What we heard: talking SSRP in Taber

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 expressed during each session – which weren’t necessarily agreed upon by everyone.

Yesterday, we were in Crowsnest Pass and Taber talking SSRP. Taber’s pretty much synonymous with delicious corn, but it also has another export: sugar. Nearly 400 farmers grow sugar beets in this area, and the province’s only sugar factory processes them. We expected to hear lots of feedback about how the plan will impact farmers in this area – and we weren’t disappointed.

Photo of contributions to SSRP meeting

A lively conversation in Taber led to lots of great feedback.

28 people attended the public session. Many participants were landowners, but they were joined by other stakeholders – including members of the Alberta Beef Producers and the Quad Squad.

The town mayor, Henk De Vlieger, and his Chief Administrative Officer, Greg Birch, were also on hand – and we’re happy to hear that they considered the discussion “excellent.”

Here’s what we heard:

The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Vision is lacking a strong voice for agriculture
  • Need greater emphasis on private property protection, safeguarding local autonomy
  • The plan should be called the South Alberta Regional Plan

Healthy economy:

  • Need tourism options and attractions with a region-wide focus – not just in the foothills
  • Stronger support for agriculture needed – right now, there is pressure to be more productive with less water
  • Fragmentation of agricultural lands (by transportation corridors and other factors) is leading to increased costs for communities
  • Balance needed between conservation and economic growth

Biodiversity management framework: 

  • High percentage of species at risk in this area – conservation should be number one priority on public land
  • Need more protected and conserved areas, innovative conservation tools – but should also allow for some expansion and development
  • Need to ensure that hunting access is not limited by framework
  • Castle valleys should be protected – not just ‘rock and ice’
  • No logging in protected areas
  • Support for conservation of grasslands
  • Need to ensure that conservation does not impact farming and ranching
  • Grizzly bear recovery in mountains and foothills should be a priority
  • More resources are needed for enforcement and management
  • More transparency needed about management intent

Stewardship and conservation of private land:

  • Emphasis on stewardship role of landowners, need for local input on conservation areas
  • Ensure that conservation programs remain voluntary
  • Need for more effective tools that landowners can use

Air and water quality:

  • More emphasis on wetlands management needed
  • Municipalities need to be more involved in riparian area protection
  • Too much focus on agriculture’s impact – cities are also big sources of pollution
  • Monitoring indicators are incomplete, don’t deal with all factors (e.g. smell)
  • Some concern that feedlots in this area are too concentrated
  • Questions about monitoring – what baselines are used to establish thresholds? Who is responsible for testing? How do results impact policy?

Photo of an off-highway vehicle driving through water

Strengthening communities: 

  • Solutions need to be community-specific and community-driven – municipalities need freedom to make their own decisions
  • Land-use planning needs to involve irrigation districts as well as municipalities
  • Need to work on recognizing and building recreation opportunities outside the Eastern Slopes
  • Need to enhance random camping areas – but then charge for use and management, use money to ensure that those who damage the land face penalties
  • Those who spoke are prepared to pay for access if government provides resources for maintenance, management, enforcement
  • Need to develop recreation potential for towns and smaller communities
  • Concern about damage caused to grasslands and riparian areas by recreation – specifically, off-highway vehicles. Penalties for this damage should increase.

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.

Photo of the town of Taber

Taber town centre. Photo credit: public domain

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