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South Saskatchewan land-use plan under microscope

A new round of consultations on developing a land-use framework for the South Saskatchewan region made its Cochrane stop on Nov. 22 at the Cochrane RancheHouse.
Bob McMechan and Jennifer Janzen look over plans for a land-use framework for the South Saskatchewan region.
Bob McMechan and Jennifer Janzen look over plans for a land-use framework for the South Saskatchewan region.

A new round of consultations on developing a land-use framework for the South Saskatchewan region made its Cochrane stop on Nov. 22 at the Cochrane RancheHouse.

The stakeholder session was attended by 50 people — from such interest groups as the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association, those working in oil and gas and those with agricultural interests; it was followed by an evening public consult.

The Alberta government approved the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, for the Alberta oil sands region, in August; the South Saskatchewan region will be the second of the province’s seven regions to develop a land-use framework, which will essentially outline the next 50 years of development.

“Out of this process comes a draft plan...The feedback will inform the plan,” according to Duncan MacDonnell, spokesperson with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD).

“This will be the blueprint for how your area is going to develop over the next 50 years.”

MacDonnell said some of the issues of concern addressed at the Cochrane consult included debate over conservation management areas — single use versus multi-use; recreational tourism and how it interacts with mixed uses on the landscape; how to maintain water quantity and quality while meeting the needs of everyone; addressing areas where rural and urban meet (the encroachment of acreage development); and oil and gas issues were among the key concerns.

“People were genuinely interested in contributing to a discussion that will help shape what will happen in the area,” said MacDonnell, adding that once the consultations wrap up (by Dec. 6) the information gathered will then go to the 19-member South Saskatchewan regional advisory council, who will draft a land-use framework within the first half of 2013.

MacDonnell observed a lot of support in the room for agricultural concerns.

Following the draft, there will be another series of consultations to come up with a final plan, after which there will be a final series of stakeholder and public consultations.

Cochrane resident, Jennifer Janzen, was present at the stakeholder’s consult. Janzen is one of the developers for Alberta Tomorrow — an educational tool that uses technology and satellite imagery to simulate the future effects of human activities on Alberta's wildlife habitat, ecosystem services and natural resource production.

Janzen said she would like to see more awareness in the Cochrane community about the regional framework.

“I think everyday Albertans, unless they have a vested interest, aren’t familiar (with the land-use framework.”

Bob McMechan, a Calgary resident who works in oil and gas and is also an avid backcountry enthusiast, was also present at the stakeholder’s consult.

“I’d like to see a balance in the plan that eventually comes out of this,” said McMechan.

The South Saskatchewan region is the most populated of the seven Alberta regions, comprising about 12 per cent of Alberta’s land base, with 45 per cent of the population.

Learn more at landuse.alberta.ca.


Lindsay  Seewalt

About the Author: Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing.
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