What we heard: talking #NSRP in Drayton Valley

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Over the next month, we’ll be in 21 communities across Alberta talking about the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan. The purpose of this first round of consultations is to hear from people who live and work in the region about their vision for the area and their thoughts on the draft Terms of Reference for the plan. You can see the summaries for all communities here.

The first week of community conversations about the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan continued on Wednesday with a stop in Drayton Valley. 34 attendees turned out for a lively discussion about the region’s economy, ecosystems and communities. Here’s what we heard.

VISION AND OUTCOMES

  • Plan is not innovative and reflects today’s industry realities, rather than tomorrow’s
  • Statement is too long and should be shorter
  • No implementation process mentioned, and plan is not action-focused. Who is responsible for what?
  • Plan adds another level of bureaucracy and additional planning steps to projects
  • Governments responsibility to enforce regulations is missing from Terms of Reference
  • Priorities should include more education for youth
  • Need a glossary for terms like ‘healthy ecosystem’ and ‘shared stewardship’
  • Need to address different expectations of urban and rural residents, and the clashes that can result
  • Vision statement does not reference the protection of landowner rights
  • The real challenge of the plan is shrinking our environmental footprint at the same time as economic growth puts more pressure on our land and resources

HEALTHY ECONOMY

  • Need to identify and consolidate infrastructure pathways and corridors; also need municipal consistency on these corridors
  • Natural and multi-use corridors need to be connected – should provide incentives to landowners to make this happen
  • Telephone/internet services need to be available in rural areas at the same level & quality as urban areas
  • Voice of the forestry industry is diluted in the region – small population with huge land base
  • Why are we continuing to promote coal extraction when we’re trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
  • The cumulative impacts of oil and gas development are already too high
  • Should allow long term Crown land leases/tenures for tourism development
  • “Build up, not out”: focus on land use for agriculture & reduce urban sprawl. Rural residential estates are too big – these need to be smaller so we can conserve farmland.
  • Too much land has already been taken up for industrial development – some of this should be re-designated as natural areas
  • Support for aggregate mining and peat farming
  • Need to connect major Alberta destinations – should create a network of trains to do this
  • Economy should be diversified according to our strengths and skills – e.g. use oil and gas development to drive green economy development
photo of a high-speed train in Paris

One attendee thought a network of trains could help connect Alberta’s communities. Photo credit: Roger Wollstadt

HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS AND ENVIRONMENT

  • Focus should be on improving our environmental standards, not merely maintaining what we have
  • Those responsible for our industrial footprint should be responsible for addressing it

Thoughts about water and air:

  • Need more stringent mandatory watershed management requirements for private lands
  • Concern about using potable water for fracking. Suggestion: reward companies that use non-potable water sources in industrial processes
  • Legislate setbacks for development near watercourses
  • More emphasis needed on protecting riparian areas
  • More resources and education needed for air and water quality monitoring
  • Concern about water availability – “not enough water for one million more people, let alone 50-year projections”
  • Decisions on aquifers and air quality should be science-based
  • Need to address gaps in our air monitoring system & ensure we do not exceed air quality triggers
  • Flaring regulations need to be strengthened

Thoughts on land and forests:

  • Policies and Industry Recommended Practices for the Eastern Slopes area are dated – we need to revisit these
  • Encourage development of new conservation areas in watersheds
  • More emphasis needed on reclamation
  • All river valleys across regional need to be preserved
  • Provide tax credits to private landowners to reward responsible stewardship
  • Support for agricultural land reserves
  • Consider the natural ranges and migratory patterns of species before developing land
  • Suggestion: encourage mixed forests to promote biodiversity
  • Make Integrated Land Management mandatory
  • Shorten times/waiting periods for the wildland conservation process
  • Need to preserve land along the North Saskatchewan river & protect the recreational opportunities there

PEOPLE-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES, CULTURE AND RECREATION

  • Need to provide Aboriginal and Metis groups with greater capacity to participate
  • More funding needed for municipalities so they can meet their responsibilities

Thoughts about recreation:

  • 80% of recreation in the region today is random – goal should be 80% managed
  • More designated trails are “an absolute must”. Suggestion: develop more hiking and off-highway vehicle trails that link across region.
  • Suggestion: licence off-highway vehicle users and use those fees to develop and maintain trails
Photo of OHV riding on trails. Photo Credit: Entertainment Guide

Should responsible recreation be a component of Alberta’s curriculum? Some attendees thought so.

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