Pre­serv­ing Bighorn too im­por­tant for par­ti­san bat­tles

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - Pre­serv­ing Bighorn too im­por­tant for par­ti­san bat­tles
It is dis­ap­point­ing to see that the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal to cre­ate new pro­tected ar­eas in west­cen­tral Al­berta has led to a par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal brawl.Over the last week, the gov­ern­ment can­celled pub­lic-in­for­ma­tion ses­sions for the Bighorn Coun­try pro­posal be­cause of re­ports of in­tim­i­da­tion and threats by op­po­nents to the pro­posal. The lo­cal MLA, Ja­son Nixon of the UCP, then be­came en­gaged in a war of words with En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Shan­non Phillips.Al­ber­tans are bet­ter than this, and we should ex­pect bet­ter from each other.The Bighorn Coun­try pro­posal is based on the model used so suc­cess­fully to cre­ate Kananaskis Coun­try more than 40 years ago. Al­though the cre­ation of K-Coun­try by for­mer pre­mier Peter Lougheed was not with­out con­tro­versy, you will be hard pressed to find any crit­ics 40 years later. It has be­come a provin­cial trea­sure.Crit­i­cism of the Bighorn Coun­try pro­posal comes from a small but highly vo­cal mi­nor­ity of peo­ple. They claim that lo­cal res­i­dents and user groups don’t want the new pro­tec­tions for the land. They al­lege they have not been prop­erly con­sulted, and that the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posal cir­cum­vents the land-use plan­ning process. These claims don’t stand up to scru­tiny. Ted Mor­ton, a for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter and lead­er­ship con­tender, was the ar­chi­tect of Al­berta’s Land Use Frame­work more than 10 years ago. Mor­ton wisely rec­og­nized that there is room for all types of land uses but that they can­not all oc­cur in the same place. His plan was to iden­tify the most ap­pro­pri­ate land uses for each dif­fer­ent re­gion of the prov­ince.It was the for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment that ini­ti­ated land-use plan­ning in the North Saskatchewan Re­gion in 2014. The cab­i­net ap­pointed 25 mem­bers to a re­gional ad­vi­sory coun­cil (RAC), and asked them to gather in­put and pro­vide ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment for land-use plan­ning, in­clud­ing new pro­tected ar­eas.This RAC in­cluded the reeves of Clear­wa­ter and Beaver coun­ties, a coun­cil­lor from the County of Ver­mil­ion River, the gen­eral man­ager of de­vel­op­ment ser­vices for Park­land County, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Coal As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada, a forester, a rancher, a farmer, a real es­tate de­vel­oper, em­ploy­ees of Tal­is­man and Cana­dian Nat­u­ral Re­sources Ltd. and a se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of Ep­cor Util­i­ties.In other words, the coun­cil was not pop­u­lated with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, city dwellers, or those out of touch with the lo­cal in­ter­ests and econ­omy. The RAC spent four years and held 21 open houses in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. It held work­shops and so­licited on­line work­books. Only then did the coun­cil pro­vide 69 rec­om­men­da­tions to the provin­cial gov­ern­ment in March 2018. The cur­rent gov­ern­ment then ob­tained more pub­lic in­put.Those rec­om­men­da­tions were mostly ac­cepted by the cur­rent gov­ern­ment with re­spect to new pro­tected ar­eas. In fact, 87 per cent of the new provin­cial wild­land park and provin­cial parks pro­posed for Bighorn Coun­try were iden­ti­fied by the RAC as ar­eas to be pro­tected. These facts con­tra­dict the in­for­ma­tion that is be­ing cir­cu­lated by op­po­nents to Bighorn.The pro­tec­tion and proper management of our spec­tac­u­lar prov­ince should not be a par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal is­sue. As Al­ber­tans, we have a shared in­ter­est and re­spon­si­bil­ity in prop­erly pro­tect­ing and manag­ing our pre­cious land­scapes.Re­sults of a sur­vey con­ducted in Jan­uary by the Ed­mon­ton mar­ket and so­cial re­search firm Ad­va­nis in­di­cate that 73 per cent of Al­ber­tans sup­port the gov­ern­ment’s plan to pro­tect the Bighorn re­gion, while only 16 per cent op­pose the pro­posal. This wide­spread sup­port comes from across the prov­ince and across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. The ma­jor­ity of de­cided vot­ers in this poll sup­port the pro­posal, re­gard­less of their pre­ferred po­lit­i­cal party.I am proud to have called Al­berta home for the past 25 years. My wife and I have raised our four chil­dren here. We have ben­e­fited from strong eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, and even more from the nat­u­ral beauty of our prov­ince.This is what dis­tin­guishes Al­berta from other places.It is time to end the par­ti­san bick­er­ing, to en­gage in re­spect­ful dia­logue and to act civilly. It is also time to take the nec­es­sary steps to cre­ate new pro­tected ar­eas in Bighorn Coun­try.This will cre­ate a legacy to be en­joyed and trea­sured by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of Al­ber­tans, just like Kananaskis Coun­try.Let the gov­ern­ment know that you agree.The pro­tec­tion and proper management of our spec­tac­u­lar prov­ince should not be a par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal is­sue. As Al­ber­tans, we have a shared in­ter­est and re­spon­si­bil­ity in prop­erly pro­tect­ing and manag­ing our pre­cious land­scapes. Phil Nyky­foruk

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