What we heard: Vulcan’s SSRP discussion boldly goes where few have gone before

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’s public session saw an enterprising 16 Albertans trek into Vulcan to discuss how they can ensure their region will ‘live long and prosper’. Stakeholder groups in attendance included:

Photo of a large Star Trek Enterprise replica in Vulcan, Alberta.

The SSRP roadshow crew had an ‘out of this world’ time in Vulcan last week…

 

Their discussion boldly went places where few have gone before.

Okay, we’re done with the puns. Here’s what we heard.

 The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Plan includes too many issues for single consultations to cover – should consider more detailed consultations in smaller groups
  • Vision might be good but it doesn’t guarantee results
  • Need better defined terms: what is meant by ‘vibrancy’? What is meant by ‘healthy’? (Healthy people? Healthy economy?)
  • In practice, infrastructure continues to get cut – yet infrastructure development is prominent in vision statement. Will this be supported by action?

Healthy economy:

  • All economic sectors (agriculture, tourism, forestry, energy) need to be seen as equally important
  • Economic centralization needs to stop
  • More focus on boating, fishing, agricultural industries needed in plan
    • Need to preserve agriculture in this region. This region is 12% of Alberta’s land base, but produces almost half of all the food produced in the province.
    • Need to encourage next generations to take up farming – but how can we do this when the cost of land and equipment is prohibitive?
    • More support needed for small family farms
  • No reference in the plan to education – but education is vital to economic development
  • Support for an increase in government-funded parks and tourism facilities – but when building facilities, need to consider spin-off benefits for surrounding areas as well as tourist benefit
  • Public expects industries to work collaboratively – the plan can provide assistance with this
Photo of cows in a field

The South Saskatchewan region is an important base for Alberta’s agriculture. Photo credit: public domain.

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Why disallow/restrict intense forestry just in specific conservation areas. If it is not good for these areas, why allow it elsewhere?
  • Need to look at maintaining ecosystems around reservoirs. This is just as important as the Eastern Slopes.
  • Look for opportunities to optimize grasslands
    • Would be great to have a provincial short grass park – could also use this as a protected habitat for threatened species

Public land: 

  • Designated random camping areas are not a step forward – will create more problems when people are in a close, confined area
  • Government should consider establishing reasonably priced random camping permits and designated trail fees
  • Make OHV issue a level playing field. If recreational ATVers can’t use the trails, the ranchers fixing fences shouldn’t use the trails either
  • Random camping in the Eastern Slopes needs to be addressed
  • Current shortage of tourism, recreation facilities east of the Eastern Slopes – we need more of these
  • Plan’s success depends on better, more adequately funded enforcement for public lands

Stewardship and conservation of private land: 

  • More infrastructure needed to assist private landowners with developing conservation areas
  • We need to assign value to different land uses – and private landowners need to compromise to make sure these values are preserved
  • Native grasslands are more important than irrigation lands and should take priority

Air and water quality:

  • Water quality
    • Local leaseholders try to conserve the quality of water – but municipalities & industry in the area don’t do their part
    • Industry wastes clean water that could remain in the ecosystem
    • More incentives needed to reduce water consumption in this region
    • More enforcement and regulations needed to protect surface water quality
    • Need to work with landowners to monitor water wells on private lands
    • Water monitoring stations are under-funded – increase the number of monitoring stations and the frequency at which they monitor
  • Air quality
    • Province-wide legislation is required to improve air quality, set consistent standards
    • SSRP does not say anything about transportation and its impact on air quality – need a section to deal with this
    • Micro-cities may aid in improving air quality

Strengthening communities:

  • The SSRP provides standardized, consistent guidance and support for rural communities – this is a good thing
  • Concern that centralization is hurting small communities – need provincial support, but local autonomy
  • Size of rural municipalities makes it hard to monitor if the plan is successfully implemented – how will outcomes be monitored and managed?
  • Right now, government funding is distributed based on population – should be based on the asset value of each municipality
  • Different opinions on the impact of recreation on rural communities:
    • Some participants pointed out that those coming to use the land contribute to the local economy by buying groceries, gas, lodging, etc.
    • Other people argued that the economic benefit is too small to justify potential damage to the lan

Our next stops: 

November 26 – Pincher Creek and Medicine Hat

November 27 – Okotoks and Brooks

November 28 – Cochrane and Red Deer

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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