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.
Despite the cold weather, 26 people were on hand for the public session in Cardston last night. Many reps of the Poll Haven Grazing Association – a group of grazing leaseholders in the area – turned out to voice frustrations about the damage unmanaged recreation is causing to leased land. Several ranchers shared another concern: grizzlies and coyotes preying on their livestock. And at least one participant was happy that we’re keeping the planning process regional and acknowledging that “one size does not fit all.”
These views complemented those at the morning session, where 27 stakeholders turned out to represent organizations like:
- Town of Cardston and Cardston County
- Blood Tribe
- Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
- Alberta Irrigation Projects Association
- Private irrigators
- Grazing companies and leaseholders
- Oldman River Regional Services Commission
- Oldman Watershed Council
- Kinai Ecosystem Protection Association
Here’s what we heard:
The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:
- Overall, a good attempt to incorporate all issues and concerns
- General high-level concepts are good, but the “devil is in the details”
- Concerns about landowner rights and potential to “sterilize” land
- Needs to recognize sub-regions and the unique challenges of individual places
- Fear this is another layer of regulation and rules that will not be enforced. Resources – both human and financial – are needed to implement this properly.
- The security of renewable leases is critical to ensure the health of agriculture sector
- Protection of watersheds is vital to all forms of economic activity
- Concerns about the dominance of Calgary in the region and rural areas being used as a “backyard” by urban people
Biodiversity management framework:
- Emphasize local input and landowner involvement for conservation and biodiversity protection
- Need to be careful about protecting some species because of the effect it may have on other species:
- The grizzly bear population in the area is healthy – in fact, it’s gotten so healthy that livestock predation is a problem. Coyote predation is also a problem.
- Predator control of these species needs to be turned back over to local leaseholders, producers
Stewardship and conservation of private land:
- Education, enforcement, and economic incentives are key to promoting stewardship of private land
- Need for better definitions of how private land is to be valued and compensated for in terms of conservation and how decisions are made which land is considered valuable for this purpose.
- Numerous complaints about off-highway vehicles damaging land and water and the need to restrict off-highway vehicles to specific areas and enforce these diligently
- We heard from several landowners who feel they are held responsible for the damage off-highway vehicles and other recreation causes to their land, even though they have no control over it
Air and water quality:
- Need to consistently monitor air and water quality and enforce compliance with standards
- Consistent monitoring of groundwater to better understand the effects of fracking.
- Consider intra-basin water transfers as a flood control measure.
- Distinguish between actual air pollution and air quality “nuisances” such as odours.
- Aboriginal consultation needs to be more meaningful. Consultations are done with “leaders” rather than the grassroots; information sessions should be held on reserves.
- More diversity needed in economy. Less reliance on oil and gas would benefit more communities, especially rural ones.
- Concern that rural areas are dominated by decisions made in the cities and things like regional plans and Bill 28 threaten the viability of smaller communities
Our next stops: