What we heard: a rockin’ North Sask regional planning session in Red Deer

lus-homepage-header-1

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 find the session information for your community here and see the summaries for all communities here.

Our second-last NSRP session wrapped up in Red Deer last night after a very full day of discussions. 35 people came out to share their compliments and concerns, including representatives of the Red Deer River Naturalists, Friends of the Eastern Slopes, Ram River Coal, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Bentley town council, Sundre Forest Products, City of Red Deer (Environmental Services division), Alberta Milk, Town of Stettler, Lacombe County, and the Red Deer Advocate. A Kootenay Plains volunteer steward, private residents, and former Red Deer mayor Morris Flewwelling also came out to share their views.

VISION AND OUTCOMES

  • Vision focuses too much on the status quo and does not focus enough on the future – in particular, it “reads as if we can keep going as we are and not improve the way we deal with the environment”
  • Vision is too long, not concise enough, too vague, “not memorable”
  • Vision focuses too much on Edmonton and the Capital Region
  • Some support for the elements of the vision statement. Support for use of terms like “integrated approach” and “shared stewardship” – these should be the driving force behind the plan
  • Vision should prioritize citizens and Aboriginal peoples first
  • Vision needs to emphasize our connection to nature and wild areas – this is part of the Alberta identity
  • Outcome sections are siloed and disconnected – economy, environment and communities are all related
  • Some regional outcomes don’t align with expected outcomes for the province
  • Outcomes must be balanced – no need for extremes
  • All other sectors are named in economic outcomes section, but mining sector is missing. Some attendees think that other sectors, like tourism, do not need to be mentioned in the vision.
  • Too much emphasis on the economy – a bigger-picture balance is needed
  • Environmental outcomes for the region are good – cover the bases
  • We need to accept that the plan can’t be everything to everyone
  • More info needed about how the federal government will be involved in the implementation process

HEALTHY ECONOMY

  • Loss of agricultural land and land base for forestry poses serious problems for these industries

    Wind farm in Pincher Creek

    Some residents are concerned that agricultural land is being lost to other industries.

  • Existing plan for agriculture is good, but more support is needed for local producers and organic farming
  • Stewardship tools should be made available to farmers to help them stay on their land
  • Potential for tourism industry has not been fully explored
  • Balance needed between economic conservation and tourism
  • Should explore potential for agricultural tourism, as well as tourism that includes more cultural and Aboriginal elements
  • Suggestion: cultural tourism could be an economic driver for First Nations communities
  • Document needs a clear vision for renewable energy
  • Revised regulations are needed for forestry
  • More discussion needed about the amount of industrial development in parks
  • Need to improve the amount of water used by industry
  • A high-speed rail train in the Red Deer corridor is needed

HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

  • Species at risk should be defined separately by each regional plan
  • Each plan needs specific biodiversity indicators to reflect its unique ecosystems
  • Support for cumulative effects management – this is a wonderful tool for managing biodiversity
  • Too much emphasis on the idea that government can control biodiversity. Our ideas of biodiversity ignore the natural disturbances that affect ecosystems – like wildfire.
  • Ecosystem services need to include climate change adaptation
  • Need clear reclamation timelines for public land
  • Need a better policy for restoring and maintaining wetlands on private lands
  • Ideas about increasing voluntary stewardship on private lands are positive
  • The ecosystem services of agroforestry should be recognized
  • Great idea to develop more conservation areas – but how are these areas defined?
  • Existing parks and areas should be connected before we add new ones
Some Red Deer residents want more information on how the Red Deer River sub-basin will fit into the plan. Photo credit.

Some Red Deer residents want more information on how the Red Deer River sub-basin will fit into the plan. Photo credit.

Thoughts about air and water:

  • Air quality cannot be addressed in this section alone – it’s fundamentally connected to both economic and community development
  • Healthy water use should be encouraged throughout the region – not just for headwaters
  • Establishing the point source of emissions and pollutants is crucial for effective monitoring
  • How will the Red Deer river basin fit within the North Saskatchewan region?

PEOPLE-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES, CULTURE AND RECREATION

  • The term “people-friendly” is odd and too general
  • The Terms of Reference for this section cover all the basics
  • The opportunities and challenges in this section focus too much on the capital region – should look at the entire region
  • We should encourage Aboriginal peoples and ranchers to help educate the general public about land use – these people have lived the land, not just studied it
  • Support for preserving traditional knowledge of Aboriginal peoples
  • The plan does not include key groups: people with disabilities, lower socio-economic status, different cultures
  • Need smart growth, including focus on building amenities closer to where people live
  • Plan is being implemented in Lower Athabasca – how are those communities updating their planning to align with the regional plan? Good case study.
  • So many issues are local – consultation should be about local plans and issues, not regional ones
  • Province needs to support cooperation between municipalities as the plan is implemented

Thoughts about recreation:

  • Concerns about the impact of off-highway vehicle use and random camping – more enforcement & concrete penalties needed for causing damage and going off-trail
  • Incentives needed to reduce impact – reward good behavior in addition to penalizing abuse
  • More consideration needed for the ‘carrying capacity’ of recreation areas and campgrounds – these are over-used
  • Clearer signs needed for trails – current versions aren’t clear about which users are permitted
Photo of garbage in a clearing outside Grande Prairie

How should we minimize the impact of random camping – through stronger enforcement, or rewards for good stewardship?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s