Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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"I BELIEVE in connected landscapes; so connected that my children can walk from one point to another."
Chris Bunting, Y2Y Supporter since 2007

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Protecting Alberta’s Headwaters

As the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan enters the home stretch, here's what you can still do to influence a plan that works.

The anniversary of southern Alberta’s June floods is only weeks away, and the final draft of southern Alberta’s land-use plan – a plan that could help alleviate the impacts of such events – will also soon be released.

There is no doubt that none of us wants to experience such floods again, but the question is, have policy makers maximized the opportunity this land-use plan presents to manage Alberta’s headwaters and better deal with future floods?

Excavator trying to reroute the water in an effort to save homes along the creek in Canmore, Alberta. Photo: Stephen Legault

The October 2013 version of the draft failed to resolve decades-old conflicts over forestry, off-highway vehicle use and oil and gas development on Alberta’s Eastern Slopes – all of which impact our headwaters.

For the last six months Y2Y has met with senior government officials, cabinet ministers and members of the legislature to discuss how the final plan can still be improved. There are indications from government that some changes will be incorporated, but other comments suggest it still falls short of our ideal situation. In short, we have made progress, BUT NOT ENOUGH.

PUTTING ON THE PRESSURE

With only weeks left, Y2Y is ramping up the pressure to inspire 11th hour improvements to the plan. In addition to focused meetings with government representatives, we are using media strategies to increase public pressure for more protected areas.

A good example is the story about a recent Y2Y-funded wolverine research project in southern Alberta: preliminary findings suggest the Castle Valley (which we’ve been pushing to have protected as a Wildland Park) is an important link that connects endangered U.S. populations to healthier groups of animals located in Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks. 

Keeping the connection between Canadian and U.S. wolverine populations is critical for their long-term survival. Photo: Steve Gnam

HOW YOU CAN HELP

But this plan impacts far more than the water we drink. It affects the places we play and the wildlife we treasure too.

We are asking all Albertans to help us put pressure on the government to do the right thing. Please contact your Member of the Legislative Assembly and ask them to ensure the land-use plan for southern Alberta is ratified to best manage our headwaters and our wildlife.

ONE DOWN. THREE TO GO.

The SSRP is only the first of four Alberta land-use plans that impact the headwaters found in the Yellowstone to Yukon region. The North Saskatchewan Regional Plan process has just begun, and the Upper Athabasca and Upper Peace regions have not yet started.

For each Y2Y is calling for the following four elements to help protect Alberta’s headwaters:

• Add more core protected areas from mountain peaks to valley bottoms.

• Increase connections between core protected areas including addressing the number of trails/roads used to access the backcountry for recreation and industry.

• Better manage forests to ensure they can fulfill their role of absorbing, filtering and releasing precipitation.

• Create a new Wildlife Corridor Land-Use Designation* that allows wildlife to move from one protected area to another.

Water is critical to all life, and influencing the outcomes of these land-use plans is part of Y2Y’s long-term plan to protect Alberta’s cherished headwater regions.

*The Wildlife Corridor Land-Use Designation is a proposed policy tool that would recognize the unique attributes of a wildlife corridor and would offer limited protection on specific aspects (like road densities) that support wildlife movement.