Red Deerians had the chance this week to share their thoughts on how they think land in Southern Alberta should be used going forward. The opportunity to consult on a regional land use plan for Central Alberta, though, is still a few years away.
The province has divided Alberta into seven regions as part of its land-use framework efforts, with as many regional plans to be developed. The idea of the regional plans is to create an “overarching direction” for how land is to be used over the next 50 years in each region.
The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan was the first in the province to be completed, in 2012, establishing environmental limits and conserving sensitive areas. Thursday marked the final day of public consultation sessions for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP), which covers all of Southern Alberta.
The draft plan that stakeholders and members of the public consulted on on Thursday speaks of providing clarity for industry, creating environmental management frameworks for air, surface water and biodiversity and developing flood hazard mitigation plans. It also sets out protections for existing native grasslands in the region and proposes 32 new and expanded recreation and conservation sites along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
On a bulletin board where stakeholders in attendance — from Olds College students to a representative from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers — could post their thoughts on the plan, there were suggestions about issuing more hunting tags to manage deer, elk and moose populations.
However, there were also comments about the plan being too vague and being toothless when it comes to environmental enforcement.
“All the feedback that we’ve received now, we’re going to go back and sit down, cipher through all of it, and see what we can incorporate to make the plan more comprehensive, more tangible and more solid for everyone,” said Ogho Ikhalo, public affairs officer with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
She added that successful enforcement would be dependent on all Albertans, using as an example a citizen reporting unlawful ATV use on public land.
The public consultation session was the 21st to be held for the plan. It was held in Red Deer because part of the Red Deer River is in the South Saskatchewan watershed area. Glenn Tjostheim, senior planning manager with the provincial Land Use Secretariat, said the eventual Red Deer Regional Plan will have few similarities to the south plan.
“The Red Deer region is unique in that it’s got very, very little green area in it. Most of the area is in the white zone (agricultural land); a lot of it is privately owned. A lot of the things we’re doing in other regions we’re not able to do in Red Deer,” said Tjostheim.
He said the earliest a plan for Red Deer will be worked on is likely 2015, although the premier has said she would like all seven regional plans done by the end of the government’s current mandate.
Feedback on the south plan can still be received by mail or online by Jan. 15, 2014. For more information, visit www.landuse.alberta.ca.