One of the oft-heard criticisms from proponents of the proposed Bighorn Country Proposal is that this is the best chance for creating a conservation area to legislate protection for the Bighorn. In most cases, it appears the only acceptable land designation to supporters is a Wildland Provincial Park, though other conservation designations do exist and could actually be a much better fit.
In the recent letter ‘Bighorn Country Can’t Wait,’ the author pointed out all industrial developments that have been approved since 2015, as well as a convenient map showing them. Note that the area of the proposed Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park, as well as area well into the proposed West Country PLUZ, has none of these developments. This indicates the current PLUZ and Eastern Slopes Policy protections are working well and a park designation is not immediately required for the area. It also jives with the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan (NSRP) Regional Advisory Council (RAC) Recommendation Report which had Bighorn as a low priority due to it already having protection.
Also note that approved developments spread far further than what the Bighorn Country Proposal covers. If conservation and protecting drinking water are so important, why are we even wasting time with the small area included in the Bighorn Proposal? We need to get Regional Planning back on track so we can plan for the entire watershed. As it stands, drinking water quality doesn’t drop until it passes Edmonton, and even then it’s still rated as ‘Good’ instead of ‘Excellent’ according to reports on Alberta River Water Quality Index.
Compared to RAC recommendations on regional planning, the Bighorn Proposal desires a much higher level of proposed tourism development, though not using government money, as stated by Minister Shannon Phillips. Provincial Parks and Recreation Areas are to be created to attract private investment in things like a Four Season Resort and a Zipline. This development is definitely not in the environment’s best interest.
The current government held onto the RAC report from 2015 to March 2018, let it out for public feedback and didn’t like what they received. Though not actually released yet, Freedom of Information requests obtained the results and people are pro-conservation, they just don’t want a Park to achieve that. ‘PLUZ for Conservation’ it is then, which fits perfectly into our existing recreational PLUZ framework and legislates the protection from industry currently provided by Eastern Slopes Policy. Instead, the current government gave us the Bighorn Proposal, further delaying regional planning, ignoring the rest of the watershed, and over the holidays in a rush leading up to election time.
Conservation is important, but the method to obtain it matters as well. If the current protection wasn’t working, there may be a case to make regarding the creation of the Bighorn Proposal but as it stands, the proposed park area is still pristine and can afford to wait for the proper Regional Planning Framework to continue.
Dustin Naismith, Concerned citizen
EDITOR'S NOTE: The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of rdnewsNOW or the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group. Column suggestions and letters to the editor can be sent to [email protected]
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