What we heard: Rockin’ time in Red Deer caps off SSRP community sessions

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We spent November in 21 communities talking to Albertans about the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan – a long-term land use plan for the region. These summaries try to capture the main themes expressed during each session – which weren’t necessarily agreed upon by everyone.

As the last week of consultations wound to a close last Thursday, we knew that the residents of Red Deer would make sure we had an energetic, informative final session – and that’s exactly what they did. 84 people turned out to share feedback on the plan, including representatives from the Alberta Native Plant Council, the Natural Resources Conservation Board, ENMAX, the City of Red Deer, the Olds Snowmobile Club, the Red Deer Jeep Packrats, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). We were also happy to welcome several students from Olds College.

With so many diverse groups present, we knew the conversations would be lively – and we weren’t disappointed. Here’s what we heard:

 The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Attendees expressed general support for the plan but noted that it will have no impact if it cannot be implemented and enforced
  • Some participants think this is a “huge improvement” from the previous draft
  • Plan is vague – more details and depth needed
  • Plan must address all components of sustainability, not just some
  • Plan does not acknowledge impact of climate change or provide strategies for dealing with it
  • Vision should be “a guideline that translates into a regulation”
  • Value of agriculture for enhancing sustainability & protecting valuable soil and land needs more emphasis in the regional outcomes section

Healthy economy:

  • This section does not speak to the unique character of the South Saskatchewan region
  • Need more policies, resources to support renewable energy development
  • Need to balance urban growth with preservation of agriculture
  • Tourism objective is “spot on” – enhance iconic tourism destinations while also developing new ones
  • Some concerns with the spread of invasive species in infrastructure corridors, right-of-ways
  • Plan needs to clarify exactly what type of forestry will be permitted in the Castle region
  • Concerns raised about grandfathering oil leases and mineral rights in conservation areas
Castle Public Land Use Zone

Logging in the Castle was a pretty hot topic throughout the sessions…

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Support for addition of conservation areas in the Eastern Slopes
  • How will conservation areas be managed and enforced? Enforcement is particularly needed in areas with restricted access for recreation
  • It’s not enough to merely “maintain” biodiversity – must enhance it
  • Need to acknowledge inherent conflict between biodiversity and economic growth
  • Need to acknowledge the impact of fragmentation on biodiversity and wildlife habitat
  • Plan seems to position the protection of Species at Risk as a barrier to economic development – plan needs to accomplish both

Public lands:

  • Enforcement a big theme – will government have enough staff and resources to enforce policies?
  • Random camping: how do we measure the environmental impacts of this? If we can’t, how do we properly manage it?
  • Support for the plan’s steps for grasslands preservation – but concern that over time, this will become a lower priority
  • More recreation sites are needed in and around white areas, given that most the province’s population is in these areas
  • Protection of wildlife and the environment should be a higher priority than recreation
  • Off-highway vehicles have no place in conservation areas – particularly in Castle
The award for 'Topic Most Mentioned during our Sessions' goes to...off-highway vehicle use! (Don't worry: there were lots of runners-up.)

…but the award for ‘Topic Most Mentioned during our Sessions’ goes to…off-highway vehicle use! (Don’t worry: there were lots of runners-up.)

Stewardship and conservation of private/leased land:

  • More detail required on what financial incentives and compensation will be provided to private landowners for grasslands conservation

Air and water quality:

  • Headwaters, wetlands, and groundwater riparian areas should be prioritized and protected – more emphasis needed in these areas
  • Sub-regional plans are needed to manage the headwaters in particular areas
  • More funded needed for watershed management and support of WPACs. Need to clarify role of WPACs and other groups in implementing the plan.
  • Water and air quality triggers are unclear
  • The region needs a more efficient water allocation system
  • We need to offer more financial incentives for wetlands preservation on private land

Strengthening communities:

  • Education and outreach is “critical” to the success of SSRP
  • Need to conserve natural areas and trails within urban centres, and build more

That’s a wrap for our SSRP community sessions – but you can still provide feedback on the draft plan by submitting an online workbook (until January 15th), by commenting on this blog, or by tweeting us at @AENV_SRD

2 thoughts on “What we heard: Rockin’ time in Red Deer caps off SSRP community sessions

  1. Pingback: This Week in Birding 50 by Charlotte Wasylik | Nemesis Bird

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