SSRP: Devil or Divine?

The long-awaited South Saskatchewan Regional Plan was released today and comes into effect September 1st. Many people are asking: What is OWC’s position on it?
Well, since we do not take "positions" (or "sides"), the answer may not be black and white enough for you, but here are some of my initial thoughts:
There are many positive steps forward in the headwaters (Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains that provide 90% of our water downstream). Several Recreation Management Plans will be completed by 2015/16; a Linear Footprint Management Plan for Livingstone/Porcupine Hills will be completed by 2015; and, outreach officers will be hired to talk to people about decreasing their environmental footprint.
Castle Provincial Wildland Park is bigger than in the draft and will protect some valleys, but is not as large as some people wanted. It’s only about half the size as the originally proposed park from the 1990s.
It’s still unclear what the priority is and what will take precedence where – there still seems to be a “we can have it all” mentality. How will the goal to increase tourism and recreation mesh with the plans listed above? Is it possible to have a booming tourism and recreation economy, a thriving forestry sector, access for oil and gas, etc….all while still protecting our water, wildlife and health?
Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) are in the plan several times as an important partner – a good sign for OWC, since we are one of them! We are a partner with the Government of Alberta and intend to continue working closely with them to implement some parts of the SSRP.
 Paper plans do not keep water clean.
A biodiversity management framework will be in place by the end of 2015, and this will be a really good thing, because it should set real goals and limits. This is the only way to manage many different uses on one area of land.
The wording around reducing fragmentation of agricultural land is weak.  Wording like “promote” and “encourage” developers, municipalities, industry, etc. to use good practices or follow certain guidelines asks for voluntary compliance but may not lead to any real change.
The Pekisko Heritage Rangeland protects a large area of native grassland, a good thing considering only 24% remains in the province. An additional chunk of Green Area has also been added as a Special Management Area right next to it, which would be a good thing to manage intense use.
Overall, we know the devil will be in the details of implementation and regulation. This plan is still very high level, as you would expect from a regional plan at this scale. It’s not going to solve all our environmental challenges but it is a few steps in the right direction.
The critical piece is to implement it carefully, based on science and community input.
I choose to remain positive about it and help put the positive pieces from it on the ground. OWC will be working closely with the Government of Alberta to make a real difference for our watershed and we invite you to get involved. Please make a donation today! Thank you for demonstrating your commitment to a healthy watershed!
OWC Executive Director