New land-use plans good for land, water and recreation

The Government of Alberta released drafts of the Land Footprint Management Plan and the Recreation Management Plan for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone Range yesterday. These plans will fulfill some of the commitments made in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. The Porcupine Hills and Livingstone region is located an hour and a half south of Calgary, between the Castle Parks and Kananaskis, and is considered home to some of the most iconic landscapes in southern Alberta.

“These plans are a crucial step in managing the important ecological and outdoor recreation values of this entire landscape for all Albertans” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Southern Alberta Chapter.  “We congratulate the Government of Alberta on creating a comprehensive and inclusive land-use plan that protects headwaters and biodiversity while providing responsible access for outdoor recreation.”

The south eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains are vital safeguards of clean water, healthy forests, native grasslands and biodiversity. This landscape has supported generations of Albertans. Yet these values are increasingly threatened by a growing footprint of forestry, industrial use and unregulated motorized recreational activity. The cumulative impact of these activities threaten the ecological health and recreational values of the region. Plans to manage the impacts of roads and trails, as well as recreational use, is necessary to maintain and restore these special places.

CPAWS is pleased to see that the plans include clear, science-based limits on densities and locations of roads and trails to create secure habitat for wildlife such as grizzly bear and bull trout, as well as provide direction on siting motorized use away from the most sensitive areas. “Most importantly we are happy to see the plan addresses land, water, wildlife, and community values, while ensuring that Albertans can get outside and experience the amazing beauty of southern Alberta” said Morrison.

Throughout the land use planning process starting in early 2015 the Government of Alberta engaged a wide variety of stakeholders in a series of consultations on the use and value of these areas. There is now a 30-day public comment period on the draft plans for the Livingstone and Porcupine Hills.

The Land Footprint Management Plan and the Recreation Management Plan promise strong headwaters protection, biodiversity maintenance, restoration of intact natural landscapes and responsible use of public lands by all users including industrial and recreational use.  “These plans provide the opportunity for all of us to move forward together;” says Morrison “We will need a clear strategy to implement the plan, including restoration and enforcement; the release of this plan is the first step towards strong, inclusive management of the entire landscape for everyone.”