What we heard: air and water quality, conserved areas key themes of Canmore chat

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.

Last night’s SSRP discussion in Canmore was lively – 56 people attended the public session, including town of Canmore reps and the National Trails Association of Canada.

Multiple stakeholders, including the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Friends of Kaninaskis, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, the Calgary Regional Airshed Zone, the Environmental Law Centre, and the Municipal District of Bighorn turned out earlier in the day to share their thoughts.

 Here’s what we heard:

 The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • This is a vast improvement to the Advisory Council’s initial recommendations – especially with respect to air quality
  • But, more specifics needed on implementation & how this vision will be achieved
  • Plan proposes to do too many things for too many people – priorities are needed
  • Various thoughts on strategic direction:
    • Needs more focus on prevention and conservation –need to recognize these resources are finite
    • Needs more action to protect agriculture and respect the integrity of the landscape
    • Should have greater emphasis on the economy and its relationship to land use
  • More attention needs to be paid to watersheds in final plan. Need more recognition for how watersheds impact communities, cities
  • More details needed on how conflicts between competing interests will be weighed and resolved
  • Concern that some goals, objectives of the plan appear to be non-binding
  • Uncertainty about whether the planning process is correct and producing good results

Healthy economy:

  • There is a disconnect in the plan between conservation and economic objectives
  • Plan creates long-term conflicts between economic values of various users
  • More emphasis needed on development of secondary economic – tourism, rec
    • Tourism can be a major economic driver without requiring big infrastructure investments
    • National Parks are the biggest draw for this region – they should be recognized as such
  • Multi-use corridors are needed to minimize land disturbance
  • Concern about the scale of current industrial activities – especially fracking – and ‘business as usual’ in the wake of floods; should learn from these lessons
  • Fear that industry will be fragmented by creation of too many protected areas
  • Environmental indicators are needed for renewable energy developments
  • Agriculture is recognized as an economic sector – so it should be included as a land use
    • Agricultural lands should be designated in the same way as conservation areas
  • Thoughts on forestry:
    • Forestry around headwaters should make flood mitigation an objective; more restrictive regulations – or even bans on logging – are needed in this area
    • More linkage needed between FireSmart initiative and forestry
    • Forestry can be used to achieve broader land-use objectives – but needs land-base stability
    • Roads built for logging need to be reclaimed; industry should be responsible for this
Photo of a grizzly bear

Connectivity of wildlife habitat was a hot topic in Canmore

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Framework needs a statement on what we believe and value – this is missing
  • No new protection included in plan – most areas are already protected by policy
  • There are not enough protected areas created – some areas proposed by Advisory Council are not included
  • Goals are conflicting and all value-based – how will they be weighed?
    • Environment is more important than economic – should be prioritized
  • Framework focuses too much on managing what is happening here and now – not enough vision, focus on what we want to achieve
  • Framework is missing indicators, targets for biodiversity management framework – urgent need for these
  • Timeline for framework is challenging – how will we get there?
  • Need to simplify – framework is too complex
  • Need to define “core”, “critical” and “sufficient” sizes, based on science
  • Need evaluation process to gauge balance between conservation and development
  • Concern that connectivity of natural areas is not prioritized in plan
    • Framework does not reflecting existing grizzly bear connectivity plans – concern about fragmented habitat
  • Biodiversity and off-highway vehicle use:
    • Allowing off-highway vehicle use is inconsistent with conservation objectives
    • Grazing leaseholders do not support off-highway vehicle access
    • More conservation zones needed
    • Need to open up more areas – including areas near Canmore – for vehicle use
    • Need designation of more motorized-only trails
  • Promote better balance between hunters and other rec users
  • Entire Castle region should be designated as a park, including valley bottoms
    • Access management plans needed for entire Eastern Slopes region
  • Good enforcement in existing parks should be a higher priority than creating new ones
  • More emphasis needed on rec access for non-motorized recreationalists
  • Linear footprint should be implemented now, not in 2017
  • Need for more enforcement of existing regulations is critical

Stewardship and conservation of private land:

  • Support for emphasis on private land conservation – more tools are needed to encourage this (Land Trusts, etc.)
  • Maps needed to identify private land conservancy holdings
  • Plan’s private land stewardship goals need to be better integrated
  • Need to better define the ‘grandfathering’ concept and process and how adjustments to this process will be made

Air and water quality: 

Banff National Park is home to much of the headwaters of the Bow River

Banff National Park is home to much of the headwaters of the Bow River

  • More emphasis needed on cumulative effectives management
  • Need more definite consequences for hitting/not hitting water and air limits and thresholds
  • Concern about water supply – “there is not enough to meet current demand, let alone projected demand in 50 years”
  • No reference to watershed protection – needs to be a bigger focus
  • Not enough protection for headwaters in conservation areas; need different rules for resource extraction in headwaters
    • Banff National Park key for headwaters protection – 60 per cent of Bow headwaters is in the park
  • Issue of inter-basin transfers, water licence trades is not addressed
  • Maintaining existing water licences ties our hands – licences of non-users need to be rescinded, not sold
  • Water licences should include pro-rated fee to manage water quality
  • Water and land use need to be linked and the role of municipalities in managing both needs to be clarified
  • Bigger focus on groundwater monitoring needed
  • Role of municipalities in protecting air and water quality needs to be defined
  • Climate change is not addressed in the plan
  • Language related to air and water protection not strong enough – should ‘require,’ not ‘encourage’ compliance
  • Self-regulation by industry should be followed by independent monitoring
    • Assured funding needed to manage regulated and non-regulated emitters
  • Greater emphasis needed on air quality
  • Airshed zones need to be clearly identified
  • Air quality objectives and standards are weak in scope, quality, quantity – should be science-based, specific to region, spell out implementation
  • List of air quality indicators needs to be expanded to include a wider range of substances

Strengthening communities:

  • Missing discussion of municipal responsibilities for achieving objectives
  • Concern about future sprawl in white area – make developers fully responsible for all costs of development in order to control this
    • Developers must address sediment discharge to waterways
  • All urban development needs to be offset by conservation
  • Better balance needed between providing opportunities & managing impacts
  • Agreement that First Nations communities should be included in the land-use planning process
  • Recreation is a big focus – need better enforcement
    • How do we monitor and limit the impacts of recreational use?
    • Suggestion: create common trail, staging and camping areas in order to reduce footprint

Our next stops: 

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.


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