually see that written in the Land Use Bylaws (attached), this is just how the Bylaw department is interpreting the Bylaws at this time.
If you believe this to be a situation that requires change please contact your MD Councillor and let them know. It would also be helpful if MD Foothills Beekeepers got together on this issue. Beehives have already been forcibly removed from Country Residential property after neighbour complaints.
I feel that because it is an interpretive bylaw, that it is very important that we organize a strategy of moving forward with the MD in a more innovative and realistic point of view of honey bees and honey bee management. My concern is HOW this became the point of view of the MD and what purpose or motivation was met by inhibiting hobby beekeeping in rural/acreage areas within the MD. I feel that there may be a gap between commercial beekeepers and hobbyists that isn’t being met, and therefore, the interests of the commercial beekeeper are carrying the weight. A.B.C was consulted and communicated how we managed hobby beekeepers within the city of Calgary (we also keep bees FOR the City of Calgary Parks Department) but there was no follow up or questions after our emailed recommendations. If you want to share your concerns, ask questions, or get more information on the Bylaw Interpretations, you can email Coreena Carr, coreena.carr@mdfoothills.com. She was the one who contacted me in the Fall of 2014 in consultation.

Edmonton moving forward: 

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In the Spring of 2014, A.B.C and the now famous @YEGbee group of self-acclaimed ‘Bee-Ginners’ got together and met with Edmonton Bylaw Coordinator Keith Scott, Hani Quan (Edmonton Food Council Principal Planner, hani.quan@edmonton.ca) and Councillor Mike Nickle (TWEET to let him know what you think @Clr_MikeNickel) to talk about a pilot project in support of urban beekeeping. Within the short year, many other Councillors came on board in support, allowing for the Proposed Bylaw Change to pass Committee with FULL SUPPORT!

At first, YEGbees went to the Edmonton and District Beekeepers Association to seek their support before moving forward with meetings with the City, and were told that they would not receive the EDBA’s support. It took the lone actions of this small group of BRAND NEW beekeepers (Chris Floden, Jocelyn Crocker, Michael Hamilton, Kevin McEwan, and Matt Boeckner) to work with the City of Edmonton and with the EDBA to eventually gain both groups support.

So, what next?

How can we learn from the story of the YEGbees to navigate through the new MD of Foothills interpretation of the Land Use Bylaws? How can we mitigate the risks that they perceive and allow small acreage owners to have solidarity and freedoms to raise honey bees as they raise other livestock? The Honeybees in the Hills Facebook group has over 80 members whom call the MD home. What can we do to make a change? I believe that the key thing to do is to NOT GET MAD and do something STUPID. It is more important to organize, collect, and work WITH the MD to grow together and innovate. So, join their Facebook group and come to a potluck. We can work together and move forward from now!

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3 responses to “A Few Steps Forward, A Few Steps Backward: Beekeeping in Alberta in 2015

  1. For us YYC beeks and folks considering it in Calgary, can you please explain the official rules here – just so we are all on/act from the same page here too? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good luck. I wonder if the commercial Beekeepers don’t want the competition for forage or potential spread of diseases/pests like varroa if people aren’t treating. What are the risks they’re claiming at the moment, is it all about people potentially getting stung?

    Like

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