Calgary Herald

Albertans want more wilderness protected: survey

- COLETTE DERWORIZ cderworiz@ calgaryher­ald. com twitter. com/ cderworiz

It’s clear Albertans love the great outdoors, but a new survey shows just how much.

The survey, conducted by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, suggests 76 per cent of adult Albertans regularly participat­e in outdoor recreation and an even higher percentage — 88 per cent — would like to see more wilderness set aside as protected areas.

“We knew Albertans really identify with the outdoors,” said Katie Morrison, conservati­on director with the southern Alberta chapter of CPAWS.

Almost everyone surveyed — 94 per cent — believe wilderness areas are important because they help preserve plant and animal species, while 83 per cent would like to see those areas left in their natural condition.

In addition, 86 per cent of Albertans would prioritize non- motorized recreation in wilderness areas.

The survey comes after the province has committed to protecting the Castle wilderness area in southern Alberta as two provincial parks and as it continues to update its land- use and recreation planning strategies across the province.

Alberta Environmen­t and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips wasn’t available for an interview on Wednesday.

Experts said the survey sends an important message as the province looks to diversify.

“It’s a little bit of a wake- up call with respect to two areas,” said Joe Pavelka, associate professor of applied ecotourism and outdoor leadership at Mount Royal University. “The first area is economic diversific­ation. We are sitting in a rather remarkable spot with enormous potential, but we’ve always been overshadow­ed as many other sectors have been.

“We have an opportunit­y now to take the idea of economic diversific­ation seriously and treat it seriously.”

The study, he said, would be a good start when looking at recreation and tourism in Alberta.

Pavelka said the other opportunit­y is the fact 60 per cent of the tourism is local.

“We have a very active group that gets out and does a whole bunch of things,” he said, noting the Alberta Rockies is one of the strongest areas of tourism — even with the economic downturn.

Morrison said they hope the survey will help guide the province’s processes with strong data.

“There wasn’t much informatio­n about what Albertans are doing and what their values of that landscape are,” she said. “This kind of informatio­n can be used by government­s, land- use planners, municipali­ties, recreation groups, conservati­on groups, the public — anyone who cares about recreation on Alberta’s landscapes — in helping make landuse decisions across the province.”

It surveyed 1,300 people across the province between April 27 and May 5, 2015. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.71 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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