Frequently Asked Questions
General Program FAQ
What is ALUS?
ALUS is a national, non-profit charitable organization that partners with local organizations and community leaders to deliver the ALUS program at the community level. ALUS provides expertise, resources and direct financial support to ALUS communities to facilitate effective and accountable program delivery and to maximize positive environmental outcomes through the production of ecosystem goods and services (EG&S), like cleaner air and water, carbon capture and sequestration, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, climate resilience and flood and drought mitigation.
ALUS helps farmers create projects on their lands that produce EG&S and facilitates the economic exchange of these EG&S and their associated carbon and ecological offset credits in a voluntary marketplace. ALUS provides participants annual per-acre payments in exchange for managing and maintaining their project acres for optimal EG&S production.
Through ALUS’ New Acre Project, corporations and other organizations can acquire carbon and ecological offset credits produced by participants.
The ALUS concept originated in the early 2000s and the first ALUS pilot launched in 2006. Read our history.
What is the ALUS program?
The ALUS program supports farmers in producing valuable nature-based solutions and ecosystem goods and services on farmland by creating, enhancing and restoring wetlands, planting trees and windbreaks, planting riparian buffers, creating pollinator habitat, piloting alternative land management practices and establishing other ecologically beneficial projects on their properties. The program is community-developed and delivered. It’s governed locally by Partnership Advisory Committees (or PACs) made up of farmers and local organizations.
ALUS provides participants with per-acre annual payments in exchange for the ecosystem goods and services and associated carbon and ecological offset credits ALUS participants produce through their projects and the ongoing maintenance and management of these projects.
Participation in the program is voluntary. ALUS participants can leave the program by allowing their contract to expire after the stated contract term or they can choose to continue to participate by renewing their contracts.
The ALUS program is currently delivered in six provinces across Canada.
What makes ALUS unique?
The ALUS program is unique because it is principle-based, community-developed and farmer-delivered. This ensures ALUS communities can address their local environmental priorities. Farmer delivery recognizes the important role farmers and ranchers play as stewards of the land. It also ensures there is a project manager on every ALUS site. The program empowers participants to deliver, manage and maintain nature-based solutions on their land.
ALUS also facilitates the transparent, voluntary marketplace exchange of ecosystem goods and services produced by ALUS participants through their projects.
Who funds ALUS?
Funding comes from a wide variety of sources, including private foundations, government programs, municipal governments, individual philanthropists, corporate social responsibility programs and interested partner organizations and agricultural and environmental groups. ALUS also has many supporting partners that have generously donated in-kind support.
Who runs the ALUS program?
ALUS is the national organization that supports local delivery of local ALUS programs and facilitates the voluntary marketplace exchange of ecological goods and services produced by ALUS participants. ALUS communities deliver the program at the community level, supported by a local governance body known as the Partnership Advisory Committee (or PAC) made up farmers, ranchers, local government, environmental organizations and knowledge holders.
Approximately 50 per cent or more of PAC members are farmers or ranchers in every ALUS community.
Where does the ALUS program operate?
ALUS is currently active in more than 30 communities across six Canadian provinces (Prince Edward Island, Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta). New ALUS communities are added each year. See our communities.
What is an ALUS community?
An ALUS community defines both the geographical region within which a local ALUS program is delivered, as well as the organizations and members administering the ALUS program at the community level. Communities are led by legal entities, which may include non-profit organizations, conservation authorities, municipalities and other environmental or agricultural groups committed to supporting ALUS participants and their projects. See our communities.
Who makes decisions in local ALUS communities?
ALUS is a community-developed program. Each ALUS community establishes a Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) to administer its local ALUS program. The PAC includes community members, such as representatives from local environmental groups, government agencies and industry. At least 50 per cent of each PAC is made up of farmers. The parent organization (ALUS) advises and supports local ALUS communities but stands firmly behind the principle that local decision making is the best way for communities to achieve their objectives.
What kind of projects does ALUS fund?
ALUS will support any project that will increase the ecosystem goods and services provided by a natural feature. Here are a few examples of projects funded by ALUS:
- Expanded riparian buffer zones that provide critical wildlife habitat and improve water quality.
- New, enhanced or restored wetlands that improve water quality and can protect communities against flooding and offset the effects of drought.
- New, enhanced or restored native prairie that improves natural grazing, haying options and critical habitat for species at risk.
- Pollinator hedgerows that provide habitat for native bees, which in turn pollinate our agricultural crops and wild plants.
- Enhanced grazing to accelerate grass growth and build rich, healthy soils that sequester carbon.
- Many other types of off-field or on-field projects that produce valuable ecosystem services.
Does ALUS provide payments for existing environmental features?
Generally, no, but some ALUS communities provide payment for significant improvement of an existing environmental feature. An example would be the enhancement of a wetland by adding riparian fencing to prevent excessive impact from livestock. ALUS would provide a small annual payment for existing (and enhanced) wetlands. ALUS may also recognize landscape improvements that have been completed by the participant in the past that are accompanied by new environmental restoration, enhancement or creation initiatives. These kinds of decisions are made by local Partnership Advisory Committees (PACs).
Does ALUS artificially increase farm incomes?
ALUS helps farmers produce ecological goods and services for the benefit of all Canadians based on a fee-for-service model. ALUS provides payments to participants at fair market value and does not provide environmental subsidies that artificially increase farm incomes.
How does ALUS measure effectiveness?
ALUS recognizes the importance of the social, economic and environmental sciences in guiding implementation of the program at all levels. ALUS uses research to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of program activities, as well as in monitoring environmental outcomes. ALUS has been working with academics across the country to evaluate outcomes of the ALUS program and its projects. These are long-term studies. The information is published and shared on the ALUS website as it becomes available. For example, see this article on Dr. Andrew MacDougall’s work on measuring benefits from ALUS Norfolk projects.
How can I find out more about ALUS?
Visit our website to learn more about Who We Are and What We Do or subscribe to the ALUS e-newsletter to stay up to date with ALUS news. Follow ALUS on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram for ALUS news and interesting articles delivered straight to your feed.
FAQ for Participating in ALUS
How do farmers and ranchers get involved?
Farmers and ranchers in ALUS communities who are interested in establishing and maintaining environmental projects on select areas of their land through the ALUS program should submit an expression of interest through their ALUS coordinator. The expression of interest provides basic details about their operation. Site visits determine what areas of the farm are best suited for an ALUS project. If the project is approved, participants sign an agreement outlining the conditions of participation. Participants can opt out at any time and payments will be adjusted accordingly.
Interested? Become an ALUS participant.
How do ALUS communities get started?
Launching a new ALUS community starts with a conversation with the regional ALUS Hub Manager and then typically follows these steps:
- Identify project lead(s) to coordinate an introduction to local stakeholders.
- Host an ALUS 101 presentation for local stakeholders (with an emphasis on local farmer leaders) to determine program fit and acquire consensus to move ahead with the program.
- Determine a potential legal entity to adopt the program (e.g., municipal government, a local agricultural group, conservation authority etc.).
- Convene a steering committee to oversee the program launch.
At this stage, the legal entity takes the following steps:
- Submits an Expression of Interest that lays out their ability and commitment to deliver the program
- Signs a Memorandum of Understanding with ALUS.
- Hires and onboards a program coordinator to administer and deliver the program in the community.
- Builds a Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) to support the decision-making process and provide program advice and direction.
- Begins program delivery.
Who is eligible to participate?
Farmers, ranchers and land tenants with a registered or legally defined farming operation (i.e., eligible for farm tax status in their respective province) are eligible to participate. Non-farming land lessors are ineligible to receive ALUS payments unless they are receiving less rent due to the establishment of a project or plan to manage the project. Lessee eligibility is up to the discretion of the Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC). Some PACs will only work with lessees where the farm is actively farmed by the landowner; others will work with lessees on properties with non-farming landowners. In any case, the lessee will require permission from the landowner to proceed.
What type of land can a farmer or rancher enroll?
Most ALUS projects target areas that are marginal, uneconomic, inefficient to farm or environmentally sensitive. Examples include saline areas along watercourses, steeply sloped cropland, low wet field areas and areas that are difficult to farm with today’s larger equipment. ALUS also supports alternative management that has environmental benefits such as ensuring appropriate timing and intensity of grazing activities.
How much land can a farmer or rancher enroll?
ALUS focuses on producing environmental outcomes on marginal, uneconomic or environmentally sensitive lands on the working landscape. To this end, in general, a maximum of 20 per cent of a farm is eligible. Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.
How long is the participant agreement?
Typically, the participant contract term is five years with the possibility of renewal pending available funding. Contract length is determined by the local Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) and available funding.
Can the participant opt out?
Yes. The participant may terminate their agreement at any time with thirty (30) days prior written notice. The terms of termination are included in the participant agreement. If the participant chooses to terminate the agreement before the end of the term, the establishment costs and the annual payment for the final years of the term will be pro-rated and paid to the participant. The participant may be required to repay a portion of the establishment costs.
Does the agreement transfer with the property land title?
Participant agreements are between the legal entity and the participant (they are not a lien on the land). ALUS agreements do not include land title restrictions or easements. If the participant intends to sell their lands and the new landowner is not interested in adopting the agreement, the participant should terminate the agreement and provide 60 days’ notice of the land transfer.
How much are the annual payments?
Annual payment rates vary by ALUS program and project type. Annual payments are determined locally by the Partnership Advisory Committee (PAC) in each community. PACs take multiple factors into account when setting a payment rate which may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The average land rental rates in the program area.
- The existing land use (crop land vs. pasture).
- Intensity of work required to manage and maintain the project.
How are project ideas developed?
All projects are developed in consultation with the farmer. Project development considers local ecology, project objectives (e.g., curtailing wind erosion) and the farming operation.
Do you monitor and follow up on projects?
All projects are monitored by ALUS program staff and 10% of the projects are independently verified by a third party.
What protocol does the program use for measuring, reporting and verification?
ALUS conducts third party acreage verification on 10 per cent of its projects annually, similar to the way crop insurance is done. Project sites are randomly selected. The verifying party will confirm the projects via drone technology and aerial imagery. The project is considered accurately reported if the verifier’s estimated acreage is within a standardized relative error of five per cent of the reported acreage.
Verifiers provide ALUS communities with a report noting verification results and any identified project issues. Should projects not meet verification standards, a coordinator will perform a site visit to confirm. If it is confirmed that the project does not fulfill its obligations, annual payments may be reduced.
How does ALUS affect trade agreements?
ALUS meets international trade obligations and is similar to programs undertaken by our trading partners to deliver ecosystem services. The program is designed to be production neutral.
Who owns the producer/project data? What entities will this data be shared with and for what purposes?
ALUS communities own project and participant data. ALUS honours privacy agreements with participant producers. Information about projects is shared only in aggregate form. Project data is aggregated (at the community or watershed level) for the purpose of ecosystem service quantification. Standard metrics for reporting are shared with funding partners (e.g., number of acres and participants enrolled, etc.)
Which ecosystem good and services are included and credited in the program?
Participants are credited through annual payments for any carbon, ecological or other acreage offset credits produced by ALUS projects. The participant warrants that these credits have not been previously assigned for the duration of the contract. These credits are transferred to ALUS for the duration of the contract, and ALUS may obtain proceeds for the assignment of these credits in the public market. Annual payments account for all ecosystem goods and services (EG&S) or other acreage offset credits produced by ALUS projects. Termination of the participant contract terminates the flow of EG&S and other acreage offset credits to ALUS.
Can producers access other voluntary markets for other ecosystem goods and services produced on the land?
No. All credits are transferred to ALUS for the duration of the contract and the participant warrants that these credits have not been previously assigned.
What are ecosystem services?
Ecosystem goods and services are the benefits provided by nature that support healthy, thriving and resilient communities. These include cleaner air, cleaner water, drought and flood mitigation, climate adaptation, carbon capture and storage, and habitat for species at risk and native bees and pollinators. Ecosystem goods and services are created by restoring natural ecosystems, such as wetlands, grasslands and forests.
What are nature-based solutions?
Nature-based solutions refer to projects or actions that restore, enhance and/or protect nature and its ecosystems to help solve environmental and societal concerns, such as climate change, carbon capture and sequestration, flood and drought, food security, human health and well-being and air and water quality. Within the agricultural context, nature-based solutions can include, but are not limited to, restoring native grasslands, planting trees and shrubs on marginal, uneconomic lands or as windbreaks and buffers or restoring wetlands.
Does ALUS engage with Indigenous groups and communities?
ALUS supports and empowers farmers and ranchers of all backgrounds in the delivery of ecosystem goods and services and nature-based solutions for the benefit of current and future generations. ALUS and local ALUS communities are committed to inclusivity and recognize and respect ancestral and historical connections to the land. ALUS welcomes and encourages open dialogue, knowledge sharing, partnership and engagement with all people committed to the stewardship of our land and water.
How can my business support ALUS?
Corporations can invest in the creation and delivery of ecosystem goods and services through New Acre™ Project. New Acre Project is an ESG (environmental, social, governance) solution that enables businesses to reduce their environmental impact and create positive change one acre at a time. New acres of nature that produce ecosystem goods and services, like carbon sequestration, improved watershed health, cleaner air, cleaner water and enhanced habitat for wildlife and pollinators, are delivered by farmers and ranchers who voluntarily enroll in the ALUS program. Learn more about New Acre Project.