Kicking off the conversation: SSRP in the Crowsnest Pass

SSRP banner

This month, we’re in 21 communities talking to Albertans about the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan – a long-term land use plan for the region. These summaries, posted the day following each session, try to capture the main themes of each conversation – which usually represent some pretty diverse viewpoints.

Last night, SSRP kicked off with a session in Blairmore, the main commercial centre in the Crowsnest Pass. The town serves the villages of Bellevue and Frank, the town of Coleman, and Improvement District No. 5.

62 people were in attendance at the public session, and participants represented the diverse mix of people who call this area home. Private citizens, tourism operators, outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and anglers, foresters, and oil and gas workers came out to share their thoughts about the future. Here’s what we heard.

The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Some sense that the plan is too broad, supports competing interests
  • Balance between environmental and economic goals is required
  • Not enough focus on economic development issues in the area; stronger strategy needed to enhance industry
  • Focus of the plan should be on watersheds, riparian areas
  • Some doubts about the permanence of changes in land use

 Healthy economy:

  • Need to recognize conflicts between resource extraction and other economic opportunities (e.g. industry erodes potential for tourism)
  • Forestry has a negative impact on other values; should be halted
  • Important to limit the fragmentation of agricultural land
  • Establishing park status for Castle puts skiing industry at risk
  • Recreation industry (particularly off-highway vehicles) needs strict regulation and enforcement
Photo of a person riding a quad

A theme of the session: recreational access is important – but so is enforcement

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Proposed conservation areas are too patchy, small and unconnected
  • More conservation areas and stronger strategy needed for grasslands
  • Framework needs to identify tools to help conserve lands
  • More detail needed about what is allowed in wildland parks and how rules are enforced
  • Better understanding needed of how tourism will impact biodiversity, conservation
  • Implementation, enforcement of framework goals is a concern

Stewardship and conservation of private land:

  • Some sense that grazing should be halted in forests due to riparian activities
  • Grasslands protection needed – legislated protection, more conservation incentives for landowners
  • Concern about conservation area boundaries and impact on neighboring private landowners
  • Difficult to halt activities that have a history in the area (industry, recreation)
  • Need to designate protected areas for species at risk
  • With the right to be on the land comes a stewardship responsibility  
  • Recreation access and management plans urgently needed – restricting access to certain activities establishes where those activities are acceptable
  • Strong enforcement presence is key – even if things were to stay the same, a different/stronger model for enforcement would still be needed

Air and water quality: 

Crowsnest Lake

Crowsnest Lake in the Crowsnest Pass

  • Water a key concern – including whether there will be enough in the wake of global warming
  • Better headwater definition, protection needed – both for water quality and for fish (ex: native trout)
  • Concern that cattle and forestry cause too much damage to riparian areas, damage habitat for species at risk
  • Forest management is key to protecting water supply and quality, flood prevention
  • More clarification needed about monitoring – particularly regarding enforcement, accountability
  • Need to anticipate the impacts of future coal developments before approving them

Strengthening communities:

  • More support needed for communities experiencing downturns – tourism, infrastructure needs
  • Need to anticipate how the availability of water will impact growing populations
  • Commitment to access is a big issue, but so is enforcement – lots of discussion both about the need to police bad behavior and the need for resources to do so
  • Lots of random camping discussion – some supported designated random camping, others did not support any random camping because of impacts to water and land and lack of economic benefit
  • Random camping and backcountry access fees should be imposed to support enforcement

Intrigued? Remember – you can provide feedback on the draft plan through an online workbook or by attending one of the information sessions being held throughout November. Feedback on this blog or the session? Tweet us@AENV_SRD.

6 thoughts on “Kicking off the conversation: SSRP in the Crowsnest Pass

  1. It’s hard to see how “Establishing park status for Castle puts skiing industry at risk”. If anything, protecting the Castle as a Wildland Park should immediately increase property values at Castle Mountain Resort (CMR), and would help to ensure the resort’s long-term stability. Would it be better for CMR to be surrounded by a Wildland Park or by clear cuts?

    Speaking of the Castle, the entire Castle needs to protected as a Wildland Park, and not just the rock and ice as is contemplated in the draft SSRP. As scenic as the peaks are, protecting the lower elevations is critical if we care about the watershed, wildlife, recreation, and wilderness-based businesses.

  2. “Lack of economic benefit”. Is not a reason to disallow random camping. Damage to the environment is. Designated spots and enforcement of rules around leave no trace principles and campfires would help that. Building ‘infrastructure’ such as fire pits and pit toilets and then charging money for camping might be a good idea, especially in areas used by off-highway vehicles. Random camping by hikers generally has less impact to the environment (as long as campfires are prohibited). However I cannot support building ‘infrastructure’ such as cabins, extra roads and other high traffic disruptions into the back-country of the Castle. The species at risk need to be protected, and the grizzly bears cannot have further fragmentation of habitat new roads would cause.
    Also logging should be as restricted as possible especially in watersheds and riparian areas. Why cannot more sustainable, better for the environment, and easier on the eye methods be used other than clear cutting? Why do we still allow clear cutting and lack of proper cleanup of those cuts and roads when better methods are available? I do not understand this at all.
    I do not want to stop economic benefits completely, especially if they help the local population and not just large corporations. However studies on proposed sites of any infrastructure to be build and its effects on the environment must be conducted before each project. Then projects must be moved or cancelled if the effects come back with enough negative impact. Front country projects would be better in general instead of new roads and increased vehicle travel into the back-country.
    Finally I completely agree with “Proposed conservation areas are too patchy, small and unconnected.”

    • Hi Alison – thanks for your feedback. I will make sure that your comments are included in the final SSRP feedback summary. Please feel free to drop by again if you have additional comments to add.

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your question. Driving in all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) like quads and motorbikes is different than normal driving for transportation – the goal is to go places where people cannot go in cars (in that sense, driving an ATV has the same goal for some people that riding a bike has for others). Many people find this to be a really exciting and interesting way to see more of Alberta’s outdoors and get to places that are off the beaten track.

      Motorized vehicles are not allowed in many of Alberta’s protected areas. Whether they are allowed in a given area depends on a number of factors; the most important of these is whether or not we anticipate that they will cause damage to the environment. In some areas, particularly those with established trails for motorized vehicles, responsible ATV use may not cause significant damage to the landscape. In other areas – like around water bodies or in areas with sensitive wildlife habitat – ATVs can cause significant damage and are prohibited. In both cases, we have many laws in place to ensure that off-highway vehicle users ride responsibly, and penalties in place when people don’t obey those laws.

      Thanks for getting in touch – please feel free to comment again if you have any other questions. 🙂

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