Land Exchanges

A land exchange is a tool used by Environment and Parks (AEP) to acquire lands that help achieve provincial objectives.

The Public Lands Act authorizes the Minister of AEP to exchange public land for other land if it is in the public interest to do so.

Most land exchanges are initiated by private land owners. The public land involved in the exchange must be available (i.e. vacant or the Applicant is the disposition holder).

To initiate a land exchange, a land owner makes an application to acquire specific public lands in exchange for other private lands that they own. Each application goes through a rigorous review process in which AEP, consulting with other government ministries and agencies, assesses whether the land exchange should be approved. Not all applications are successful.

About Public Lands

Public lands are managed by the Government of Alberta, on behalf of all Albertans. Among other uses, they play very important roles for the healthy functioning of Alberta’s ecosystems. Public lands provide values such as:

  • Protecting watersheds
  • Providing habitat and corridors for fish and wildlife
  • Preserving native grasslands and other flora
  • Protecting species at risk habitat

Due to this importance, careful consideration is given to the environmental values provided by the public lands requested by a land owner, and to whether the private lands offered by the land owner provide similar or better environmental values.

Land Exchanges

Under the Public Lands Administration Regulation, the Minister is authorized to undertake a land exchange if "adequate compensation" will be received for the public land. To provide adequate compensation, a proposed land exchange must be neutral or favourable to the department from a financial perspective, and must provide a net benefit to the province. This means that the private land being offered by the land owner must either:

  • have the effect of realizing higher natural resource values, to help promote conservation and sustainability of the ecosystem (e.g., wildlife habitat, biodiversity, watershed protection, cultural or historical significance) than the public land that would be exchanged; or
  • enable effective use of public land, which would facilitate more efficient management for multiple uses (e.g., land conservation, cultural resources, aesthetic values, recreation, land consolidation).

In most cases the department can only accept ownership of land with no encumbrances e.g. liens, caveats or mortgages.

A proposed land exchange also needs to align with any applicable regional plan enacted under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act.

Depending on the complexity of the proposed land exchange, the department may undertake a consultation process to obtain public input on the exchange and the net benefits it offers the province.

Only proposed land exchanges that offer a net benefit to the province are approved. If approved, the land is exchanged in accordance with any terms and conditions attached to the approval. After the exchange takes place, the land owner continues to be bound by all applicable laws and regulations.

The Land Exchange Process

Prospective applicants who meet the necessary criteria and have suitable lands to offer for a land exchange independently prepare an application and submit it to the department.

Once an application for a land exchange is received, department staff undertakes an assessment of the application. If it is clear that essential criteria will not be met, then the application does not move forward.

In collaboration with other government ministries and agencies, department staff evaluates the environmental values and other natural resource values of the public lands and private lands that are the subject of the application. Wildlife surveys, biophysical assessments, water resource surveys, etc. may be used to help with the evaluation.

If the proposed land exchange is considered to be complex, then information about the proposed exchange is published on the Public Consultation and Notification webpage and open to public comment for a period of time. Both routine and complex land exchange applications will undergo consultations with First Nations according to "Alberta's First Nations Consultation Policy on Land Management and Resource Development."

Based on the evaluations undertaken by department staff, and any input received from the consultation stage, a determination is made as to whether the proposed land exchange offers a net benefit to the province. A decision is made on the land exchange application and is posted on the Public Consultation and Notification webpage for both routine and complex exchange applications.

How to Apply

To be eligible to apply for a land exchange a person must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a Canadian citizen
  • Have or will have legal title to the private lands they wish to offer in the land exchange and
  • Currently have a legal interest in the public lands they wish to acquire in the land exchange (i.e. grazing disposition) or the public land is vacant

Prospective applicants can request an application at

Application fee is $1050.50 plus GST.

Related information:

Informing and Gathering Views from Albertans

Public lands are owned and managed by the Government of Alberta on behalf of all Albertans. Consequently, it is important that Albertans are made aware of land exchanges, and have the opportunity to provide input on proposed exchanges and the net benefits they offer the province.

The Land Exchange process uses the following framework to keep Albertans informed and to gather views from the public. This framework helps ensure there is transparency and accountability in the land exchange application and decision-making process.

It is important to note that this framework does not direct or influence First Nations consultation requirements. Those requirements are subject to Alberta's First Nations Consultation Policy on Land Management and Resource Development.

Open Consultations

For complex land exchange applications, a summary of the proposed exchange is published on the Public Consultation and Notification webpage. At that time, the proposed land exchange is open to public comment for a period of 45 calendar days.

During the comment period, members of the public can submit their views through a number of methods: online, by email or through regular mail.

Additional Consultations

In certain cases, the department may determine that a proposed land exchange is of such complexity that it should be opened to further public consultation. This may include a longer comment period, or the use of additional mechanisms to gather public input (e.g., workshops, community meetings, etc.) These decisions are at the sole discretion of the Government of Alberta.

Closed Consultations

After the comment period has passed, the proposed land exchange is closed to consultation. Members of the public can continue to access information about the proposed land exchange online, while the government evaluates the application and reviews any input received.

Input received through the consultation process is summarized in a "What We Heard" document, which is later posted to the Public Consultation and Notification webpage.

Informing Albertans about Land Exchanges

Once the government makes a decision on a complex land exchange application, the decision is posted to the Public Consultation and Notification webpage. The webpage will also be updated to inform Albertans about next steps.

Albertans are notified about all routine land exchanges through the Public Consultation and Notification webpage. These notifications provide summarized information about land exchanges that have been approved, including the lands involved.


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Updated: Sep 21, 2018