S.W. Alberta plan could be a big deal

Two things I’ve tried to avoid since they came to my attention: the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan draft, which is supposed to deal with how land and resources get used in our part of the world, and my insurance renewal. I read both recently. Both were daunting.

Let’s just say my dread over the insurance was justified. Most of the significant increase has to do with weather events we experienced this year, such as hail, flood and wind damage across the province. We had four hail storms in three weeks at our place this year, more than we’d had in the previous 15 years. The damage to the garden, which I spend a lot of time in, was considerable but it recovered. We made no claims. Homeowners elsewhere, however, had their homes ruined and the lives turned upside down.

Weather in all its wonders aside, I spend as much time as I can in the great outdoors, wherever my Tacoma will take me (insurance for that barely budged). The SSRP may have a great impact on that experience, mostly positive, I hope.

For starters, the draft has been a long time coming – about five years since the province’s land use framework became public and a series of consultations with Albertans on how land is used, sometimes abused, started. I spent a couple of years when the land use framework came out with a Castle Special Place citizen’s initiative whose efforts resulted in a conceptual proposal for the Castle area west of Pincher Creek., basically to turn it into a Wildland Provincial Park. During much of the deliberation on the project, we were told to wait for the Land Use Framework efforts to evolve and after we submitted the proposal to government, it got shelved, again because of the land use framework process, we assumed .

The SSRP, the planning document for the next 10 years for our area came out of the land use framework. It “sets the stage for robust growth, vibrant communities and healthy environment within the region over the next 50 years” starting next April, and updated at least every 10 years. The plan covers an area from north of Calgary to the U.S. border, including any water the ends up in the South Saskatchewan River. My interest is mainly in the Southwest corner of the province.
It is a big deal, and if it is fulfilled will transform the south to everyone’s benefit. If you see the outdoors, particularly in our mountains and foothills, here are a few highlights from the plan:
• Nine new conservation areas are included down here. Wildland Provincial Parks are either established or expanded In the Castle, Beehive (Upper Oldman) Livingstone Range and Mt. Livingstone.and Bob Creek.
• The Castle Conservation area downstream of the Castle Mountain ski area is to be expanded. Provincial parks are to be established or expanded in the Chinook (Allison Creek) Syncline (West Castle) and Cypress Hills. Public Land Recreation Areas will be established or revamped in Atlas, McGillvray, Tent Mountain, Trout Creek, Caesar’s Flats, Speers Creek, Beaver Creek, Lynx Creek Flats and Upper Castle Flats.
• North Castle, Porcupine Hills, Livingstone Range, and Willow Creek will have “comprehensive and integrated recreation and access management plans” developed, “to minimize the impact of activities such as dumping of garbage and random campfires.” As well, enhancements such as “camping, staging areas, trail systems and access to and with recreation and tourism areas” will be needed.
• High-intensity motorized recreation areas will be identified and designated, including trails-based recreation.
• Non-motorized vehicle trails will also be designated.
• Watercourses, water bodies, wetlands and biodiversity/ecosystem protection will be regulated.
• Southern Rockies will be developed as an iconic tourist destination that will offer “a full range
of recreation and tourism, experiences, opportunities and activities.
• Serviced and unserviced campgrounds will be provided in designated areas.
• Places for “Albertans to actively participate in recreational activities and cultural experiences such as camping, hiking, bird-watching, berry picking, hunting, fishing and outdoor photography will be provided.
You’ll also find references to cumulative impacts, footprint, forestry, the economy, gas and oil and other mining endeavours like coal and magnetite, agriculture and irrigation watersheds., grizzlies (but not, directly, trout of any kind, except for acknowledging that The South Saskatchewan Region has more than “80 per cent of the province’s species at risk as listed under the federal
Species at Risk Act and the provincial Wildlife Act. Factors contributing to this high proportion include human settlement, disturbance from industrial, recreational and other uses, fragmentation, environmental contaminants, and introduction of invasive species.”), grazing and native grasses, among a bunch of other realities about our part of the world.
You have until Jan. 15 to give the government you reaction to the plan. You can find the 163-page SSRP at https://www.landuse.alberta.ca/LandUse%20Documents/SSRP%20Draft%20SSRP%202014-2024_2013-10-10.pdf.