South Saskatchewan plan still leaves conservation groups anxious

The public input period into Alberta’s draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) closed January 15 with conservation groups still anxious about the likelihood of changes they would like to see in the plan.

The draft SSRP was released October 10 2013 and allowed just under 100 days for the public and interest groups such as the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative — an organization that connects conservation groups based in Canada and the U.S. — to voice their concerns.

Conservationists are unhappy with what they believe is the draft’s failure to fully protect water sources and biodiversity in southern Alberta.

For example Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) conservation specialist Brittany Verbeek points out the SSRP does not legislate grassland protection from industry despite the fact that grasslands are “home to the majority of flora and fauna that is at risk in our province.”

Yellowstone to Yukon which counts AWA as a partner wants the final plan to include stronger protections for forests and headwaters better land conflict resolution tools a designation for the Castle-Crown area as a 1040 square-kilometre protected wildland park and the creation of land-use designations that protect wildlife corridors.

The provincial government began developing the SSRP in 2009 through multiple public and stakeholder engagement meetings. It includes management plans for air quality surface water quality and land use for the entire width of the province from roughly south of Airdrie to the Canada-U.S. border. The area is currently home to 1.6 million Albertans.