Alberta’s outdoors remain open


Tenting in the mountains

Albertans love the great outdoors and cherish their opportunities to camp, enjoy off-road activities and take every advantage of all that Alberta has to offer.

Recently there have been rumours that a random camping ban and restrictions on the use of off-road vehicles will be initiated on Alberta’s public lands under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP).

The confusion on this seems to stem from a report on the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development website. A document on the website named “Advice to the Government of Alberta for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan” has apparently been interpreted as the draft of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

The report from the South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council was developed as a reference guide prior to public and stakeholder consultations on the SSRP. It does not represent current or proposed policy of the government and was simply intended as a guide to frame discussions.

I want you to know that Alberta’s outdoors remain open to random camping. There have been no changes to rules about where, or when, Albertans can enjoy the experience of camping on public land. You should know that planning is underway for development of a permit for stays of longer than 14 days and that permit will be free of charge.

I want to emphasize that there is still plenty of time for public and stakeholder input into the plan and officials from the department are more than willing to meet with anyone who has concerns, and we extend an invitation to sit down with groups representing random campers and off-road vehicle users to discuss their concerns.

A draft of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is expected in the fall of 2013 and again we will seek input and discussion from the public and stakeholders, and we very much look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, enjoy your summer.

– Diana McQueen, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development


21 thoughts on “Alberta’s outdoors remain open

  1. This is good news, it’s important that the SSRP plan is clear and transparent allowing all Albertans and stake holders to have input on such a critical long term plan. Southern Albertans love and cherish there random camping and OHV activities and this provides an economic opportunity for Alberta. Again this is very good news.

  2. This news will put Albertan’s minds at ease for a moment. But Please remember while camping and riding this summer to do it responsibly and use our resources in a conservative manner. As we all know we are not out of the woods yet, and we are under a watchful eye. Spread awareness to others and lead by example, because this privilege can be taken away and is still in the process of being planned. Keep spreading the awareness because we are being heard, and we will have our chance to give our input on this final draft plan soon.

  3. Thank for for countering the misinformation. However, when developing the final SSRP please remember that a majority of Albertans do want stricter enforcement of ATV use and more use of designated trails to protect the environment.

      • If 100 Albertans were randomly selected and taken into the AB ESRD-managed landscape in, for example, in the Castle River watershed, I would guess that no fewer than 99 would be appalled at the wholesale degradation they would witness. And if Alberta were to attempt to restore currently damaged lands within, say, just the headwaters of the Oldman Watershed, I suggest that it would cost more than one billion dollars.

        Alberta can continue to degrade its heritage landscapes and priceless headwaters, ignoring, or writing off these needless losses as collateral damage, … or it can began to manage these landscapes in a sociallyresponsible way, a way that passes the intrinsic integrity of these lands on to future generations.

  4. Did you do some kind of research to determine that the majority of Albertans feel this way Dan? Please link us to this data if you would.

  5. This is great news. Those of us that do random camp and off road need to take this oppertunity to take a close look at how we enjoy our activities and make sure we are doing all the right things and educate those that are not. Abuse it and lose it will be the result, if do start to self police one another. We also need to show up for these meeting and be a constructive part of the process. Only then will every one win.

  6. We are all very concerned about the random camping and ATV issues, so need it closely monitored so that the jerks don’t wreck it for all of us. We have concerns about the 80% population in Calgary, they all have a vote, but how many are actually recreating in the back country? In closing Cataract Creek, Waiprous and portions of Maclean Creek, etc. this forces a far larger populous to use what is left, most often causing more environmental damage due to overuse. The answer is not to close down areas, but expand and manage the areas. When units are left in the back country for longer than the posted maximum 14 day rule, and no one is on site for that time frame, thereby limiting the use of occupiable sites forcing campers to create new sites. A permit obtained free of charge may cause more problems than it solves. We have talked to people who have said that it is cheaper to leave their units on a site than to haul them back and forth. A permit should be levied that would be reasonable to haul them out than to leave them in, so more users can access that site. The other alternative is maximum 14 day stays and units left longer are heavily fined and removed.

  7. While this sounds promising, i do believe that there have been two sessions of “consultations” to date with limited publicity or reports of what has come out of these “consultations”, so I suspect that the “rumors” may have creditable foundation.
    I would like to see more assurance that in the third and final set of “consultations” the public is more widely advised of their times and locations and invited to have their input and that Government pay considerable attention to the public input at these “consultations” instead of proceeding to a predetermined manner.

    • Hi Hugh, we try our best to get the word out about consultations through media, print/radio ads, word of mouth, and through web and social media. We acknowledge the difficulty in reaching everyone. We hope you’re able to participate in the next round of consultations in fall. We’ll announce dates in the media, our website and right here on our blog – feel free to subscribe to email updates.

      So far, there have been two rounds of consultations on SSRP. The Regional Advisory Committee advice to government document is what came out of the first round. During the second round of consulations last November, we posted summaries of what was discussed at the community sessions on the blog. You can review them here:

      Hope to see you in the fall!

  8. This is good news! But I agree we still need to be vigilant and continue to spread the word to keep our areas clean and in good shape for years to come. I also think that the permit idea is a good one but I think there should be a fee of some sort based on length of stay etc. Maybe if people have to pay a bit for the privilege to random camp they will think twice about how they leave the area. My family has been random camping for numerous years and we would have no problem with paying a reasonable yearly fee for instance to help with maintaining our areas and maybe adding extra patrols.

  9. That’s good news. We all have to protect our back country. If you witness abuse, please record and report. If allowed the damage will continue and we will all pay the price through increased restrictions. I hike, hunt, ATV, and ride horses in the eastern slopes and hope to for a long time.

    • Environmental emergencies and complaints can be reported through our 24/7 hotline at 1-800-222-6514. Your tips do make a difference. Just last month we were able to track down the person responsible for illegal dumping near Grande Prairie and had the site clean up.

  10. This is excellent that we have some communication on these issues.
    Is there a chance that you can publicly put to rest the issue of paid access for hunting which is also written in that “advice to the government”? That issue has been debated and defeated more than enough times in the past.

  11. Stricter ENFORCEMENT of current rules and regulations, not restriction of use is the key. I think all Albertans want to have the same level of access where it is possible. Unfortunately as in any activity a few ruin things for many.

  12. I have a few questions that may help to clarify what are the meaning and the implications this letter.

    1. Does the Minister mean to downgrade the “advice” it received from the SSRP Regional Advisory Committee (RAC)? While the Minister in her posting and letter refers to this “advice” as “a reference guide prior to public and stakeholder consultations on the SSRP” and further along as “a guide to frame discussions”, the RAC document itself states on the cover: “This advice considered existing GoA policies and information provided by GoA’s staff”.

    2. Is this clarification intended for the period until a final SSRP is approved by cabinet, or does the Minister imply that despite the sound advice received from the broadly based RAC, “Alberta’s outdoors remain open to random camping” in the new SSRP?

    3. Why would AESRD be working on “planning development of a permit for stays of longer than 14 days and that permit will be free of charge” just before the new regional plan is to be finalized? Is this intended to solve homelessness and high cost of rent situation in Calgary? Have the Minister or her staff ever seen the conditions of random camping areas in the fall when all the human and other waste have accumulated over a season? Do the Minister and her staff know that most random campers do not follow the simple rules for back-country camping with regard to setbacks from water bodies, disposal of wastes (especially human waste), gathering firewood, managing fires, etc? Handing out free (!) long-term permits without any management would make the environmental conditions even worse.
    In this context, it is interesting to note that some of the respondents on the AESRD website sound more responsible than the Minister by admonishing other users to “camp (and ride) more responsibly”, and one even questions the need for camping permits for more than 14 days, and why they should be free.

    4. Further to my observation above, why does the Minister not use this opportunity to talk about responsible and sustainable use of public land, and why does she not make a commitment that GoA will do its best to manage, monitor and enforce the existing, albeit minimal, rules?
    And lastly, does the Minister’s invitation that “officials from the department are more than willing to meet with anyone who has concerns” also apply to other groups, or is it only “an invitation to sit down with groups representing random campers and off-road vehicle users to discuss their concerns”?

  13. I like what I am reading, the enforcement of the trails is good and I agree with them. However…. when I am picking up garbage and empty beer cans or whatever, it would sure be nice if the “law enforcement” I have run into on the trails isnt so free to write me a ticket for drinking beer on my rzr. All they have to see is one empty can and the book comes out. Now even though I and my friends are doing our part to help keep the trails clean, we have to worry about what “law enforcement” might be on the trail to hand me another ticket.

    The rest of this article is great news, I would like to add that if a fee were given to ride the trails, I would not complain.

  14. I have been an avid user of back country camping for over 20 years, I feel that what has been happening within the past few years is appalling. All the talk about closing back country camping etc could be avoided if, their were more ENFORCEMENT!! Every year it seams there are less Fish Cops!! People who object to them being out in our forestry are the ones causing problems. Those of us who use and respect the land have no problems with law enforcement. (Kinda like photo radar, if you don’t speed you don’t care)
    Some of the blame for over use should also be placed on manufacturers of RV’s when you can purchase a new 25,000 dollar trailer for a monthly payment of 150.00 per month how can we expect that there wouldn’t be over use of our land. Also the size and weight? At times it looks like a freakin competition of who’s got the biggest.
    Here is a good list to help our forestry
    1- impose a user fee system, either per time or a yearly license. ( make it cheap enough to do but expensive enough to get rid of the one weekend per year party goers who ruin it for others. Example huge Grad parties)
    2- Use the monies collected to hire more Law Enforcement officers with the power to do something. ( having them call for RCMP is just plain stupid)
    3- Keep the land open and not closing areas thus over crowding the little space left.
    4- Stop the make work projects and clearing land stripping away the trees forcing the campers into smaller and smaller areas. ( drive up the Allison creek road)
    5- Re- open the areas closer to Calgary so Calgarians have a place to go thus easing pressures in Southern Alberta.
    6- use some of the Registration money collected to help restore or build water crossings, helping the clubs like the Quad Squad.
    7- have ways to enforce the 14 day rule.

    I love our outdoors and want to continue to enjoy the back country, I love camping and quading, but I’m saddened by the lack of respect many selfish users continue to show our land.

    Come on Alberta we can do better.

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