What we heard: Pincher Creek’s got (at least) 99 people passionate about SSRP

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.

 

Chalk it up to good weather or something in the air – we were thrilled to see almost 100 people come out to our Pincher Creek sessions on Tuesday. Wilderness groups, grazing associations, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, and energy companies were all well-represented in the discussions. Participating stakeholders this session included:

 

Here’s what we heard:

The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Some stakeholders believe the broad vision statement covered the situation in the region well, while others thought it was soft and needed more ‘bite’ and more substantial goals
  • Vision contained in Land-use Framework, SSRP and the Alberta Land Stewardship Act needs to be consistent
  • Plan needs to be ‘fleshed out’ – terms need to be better defined, more information on implementation is needed, and we also need commitment from the government to allocate sufficient resources to this implementation
  • “The devil is in the details” – without them, it’s hard to judge the plan
  • Some cynicism – “recommendations have been made before and they have been disregarded”
  • To “finalize a plan that makes Albertans proud for the next 100 years”, we need fierce protection of the environment and enhancement of biodiversity
  • Enforcement on public land is essential and needs to be a more prominent goal

Healthy economy:

  • More balance needed between tourism, agriculture, economic development
  • Plan is ‘business as usual’ – would like to see enhancements to existing policies and more enforcement and planning
  • Forestry should be considered a landscape management tool
  • Logging is “incompatible” with the protection of the Castle area and should be prohibited
  • Government needs to look at the economic potential of conservation areas
  • Leased grazing areas need to be protected – stronger enforcement is required to minimize damage from recreational users
  • Plan needs more encouragement of renewable energy technologies
  • Participants divided on potential of wind power: some see the industry as a “disaster” that requires subsidies; others pointed out significant economic benefits to municipalities as well as operators
Castle Public Land Use Zone

The Castle area continues to be a hot topic at the sessions. We’ve got a blog post all about it coming up soon.

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Need for more specifics and clarity in this section
  • Concern that conservation is taking a “backseat to industry” – more tools and explicit expectations are needed for industry to manage stewardship
  • Rather than just being “maintained”, biodiversity should be recovered and enhanced
  • Some participants argued that both the top and bottom of Castle area must be conserved; others suggested that less conservation around this area would be sufficient
  • More enforcement on public lands is needed to “level the playing field”; significant fines and penalties for problem users are needed to change behavior and attitudes
  • Grasslands areas identified in the Regional Advisory Council’s advice should be established as conservation areas
  • Some stakeholders want industrial development and forestry to be prohibited in Green Area
  • Should continue to consult stakeholders when establishing new recreation areas on public land

Stewardship and conservation of private/leased land: 

Photo of a hunter on agricultural public land

At this session, we heard support for providing leaseholders with more tools to manage recreation.

  • Strong support for stewardship on private lands
  • Some support for maintaining the ‘status quo’ on grazing leases

Air and water quality:

  • General support for the use of triggers and thresholds in this section – would like to see this throughout the entire document
  • Plan needs measures to protect air and water during future growth – this plan “barely covers the past” and is not forward-looking enough
  • General comment: some participants argued that more regulations are needed to prevent pollution of air, water, land

Water:

  • Very important to protect Alberta’s headwaters
  • Protecting water quality should be priority number one
  • Government needs to assess the impact of recreational users on water quality and introduce measures to manage this impact

Air:  

  • Some stakeholders noted that air quality in Pincher Creek is quite good and it is important to maintain it

Strengthening communities:

  • Would like to see traditional Aboriginal and Métis knowledge captured in sessions
  • Plan does not do enough to handle the new pressures caused by population growth
  • More public education needed on how to balance the goals of industrial development and conservation
  • Recreation:
    • Overarching need for more enforcement and education, especially for off-highway vehicle users
    • Stakeholders would like additional people on-ground to enforce recreation use on public land. A user-pay program for recreational user would be beneficial.
    • Complaint that off-highway vehicle users are ‘prioritized’ within the plan
    • This section of the plan needs to emphasize collaboration with local user groups

Our next stops: 

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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