Val McNall and Steve Rees of Clive holding signs at a rally against the provincial government’s Bighorn Country proposal Thursday in the Servus Arena parking lot in Red Deer. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

WATCH: Anti-Bighorn Country rally held in Red Deer

Central Albertans against the Bighorn Country proposal want their voices to be heard.

A rally opposing the government-proposed $40-million provincial park was held in the Servus Arena parking lot Thursday night.

Bentley’s Ryan Brown, who helped organize the rally, said people are against the proposal, not the conservation of land.

“This plan wants to put garbage cans in the backcountry, but everyone who’s out there knows you don’t leave garbage in the backcountry. We don’t need garbage-eating bears in the Bighorn, it’s already a pristine area,” said Brown.

Brown said rally attendees are trying to protect the land from government involvement.

“If they go into the backcountry and screw up all the rules so that nothing works, then we have to stand up against that,” he said.

On Tuesday the Alberta government announced there will be four public sessions about the park plan, including one in Red Deer on Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at Westerner Park. The others will be Drayton Valley on Friday, Edmonton on Saturday and Sundre on Monday.

Public sessions, scheduled earlier in January, were cancelled due to alleged security concerns.

Brown said the government’s handling of public consultation for the proposal has been “sneaky.”

“No matter what side of any issue we’re on as Albertans, I think we can all agree that the one thing we need from our government is for the process to be fair and to be transparent,” he said.

Shannon Phillips, minister of environment and parks, said these sessions will make sure Albertans can ask questions, learn more about the proposal and share their views.

Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon has been critical of the government’s handling of Bighorn and has called for Phillips to resign.

The government’s proposal covers 4,000 square kilometres along the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains.

Bighorn Country includes Clearwater County, most of Brazeau County and the current Bighorn Backcountry management area. It features mountains, foothills, forests, lakes, streams and the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River, which more than a million Albertans depend on for drinking water.

The area has been under consideration for protection since the 1980s and its core remains relatively free of energy, forestry and farming activity.

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Bentley’s Ryan Brown helped organize a rally against the provincial government’s Bighorn Country proposal Thursday in the Servus Arena parking lot in Red Deer. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

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