Bighorn park proposal strikes a sensible balance

I’d like to provide some clarification regarding several points raised in your article, “Group against Bighorn Park proposal to rally in Red Deer,” specifically on the statement “… the proposal will not allow off-highway vehicle use, will curtail land use by hikers, equestrians, bikers and native landowners, and will prohibit commercial activities such as forestry and oil.”

Existing petroleum and natural gas agreements would be honoured within all of the proposed parks, while new leases will be allowed, but with no surface access. Within the West Country Public Land Use Zone, both existing and future petroleum and natural gas agreements will not be impacted.

There is no existing commercial forestry tenure within the proposed parks, nor has there been any large-scale harvesting historically in that area. Commercial forestry does occur in the proposed West Country Public Land Use Zone, but a zone only regulates recreational access, it does not place restrictions on industry.

Only 24 per cent of the proposal area is comprised of parks, the other 76 per cent consists of the West Country Public Land Use Zone.

Existing off-highway vehicle, equestrian, mountain biking and hiking use will not be impacted by the proposed parks. Designated trails have been in place since 2002, and the proposal explicitly states that these trails will remain as they are.

The proposal would provide funding for trail maintenance and increased enforcement, including reclamation of existing illegal trails in the area.

All First Nations rights will continue to be honoured under the proposed changes. This includes traditional activities, fishing and trapping (no new restrictions), hunting (only new restriction is not being able to hunt within the new public recreation areas (0.4 per cent of the proposal area) due to high frequency of public use and their small size) and motorized access (usage in parks restricted to designated trails).

Chris Smith, Edmonton

Chris Smith is parks co-ordinator with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

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