What we heard: talking Castle and conservation in Claresholm (say that 10 times fast)

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.

Photo of people sitting at tables talking

Discussion in Claresholm incorporated many different viewpoints

We had a lively SSRP discussion in Claresholm last night. 28 people attended the public session, including a local councilor. Representatives from the Alberta Fish and Game Association; the Alberta Wilderness Association; the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition; and representatives of municipal government, agriculture, and oil and gas came out to share their views.

 Here’s what we heard:

The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Statement is too long, broad and generic – not enough specifics; outcomes potentially conflicted
  • Not enough emphasis on enforcement and recreation
  • Plan pitches growth as positive – may not always be so
  • Goal of conservation creates fear of new restrictions on access and possibility of fees
  • There is too little focus on resources – in particular, we need to put water first
  • There are gaps in the plan when it comes to economic growth, tools for local communities
  • There should be a clear end to consultation processes for both public and First Nations communities

Healthy economy:

  • Agriculture deserves equal status as an industry (not second to oil and gas) – we need to enhance and support the next generation of agricultural producers
  • Concern about losing grazing land to recreation use and off-highway vehicles displacing other recreation on the landscape
  • Support for sustainable extraction industries – industry needs to be involved in discussions about limiting development
  • Some concern that municipalities will rezone land without compensating landowners/leaseholders
  • Renewable energy needs more emphasis
  • Need to define what is meant by ‘responsible development’

Biodiversity management framework: 

Photo of a grizzly bear

Grizzly management was a hot topic in Blairmore.

  • Need a plan to improve biodiversity, not just maintain it. But for that, we need a clear definition of biodiversity – not specific enough at present.
  • Prioritize conservation of intact native grasslands
  • Lots of different views on Castle:
    • Insufficient conservation – need to protect more than ‘ice and rocks’
    • Existing conservation areas are enough
    • Too much focus on Castle – need to focus on other areas
    • Main priorities in Castle should be biodiversity, watershed protection
    • There will be more room for recreation if Castle is left intact
    • Castle wetlands are adequately protected by existing legislation
  • Views on forestry:
    • No logging should be allowed in conservation areas
    • Sustainable forestry is okay
    • Stop clear-cutting
  • Concern that recreationalists, hunters, anglers will be impacted by the creation of more conservation areas
  • Ecosystem health and biodiversity is already good in this area – no need for additional conservation areas in the Eastern Slopes
  • Opposition to grizzly bear recovery plan because of its impacts on ranchers and hikers
  • Against limiting access to grizzly bear areas – concern that this leads to restricting access to good land
  • We need to determine maximum number of bears we want on the land and better indicators to let us know when we are achieving goals
  • Definition of ‘linear footprint’ not clear
  • More awareness needed of the benefits of ecological goods and services

Public land:

  • Authority for determining appropriate land use is not clear – is it the municipalities or the province?
  • Flood-damaged parks should be relocated outside flooded areas   
  • Need more information on integrated recreation and access management
  • Concern about the impact of random camping
  • Rules for public access to public land (including public parks and camping areas) need to clarified; suggest collaboration with volunteer groups, non-profits to educate members about these rules
  • Consider a user-pay system for recreation management
  • More non-motorized trails needed
  • Need better enforcement of access management objectives for off-highway vehicle use, random camping. “We have enough rules – we need to enforce them.”

Castle Public Land Use Zone

Stewardship and conservation of private land:

  • Difficult to offer realistic incentives to landowners in order to promote conservation
  • Need to recognize and reward good stewardship. Support for voluntary approach to private conservation of land, with market-based compensation
  • Activities on the land – whether public or private – must not compromise water or biodiversity values
  • Different land uses have different requirements for conservation – need to establish benchmark indicators for healthy watersheds and biodiversity
  • Concern about the impact of public land activities on neighboring private landowners; need to compensate for these impacts

Air and water quality:

  • Air quality in region is currently good – area has industry that creates dust and odour and certain levels should be accepted
  • Air quality needs to be maintained – agricultural producers need to be at the table when this is discussed
  • Industry requires clarity on baselines – need to establish these and ensure strict adherence
  • It is easier for regulated industries like oil and gas to internalize monitoring costs – harder for agricultural producers
  • Some sense that water quality/supply is a more pressing issue than air quality
  • Protecting water requires more sophisticated data and better enforcement
  • Current plan provides narrow protections for headwaters  – need to protect land around headwaters, groundwater as well
  • New wildland parks do not incorporate enough protection for headwaters
  • Marketplace for water licence sales and allocations not addressed in plan
  • Clarity needed on what constitutes flood management planning
  • No support of water use for fracking

Strengthening communities:

  • Municipalities need resources to develop, support, respond to and maintain SSRP initiatives
  • Need better regulation to balance tourism and conservation
  • Would like to see urban areas avoid circular footprints, maintain access to rural areas, prevent sprawl. “Urban areas should be designed for people, not cars.”
  • Too much emphasis on cultural and historic sites – must compensate landowners for lost land value due to historic designations
  • Non-resident recreation often requires emergency response (to accidents, etc.) – municipalities need more tools for this

 

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.

Our next stops:

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