What we heard: great turnout and even better conversation as Phase One NSRP sessions wrap up in Edmonton

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That’s a wrap, folks: yesterday was the last day for Phase One of our North Saskatchewan regional planning sessions. You can see the summaries for all sessions here.

We wrapped up with a stellar turnout in Edmonton: more than 100 Albertans (106 to be exact) turned up to share their concerns, ideas, and visions for the future of the region.

Numerous municipalities, organizations and industries were represented, including: Husky Energy, Shell Canada, Enbridge, the Alberta Endurance Ice Racing Association (AEIRA), City of Edmonton, Lafarge, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, City of Camrose, ATCO, County of Leduc, Strathcona County, Ram River Coal, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Sturgeon County, Nature Alberta, Capital Power, Snow and Mud.com, Pigeon Lake Watershed Association, Alberta Wilderness Association, Northern Alberta 4 Wheel Drive Association, Strathcona Wilderness Institute, Alpine Club of Canada, Toyota Expeditionary Association of Alberta, and Epcor.

Photo of a wall of comment cards.

Fun fact: during our Phase One sessions, we went through over 6,000 of these comment cards.

VISION AND OUTCOMES

  • Vision is too focused on current situation and not the next fifty years
  • Vision is too long, too information-heavy and uses too many descriptors – not focused enough on ideas
  • Vision has a narrow view of the economy – greater emphasis needed on diversification (particularly a green, renewable energy sector)
  • How is it possible to have a unifying vision for such a diverse region?
  • Some participants are generally happy with the vision statement
  • More information needed about the carrying capacity of the region – what population and level of development can is sustain?
  • Not enough emphasis on people – social pillar should come first, then economy and environment
  • Greater emphasis needed on balancing all three outcomes (economy/environment/communities) and understanding the tradeoffs
  • More focus needed on what is unique about the region
  • Need to recognize the Canadian Force Bases (CFBs) and their role as communities and economic drivers
  • Economic section should focus on generation of wealth, not economic ‘growth’ – growth is not infinitely sustainable and not an end in itself
  • Tourism is missing from economic outcomes section
  • Environment outcomes need to include restoring and improving (as opposed to just maintaining status quo), reversing climate change, improving biodiversity
  • Lots of questions about the regional planning process, and how the different parts of the region connect

HEALTHY ECONOMY

  • The knowledge sector – education institutions, research – is missing
  • Too much focus on Industrial Heartland
  • No reference to renewable energy sector in the plan – need to look to the future of this industry
  • The Capital Region needs a master plan for agriculture
  • Need to look at trade-offs for multiple industries using the same land
  • Currently, province is not doing enough to preserve high-quality agricultural land
  • Some participants think more tourism options are needed in rural areas;  others think tourism is just a ‘quick fix’ to keep industry from developing in certain areas
  • Economy and environmental health are connected – healthy economy starts with protecting the land and sustaining our natural resources

Thoughts about infrastructure and transportation:

  • Support for condensed multi-use transportation corridors to minimize environmental impact
  • Need more alternative transport systems, including public transit
  • Need to recognize transportation networks as an economic driver – not just for industry, but also for tourism
  • Why no mention of a regional rail system in the plan?
  • Transportation systems should help support local producers
  • Plan needs to specifically mention the international airport – this is a hub for the movement of both goods and people

HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

  • Plan doesn’t say anything about urban environmental management (emissions, green spaces, etc.)
  • What is the baseline for environmental management – the current (damaged) state, or the earlier state? Do we have enough data about what things were like before development?
  • Municipalities need resources to achieve certain outcomes – lake management, wetlands restoration, etc.
  • The term ‘reclamation’ should be replaced with ‘restoration’ and this should be a higher priority in the plan
  • A definition is needed for ‘shared stewardship’
  • Need to adopt an adaptive management approach – how we measure and monitor success
  • Better enforcement of off-highway vehicle use needed on public lands
  • Biodiversity management section should be more action-focused and include a clearer definition of biodiversity
  • Better understanding needed of how biodiversity relates to other section of the plan – tourism, economic development, etc.
  • Emphasize connectivity of wildlife habitats across landscapes
  • Provincial strategies for environmental management need teeth
  • Action needed to measure and control the effect of water quality on fish populations
  • Development and conservation are not mutually exclusive – they can exist on the same land
  • Wetlands policy implementation should be a priority
  • Some participants are looking for more accessible info about the Alberta Land Stewardship Act

Thoughts on water and air:

  • Province needs to work with WPACs
  • More provincial government involvement needed in watershed management
  • Must address declining water levels in many areas
  • Lots of work has already been done on air quality management – need to recognize this and not re-invent the wheel. Clearly defined role needed for airshed groups.
  • Province needs more capacity to enforce air quality monitoring standards, ensure accountability
  • Air quality management needs to be holistic

PEOPLE-FRIENDLY COMMUNTITIES, CULTURE AND RECREATION

  • Municipalities need more revenue streams
  • Support for inclusion of Aboriginal peoples in land-use planning. Unfortunate that no Aboriginal people were in attendance at this session – perspectives would really add to discussion.
  • Need effort to preserve traditional Aboriginal knowledge – but also use historical knowledge
  • Concern that Alberta’s youth are losing attachment to the land, understanding of where food comes from, etc
Photo of a farmer's field

Are Alberta’s young people losing a connection to the land and what it provides?

Thoughts about recreation:

  • Plan needs to define what recreation means – it’s different things to different people
  • More designated trails are needed – concerns about the loss of existing trails
  • Better education and enforcement is needed for off-highway vehicle use. We can use clubs and organizations to help achieve this – but how do we reach riders who are not part of these organizations?
  • Government should take responsibility for education about responsible access and use of trails
  • Off-highway vehicle use should be limited to designated areas
  • Sustained access to public land is needed
  • Private landowners need to be respected by those who want to use their land for recreation

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