A process has been going on in our province for 5 years that is so big that–well, I think it was so big most of us did not notice it. In 2008 seven regional development areas were designated for Alberta under Alberta’s Land Use Framework. Experts and stakeholders were called to develop a draft regional plan for each region–think of this as equivalent of what we did here in Chestermere February 2009 as our own Municipal Development Plan. For the Saskatchewan River Basin–just north of Calgary across the province and down to the border–we now have the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP). To quote the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association, “From native prairie to the jagged peaks of Kananaskis …southwestern Alberta is a treasured land for the people of the province and all of Canada. The future of that special landscape is being set right now. This is your last chance to speak up on a broad reaching plan that will set the future for decades to come.” This huge area which includes not just our little town but nearly 45% of the total population of Alberta–which has grown 28% in the last five years. 34% of tourist dollars spent in Alberta land here. The ten year plan will come into force 01 April of 2014 but consultations on this draft plan are open now, with in person sessions available www.landuse.alberta.ca the nearest and soonest is Airdrie on November20th (register for the daytime session or attend the open house in the evening.) If you are interested in this, attend the daytime session (free, but pre-register)–the evening is just signboards and people to answer questions–the daytime session is interactive. If you can’t attend, there is an online workbook that can be filled in and sent up to January 15th 2014.
Why attend? Uniquely, we in Chestermere live in a wetland area–wetlands are addressed in the strategic directions of the SSRP. In southern Alberta approximately 64 per cent of wetlands have disappeared since the beginning of settlement. Consideration is given in this plan to advance watershed and wetland management through The Alberta Wetland Policy in part increasing stewardship commitment to riparian (shoreline) health. Pages 45-48 of the draft (www.landuse.alberta.ca) discusses other water issues, such as aquatic invasive species with a current focus on preventing the establishment of the three most noxious aquatic invasive species: zebra mussels, quagga mussels and Eurasian water-milfoil.
Or, maybe you enjoy using the eastern slopes for recreation. The draft SSRP sets out new guidelines for biodiversity protection, trail systems, limiting off road use, and in some cases increasing the protected or ‘green areas’ or public lands which have new and expanded boundaries. Some think this draft has not gone far enough to conserve wildlife habitat and the headwaters. (www.cpaws-southernalberta.org) To show the very broad reach of the SSRP outcomes include quality of life for residents, strengthening communities, natural heritage, economic development, environmental management, surface water quality, first Nations, tourism, air quality, and cultural heritage.
And finally and most importantly, the SSRP is so huge in our future that ALL municipal planning and development decisions in Alberta will HAVE TO BE IN ALIGNMENT WITH THIS REGIONAL PLAN to achieve the regional outcomes established in the SSRP–so you can see that this is a critical and significant document! Don’t let your chance to comment slip by.