We wrapped up the second week of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan phase two community conversations in Alberta’s capital city on Thursday. Although not part of the South Saskatchewan Region, Edmonton is home to many interested stakeholders and members of the public who want to provide feedback. The turn-out was quite good, including many engaged individuals who are connected to municipalities, watershed groups, University of Alberta representatives, industry, and conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited. We were asked many good questions and given thoughtful input on the advice given to government by the Regional Advisory Council.
Once again, virtually every centimetre of our popular “sticky board’’ was covered with smart, well-informed and occasionally provocative comments. Here’s a sampling of what we heard in Edmonton.
In attendance: 63
- One person stated quite emphatically that water restrictions will override all other principles.
- According to some, water issues are not adequately addressed in vision.
- Others liked the vision, saying it was ‘impressive and ambitious’; others felt it was too broad and too much of a motherhood statement.
- As well, there were questions about how to reconcile the principles articulated in the vision.
- We heard that the regional plan needs to promote resource development in the south.
- Some felt that details on the forestry industry were absent in the advice.
- We heard a comment that the recreation and tourism industries should work with other industries to create new opportunities
- Some identified the need for a renewable energy strategy, while others felt it was important to identify high-quality agricultural land.
- A few people said we should emphasize the efficient use of land to help us reduce our footprint on the land, while others said to put limits on growth.
- Comments were made that more clarity about cumulative effects management was necessary.
- There was a lot of talk about water:
- Water should be the focus of our work on a healthy ecosystem;
- We also heard a lot of feedback about water storage, allocation, water valuation systems and the comment that population growth could be based on water limitations; and
- Some wanted more discussion of the Water for Life strategy and watershed management plans.
- Government was urged to finish the wetland policy.
- The RAC advice needed to better define conservation areas, said others.
- Greater steps are needed to address invasive species.
- One comment said that mapping protected areas, wetlands and riparian areas will provide certainty for investment:
- Conservation areas should be results based and not based on percentage of lands; and
- Some believe it is important to complete air and water environmental frameworks before developing the draft plan.
- Some people said we need multi-purpose facilities – arenas, pools, etc. – for growing demographics in many communities.
- Others said we must provide enhanced, sustainable access to recreational water bodies.
- Some urged the plan to promote parks and recreational opportunities in the region.
- We were told that we have to consider environmental, community impact of iconic tourism development.
- We also heard that urban sprawl is not covered adequately in the advice.
- Others said that more detail is required on the relationship with, and roles of, municipal governments, while a related idea suggested that smaller communities may not have resources for long-range planning.
- Government was advised to provide a toolkit of best practices to communities and municipalities.
- Others wondered how we will deal with sub-regional plans.
Land-use direction/ management intent
- The land-use classifications were endorsed as appropriate by some.
- Some asked where the candidate conservation management areas will be enough to protect species at risk.
- Others said we should integrate traditional use in the conservation management areas.
- We were told we need to provide detail and clarification about the management intent of conservation management areas.
- We were reminded to take into account federal policies regarding land adjacent to federally-owned lands.
We’ve got a busy week in southern Alberta next week. Look for us in Airdrie, Pincher Creek, Canmore, MilkRiver, Cochrane and Brooks. Go to www.landuse.alberta.ca for dates and venues. All sessions start at 4 p.m. and run until 8 p.m. If you’re not able to make it to a session in person, we encourage you to have your say by completing the online workbook.