November 13th, 2013 ~ Vol. 83 No. 44
First rounds underway for the South Saskatchewan Regional Draft Plan
Pass Herald StaffThe first rounds of consultation for the new SSRP draft plan kicked off November 5th at the Elk’s Hall in Blairmore.
The SSRP is a tentative new land-use system being shopped around southern Alberta by the Provincial Government to gain approval from municipalities for the draft plan.
“The public was invited to contribute to the final plan in person at open houses this month,” said Duncan Macdonnell, public affairs officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
“Completing a workbook available online, invites comments on each aspect of the draft.”
The major issues the public brings up during the consultations will be brought to the attention of the Provincial Government and will be used to inform the final draft of the SSRP, according to the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource website.
The Land-use Framework uses a new approach to managing public and private lands and natural resources to achieve Alberta’s long-term economic, environmental and social goals, according to the Profile of the South Saskatchewan Region document released by the Alberta Government.
“The plan describes management intents relating to shared or multiple uses of public land, not private land, to help ease conflicts among competing users for those lands,” said Macdonnell.
The SSRP will affect all the land in Alberta from just North of Airdrie (a town North of Calgary) to the United States border, according to the regional map located in the information booklet.
Using the SSRP, if there are any conflicts between existing legislation and the intents of the land-use plan, existing legislation will be amended, said Macdonnell.
“The SSRP proposes to increase the proportion of protected Crown land in the region from 22 percent to 33 percent, a 50 percent increase.”
Some members of the business community appear satisfied.
“Spray Lake Sawmills believes the SSRP can deliver the balanced, reasonable approach that would protect the watershed, satisfy most Albertans, and allow responsible resource development including time harvesting,” said Ed Kulcsar, woodlands manager for SLS.
In addition, SLS recently was awarded Forest Stewardship Council Certification for its forest management program.
SLS manufactures dimensional lumber, treated wood products, agricultural fence posts, wood chips, landscaping and erosion control products and is the largest private sector employer in Cochrane, with 200 full time staff and 75 seasonal contractors.
SLS also has forest area designated to the use of their logging operation to the North, North East and South of the Crowsnest Pass region.
But critics to the SSRP are still skeptical.
“The plarn purports to protect some areas but, by and large, those are above the timberline,” said David McIntyre, a retired environmental scientist from the Crowsnest Pass region.
“(The areas that will be protected under SSRP) are what we might call the rock and ice components,” he said.
McIntyre attended the consultations November 5th to see if some of his concerns would be addressed and if not, if someone would answer his questions.
To him, the most important aspect of the ecosystem to protect will be the headwaters, they are the sources for fresh water in an ecosystem and it is a limited commodity.
“If we are destroying that landscape and degrading that headwater component I really have to wonder for the future.”
McIntyre moved to the Crowsnest Pass after falling in love with the scenery during the ‘80s.
Today, he can’t help but be concerned about the degree of degradation of the landscape, and especially it’s headwater component, his once ideal environment is currently being exposed to.
“The government says it’s creating all those new areas, but really all it’s doing, is changing the form of protection,” said McIntyre.
“Almost every piece of land they produced was already a protected park or was already protected in some other way.”
But, Macdonnell argues the existing protections for Crown land in southwest Alberta are entrenched in the Eastern Slopes Policy, which names watershed protection and recreational use as the highest objectives.
“Other activities can be permitted uses, but where they occur are required to conform to requirements outlined in the policy.”
November 13th, 2013 ~ Vol. 83 No. 44
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