October 10, 2013 11:43 pm
Updated: October 11, 2013 6:44 pm

Conservationists critical of South Saskatchewan Regional Plan draft

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The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is not receiving a warm initial reaction from environmental groups.

The document was unveiled in Calgary Thursday by the Honorably Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Diana McQueen.

She says the draft guides southern Alberta’s future development, recreation and environment decisions.

“Albertans want, and we talk on many different areas, they want to have it all.  We’re very lucky in this province we can have it all,” she told reporters.

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Many groups including Wendy Francis with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative says the plan doesn’t go far enough to ensure sensitive areas, such as the Castle Wilderness, are protected.

“All we see is a few additions to a few provincial parks.  Really no new protection for the Castle.  I don’t see significant changes for the eastern slopes,” she adds.

The draft plans to turn 44, 000 hectares of land in the Castle region into a Wildland Provincial Park to water security and biodiversity.

According to Katie Morrison with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society,  the plan only protects roughly half of the region’s land.

Lower elevation areas will be categorized as “Special Conservation Areas” and will continue to see forestry projects

“They say by protecting the rocks and ice they’ll be protecting the headwaters but they are failing to protect the streams and river flow, and clean water that run to our communities,” Morrison says.

The province is reminding citizens the draft isn’t set in stone and they encourage feedback for the finalized plan.

“It’s never easy when everybody wants something different.  What we’re trying to do is hear everyone’s voices and I think this plan in that area reflects that,” Minister McQueen says.

You can give provide feedback to the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan draft  through community sessions in the Crowsnest Pass and Taber, or through an online workshop you can access by clicking here https://www.banister.ab.ca/ssrpphase3/

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