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.
There was no babbling in Brooks on Wednesday night – but there was a steady stream of great feedback. (Yes, the puns are back.) Participants trickled steadily in throughout the day and we ultimately heard from 26 Albertans, including representatives from the following municipalities, organizations, and businesses:
- County of Newell
- City of Brooks (including Mayor Shields)
- Oldman River Regional Services Commission
- Palliser Regional Municipal Services
- Brazeau County
- Alberta Beef Producers
- Natural Resources Conservation Board
- The Eastern Irrigation District
- Ducks Unlimited
- Several ranchers
Here’s what we heard:
The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:
- Overall, the vision contains everything – broad, inclusive statement. But too inclusive?
- Confusion about who is leading this initiative – are all provincial government departments working together? If the government changes, do we have a guarantee that this plan will be implemented?
- Concern with how to educate the public on the plan – do we need a primer like “SSRP for Dummies”?
- Implementation is a concern, if it is at the local level – how will this be managed?
- How to balance social, economic and environmental priorities especially on public land
- Goal of air quality, water quality, watershed management should be to improve – not just to maintain
- Need a more explicit vision of how to balance social, economic, and environmental priorities on public land
- Enforcement needs a front-and-centre role in the vision – without the ability to enforce and police policies, they are useless
- Health of economy versus health of the people and the environment – need to seek a balance between both in the plan
- Private land should not be impacted by the plan
- Vision statement for water doesn’t capture how crucial a secure supply is to economic development
- Agriculture sector needs protection in vision statement
- If economic growth is deemed more important than overall health of the area, the region cannot grow
- Land fragmentation is a huge concern – how can communities combat this?
- Pipelines get missed in the corridor discussion because they are underground – but they limit development and subdivisions
- Establishing corridors for co-location of linear infrastructure is great – they reduce conflict with private landowners & economize land use
- Plan is missing guidelines for responsible surface extraction and reclamation – responsible extraction requires a collaborative effort
Biodiversity management framework:
- The idea of a biodiversity framework is a great vision, but focuses too much on maintaining existing situation – we need to improve the status quo
- Protection for Species at Risk is necessary, but continued monitoring is also needed to maintain balance – once species are no longer threatened, some policies should change
- Conservation areas need to be expanded past the Eastern Slopes – no reference in the plan to the Badlands and other important landscapes
- Support for movement to increase conservation areas, particularly Pekisko
- Lots of support for protecting and expanding natural grasslands areas
- The plan aims to protect native grasslands and integrate that with irrigation potential – this is “a wonderful win”
- Why are provincial parks in east of region not being improved/enhanced in the draft?
- Recreation and enforcement:
- Need resources to enforce rules, increased awareness and education
- Plan commits to better trail management and prohibits off-highway vehicle use in certain areas. This is good – but if these rules are not enforced, they are meaningless
- For the past 15 years, Eastern Irrigation District had an enforcement policy that worked well (except for motorcycles) – could we leverage this?
- General need for more conservation officers on public land surrounding Brooks
- Need to protect Beaver Dam Creek (three miles east of Westbrook School) – this creek flows all winter and provides year-around water for livestock, as well as important wildlife habitat
- Too many controls could lead to nothing happening at all on the land – need to let nature take its course
Stewardship and conservation of private/leased land:
- How do we incentivize private land owners to be effective stewards of the lands? Not all are going to volunteer
- Right now, compensation is unbalanced. Everything out the mountains/foothills is ignored – there are issues in other areas
- Acknowledgement that restriction on sales of native grasslands can really limit economic growth
Air and water quality:
- Excellent that air and water quality are identified as key issues, especially considering estimated population increase
- Air quality and water quality issues need to be explored and understood on a regional level – these cannot be managed by municipalities alone
- As new info comes out, triggers for both air and water quality need to be updated
- Clarification needed on how indicators are linked to specific health issues across the region
- Municipalities do not have resources to collect the monitoring info from the government once it is gathered – this needs to be more accessible
- Industry/agriculture setbacks for riparian areas need to be mandatory, not voluntary, and we need guidelines to manage them. Cows and Fish is working with several stakeholders on this.
- Storm water on major road arteries needs to be treated prior to moving into system
- Plan talks about a 30 per cent target for water efficiencies by 2015 – concern that this will change from a “direction” into an unrealistic requirement
- Air quality and smell are separate issues – people need to be educated on the difference
- More info needed about what substances and compounds are monitored by our monitoring stations
- What resources are going to be provided to municipalities to ensure these policies are understood and can be implemented?
- Need more collaboration with developers to create healthy communities
- Some cultural issues should be handled at municipal level rather than regionally
- From a municipal perspective, need more information on how this will be implemented – municipalities do not necessarily have the resources to pay for this