Call of the wild

August 9, 2013

Nick Kuhl

Lethbridge Herald

[email protected]

When the Alberta government finally releases the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) later this year, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern Alberta chapter (CPAWS) hopes they take inspiration from other provinces on the forefront of land-use planning and environmental protection.

The Nova Scotia government announced last week that it will immediately raise the current level of land protection to 13 per cent, up from 9.4 per cent, then up to nearly 14 per cent as new protected sites are added in the next several years.

Although protected areas cover 12.4 per cent of Alberta’s land base, only 4.2 per cent is protected as provincial protected areas and the remaining 8.2 per cent is in long-established national parks – collectively below internationally accepted targets for conservation of biodiversity.

“We’re not really keeping pace with other provinces,” said Katie Morrison, CPAWS’ conservation director for southern Alberta.

“Alberta has struggled internationally with its environmental record, and is falling behind other provinces when it comes to protected areas. I think it’s important to look at the other provinces and the steps and the progress that they’re making in planning and conservation areas.”

Taking leadership and taking those steps in Alberta should be a key component to the SSRP, Morrison says. Its first draft will be released this fall, then followed by further public consultations and revisions before the final plan is enacted.

“There are some really important sites in the grasslands, foothills and mountains of southern Alberta that we can legally protect under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan including the Castle Special Place,” Morrison said.

“Places like the Castle are very ecologically important; they’re socially important. It’s the headwaters of southern Alberta and so something like protection of the Castle in the SSRP would be a really great step towards not just meeting conservation targets, but really conserving and Alberta being an environmental leader in Canada. It’s time Alberta showed the kind of leadership we expect and take bold actions in conservation.”