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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Diverse coalition of Albertans praises draft land use plans


Porcupine Hills Coalition - Drafts of two new land-use plans, released March 27 by the Government of Alberta, are being welcomed by a wide variety of stakeholders, from ranchers to recreationalists to conservation organizations. The plans stem from the 2014 South Saskatchewan Regional Plan which committed to the development of a Land Footprint Management Plan (LFMP) and Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. The region is located an hour and a half south of Calgary, along Highway 22, also known as the Cowboy Trail, and is considered some of the most iconic landscapes in southern Alberta.

The plans provide guidance for both industrial and recreational use of these important areas to ensure this landscape is protected and sustained into the future.

“The government has engaged and carried through on land-use planning in this area; we are pleased to see that years of effort by government and the public will finally provide for sustainability and long term benefits for all Albertans” says local landowner John Lawson, representative of the Porcupine Hills Coalition. “Demands for better stewardship of our public lands from many stakeholders have ramped up over the years. The extensive process of stakeholder consultation, ongoing since early 2015, has provided opportunities for diverse and meaningful input into the plans and there is now a public comment period on the draft plans until April 26, 2108. We applaud the government's work to ensure a broad range of interests were consulted and we hope that the draft plans will include clear thresholds, best-practice, and appropriate land-use.”

The Porcupine Hills Coalition, a grassroots, multi-stakeholder working group invested in the proper management of the area is encouraged by the release of the draft plans. Membership of this coalition is composed of approximately 70 individuals and organizations from many sectors and walks of life, and includes ranchers, landowners, municipalities, scientists, recreation groups, conservation organizations and others. These members have been working collaboratively for over three years to support the planning process and provide input into the plans.

“We are particularly encouraged to see that the draft Land Footprint Management Plan and Recreation Management Plan include science-based limits on the number of roads and trails allowed in the area. This is an important step to achieve headwaters protection, biodiversity maintenance, restoration of natural areas and responsible use of public lands by all users,” said Katie Morrison, Conservation Director with the Southern Alberta Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“The science is unequivocally clear on this issue,” says biologist Lorne Fitch “Roads and trails, whether motorized recreation trails, public roads or industry access have seriously detrimental effects on water quality, wildlife populations and vegetation quality and diversity. We need to make sure these are in the least sensitive places and within appropriate overall limits.
Albertans recognize that these landscapes are too important to let intense, unregulated, and harmful OHV use destroy them.”

Carol Ostrom, a long-term Crowsnest Pass resident who has been recreating on public lands for 50 years, is relieved to see the provincial government stepping up their stewardship role. “The dramatic increase in unregulated OHV traffic and random camping has left heavy damage where there was previously clean water, wildlife and silence. It's been difficult these last few years to go for a hike or a horseback ride on public lands and not be confronted with the noise and environmental destruction of OHVs.” Ostrom is hopeful that with these plans all interest groups will work together to ensure that the needs of all groups are addressed in an equitable manner which puts nature first and foremost.

The group points out that while the establishment of designated motorized trails in less sensitive areas is an important part of the plan, the Recreation Management Plan should manage for all types of recreation, including hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing, backpacking, horseback riding, scenic driving and trail-riding and vehicle-based camping.

Lawson states he is also optimistic about the direction the plans are heading in supporting the rights of local residents, ranchers and landowners “It is important that the LFMP and RMP respect and support existing sustainable grazing activities on public lands. I am also hopeful that these plans will make sure that quiet enjoyment of neighbouring private lands is respected.”

“This process and the resulting draft plans have been a step in the right direction, now we need the government to show us that there is a commitment to implement these plans in a timely manner” adds Ted Smith of the Livingstone Landowners Group. “This is a hopeful day for the future of public lands in southwest Alberta and all Albertans who love these landscapes.”



Click here to view the plans.


Fact Sheet 1: The Science of Roads and Trails

The forests of Southern Alberta provide water, sustain fish and wildlife and offer some of the province’s best opportunities for recreation and tourism. But pressures on our lands and resources are mounting. Good land-use planning ensures that our public lands are properly managed with and for Albertans. In 2014, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan authorized the development of a Land Footprint Management Plan (LFMP) and Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. These recently released plans are an important step in preserving our outdoor heritage and protecting Alberta’s headwaters now and for future generations.

What are the LFMP and RMP?

The Land Footprint Management Plan (LFMP) will manage the effects of roads and trails on headwaters and biodiversity values by placing science-based limits the number of roads and trails in these important regions. The Recreation Management Plan (RMP) will use the road and trail limits outlined in the LFMP to protect the important ecological values while enabling recreation opportunities for all Albertans through partnerships with users, stakeholders and governments.1

What is a linear footprint?

Linear footprints consist of the roads, railways, pipelines, seismic- exploration trails, transmission lines, and recreational trails.2  Decades of mismanagement have led to expanding linear footprints in Southwest Alberta, increasing damage to watersheds, wildlife, fish and ongoing user conflicts. Demands for better stewardship of our public lands from many stakeholders have intensified over the years in response to ongoing degradation. In the Eastern Slopes, recreational trails are by far the biggest linear disturbance.3  There are currently 4,053km of linear features in the Porcupine Hills/Livingstone with an average trail density of 2.28km/km2. This is almost 4 times the threshold to support many sensitive species.4  Better management is required to provide consistent and clear direction for managers and users.

How do linear features affect the environment?

The ecological impacts of linear features, trails, and roads on soil and vegetation are well-documented. They include increased rates of soil erosion and compaction, destruction, and loss of vegetation cover, loss of species richness, shifts in species composition, disturbance to wildlife and habitat fragmentation. The recovery of native vegetation after damage resulting from linear features can be slow or nonexistent.5

Currently roads and trails cross watercourses 3,990 times in the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. The highest trail densities are in the Crowsnest Watershed, Dutch Creek and Beaver Creek.6  Multiple creek crossings exacerbate erosion and sedimentation input; increasing drainage density and adding to flooding in headwater streams. Threatened aquatic species are also affected; Bull trout are 50% less likely to be found where road density was greater than 0.4 km/km2.7  In the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone the linear density is over 5 times greater than this threshold.8

Linear features also allow increased human access to remote areas, which increases pressures on wildlife. Human caused mortality is the leading cause of death in grizzly bears in North America, these deaths consistently occur in close proximity to linear features. “Most human-caused grizzly bear mortalities in Alberta and British Columbia are less than 500 metres from a road, or within 200 metres of a trail.” Reducing linear features and disruptive recreational access is positive for grizzly recovery.9

Linear disturbances are also directly linked to increased probability of wildfire and associated losses, a growing concern across Alberta: “Increased access (e.g., road density) into forested areas often increases levels of successful, accidental (e.g., campfires and debris burning), or deliberate (i.e., arson) fire ignition.”10  Responsibly managing linear densities is positive for public safety, environmental effects and wildlife health and species richness.

Fact Sheet 2: Motorized Recreation and Trails

The forests of Southern Alberta provide water, sustain fish and wildlife and offer some of the province’s best opportunities for recreation and tourism. But pressures on our lands and resources are mounting. Good land-use planning ensures that our public lands are properly managed with and for Albertans. In 2014, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan authorized the development of a Land Footprint Management Plan (LFMP) and Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. These recently released plans are an important step in preserving our outdoor heritage and protecting Alberta’s headwaters now and for future generations.

How does motorized recreation affect our land and water?

Motorized recreation has the highest impact of any non-industrial activity on the landscape.1 The impacts of trails and Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use on Alberta’s lands and waters are serious and long-lasting. The science is clear that trails and motorized recreation are not compatible with protection of water, wildlife and fish.

In areas with high motorized recreational use, trails change the overall water system of the area by changing where the water flows and increasing sediment in streams.2  Dirtier water from this sediment, threatens the clean waters that flow to our downstream communities. Fish and wildlife that live in and depend on our waters are also affected; for example, bull trout are particularly vulnerable to increased stream sedimentation caused by the physical disturbance of stream crossings. Bull trout are 50% less likely to be found in streams where the surrounding upland road density was greater than 0.4 km/km2. In the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone the linear density is over 5 times greater than this threshold.3

Impacts from OHV use can be severe and long-lasting in sensitive areas. The mere presence of OHV (activity) is a greater determinant of the degree of associated negative environmental effects than varying levels of OHV use. Damage to land and water as a result of motorized use compounds to cause further degradation. Studies have found that reduced volume of OHV use has little mitigating effect on the negative environmental consequences.4

How does motorized recreation affect Albertans?

The majority of Albertans participate in non-motorized recreation.  89% of South Saskatchewan residents prefer non-motorized to motorized recreation on public lands. Only 6% of ALL Albertans participate in summer OHV use, and only 2% of South Saskatchewan residents.5

While all recreational uses need to be managed responsibly, the damage caused by unregulated motorized recreational use is far greater than any other recreational activities: “OHV use across all seasons causes a disproportionate level of impact and damage compared to non-motorized recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, and horse riding.”6  The damage excessive OHV use causes affects the ability of other Albertans to sustainably and responsibly recreate.

Motorized recreation often displaces other recreationalists from the landscape.7  OHV use is consumptive and the noise and disruption pre-empts and drives out activities that are quieter, less consumptive and contemplative.8 Because of this displacement, OHV use shrinks the amount of land available to other recreational users, in effect creating an exclusive use. The Recreation Management Plan and sound planning should ensure large and intact quiet areas be established to maintain wildlife populations, encourage use for non

The noise and disturbance of motorized recreation also affects nearby residents and landowners who value the peace and quiet of the rural lifestyle. Noise emissions from OHVs can exceed 100 dB, roughly equivalent to a nearby jackhammer or helicopter, or comparable to 16 times normal conversation, 32 times typical urban residential subdivisions, and over 100 times quiet rural neighbourhoods.9  Noise levels are also additive, increasing with each additional machine; noise from four machines at these levels will typically travel to as far as 5 miles in any direction before reducing to normal ambient levels in the area. In Alberta, noise disturbance from industrial activity is highly regulated. Noise levels are generally required to be below 40 dB nighttime and below 50 dB daytime to protect landowner’s rights to a quiet environment, those standards still being significantly higher than normal ambient levels. 10

How is motorized recreation regulated on public lands?

Currently in the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions there is no Public Land Use Zone or designated trail system. Existing motorized trails are ad-hoc trails created by default rather than design.11 Camping is similarly random and unmanaged and uncontrolled. In contrast, other activities on public land in Southern Alberta are subject to regulatory land use oversight.

Ranchers require grazing permits and leases. Forestry companies require Forest Management Agreements. Industrial development requires impact assessments and operational permitting for each location.  Hunters and anglers require licenses.  Outfitters and hunting guides require permits. Approvals for all of these activities are issued with specific limits, seasons, and other conditions. These stakeholders are held accountable for their treatment of the Southern Eastern Slopes.  OHV activities have consequences for all Albertans, but as a major impactful land-use, they have been uniquely exempted from regulatory requirements and accountability. It is reasonable to expect motorized trails and recreation to be an accountable land-use.

Fact Sheet 3: The Land Use Planning Process

The forests of Southern Alberta provide water, sustain fish and wildlife and offer some of the province’s best opportunities for recreation and tourism. But pressures on our lands and resources are mounting. Good land-use planning ensures that our public lands are properly managed with and for Albertans. In 2014, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan authorized the development of a Land Footprint Management Plan (LFMP) and Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. These recently released plans are an important step in preserving our outdoor heritage and protecting Alberta’s headwaters now and for future generations.

Who initiates land use planning (and why)?

Land use planning is a way to ensure that Alberta’s public lands are effectively managed with and for all Albertans. Alberta’s Land-Use Framework was introduced in 2008 to establish “a provincial vision of Albertans working together to respect and care for the land as a foundation for our environmental, economic and social well-being.” 1  As part of this process, in 2014 the Progressive Conservative government released the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP).

“Regional plans, developed with the input and feedback from Albertans, establish a long-term vision for the region, set the desired economic, environmental and social outcomes and objectives for the region using a cumulative effects management approach, and align provincial policy at the regional level to balance Alberta’s outcomes.” 2  Regional plans such as the SSRP, authorize the development of sub-regional plans such as the Land Footprint Management Plan(LFMP) and Recreation Management Plan (RMP).

Who had input into these plans?

Public consultation for the planning of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan began under the previous government in 2010. Since the release of the SSRP, there have been dozens of meetings between stakeholders and Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) on the development of the LFMP and RMP. Recreational users in the Porcupine Hills were surveyed by AEP in summer 2015 and multiple public information sessions and stakeholder consultations have occurred in Blairmore, Chain Lakes, Calgary, Pincher Creek and Lethbridge.3

Stakeholders of all types, including motorized recreationists, were involved in providing input and feedback into the drafting of these plans. Groups and individuals had numerous opportunities to consult on drafts and give input on the Linear Footprint Plan and the Recreation Management Plan for Porcupine Hills and the Livingstone Range.  Two additional public information open-houses were held in Pincher Creek and Ranchlands in early 2017.4

In 2017 the government created the Southwest Alberta Recreation Advisory Group to advise on the creation of the plans. The Southern Advisory Regional Group was composed of: municipalities, landowners, ranching community, the Blackfoot Confederacy, winter and summer Off-Highway Vehicle groups, winter and summer non-motorized recreationists, equestrian, fish and game organizations, guides and outfitters, non-government organizations and industry. All stakeholder groups were represented and had proportionate input into the plans; participants were also encouraged to consult with and bring forward views of their respective sectors. This group met with Alberta Environment and Parks five times over several months to provide input into the important recreational value of the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone and comment on recreational trails for the region.  Stakeholder of many types including, hunters, outfitters, ranchers, anglers, and outdoor recreationists all supported this planning process for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone Range.5

Fact Sheet 4: What do Southern Albertans Value?

The forests of Southern Alberta provide water, sustain fish and wildlife and offer some of the province’s best opportunities for recreation and tourism. But pressures on our lands and resources are mounting. Good land-use planning ensures that our public lands are properly managed with and for Albertans. In 2014, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan authorized the development of a Land Footprint Management Plan (LFMP) and Recreation Management Plan (RMP) for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. These recently released plans are an important step in preserving our outdoor heritage and protecting Alberta’s headwaters now and for future generations.

What do Southern Albertans Value?
There have been numerous studies on what Albertans value in our communities and outdoor experiences.1   Some of the most commonly shared values and services that respondents of these studies felt that southwest Alberta provides are:
• headwaters,
• wildlife and fish habitat,
• aesthetics,
• agriculture and ranching,
• low-impact recreation, and
• public involvement and consultation in forest management

For example, the two most supported uses for public lands in the Municipal District (MD) of Pincher Creek were enforcing appropriate use of public lands and setting aside land in an undisturbed state for habitat protection.2

Residents said the best parts about living in the Municipal District of Pincher Creek were: The beautiful scenery, friendly people/community-minded, the peaceful, quiet rural lifestyle and agriculture.3

Residents of Southwest Alberta rated the following values their highest priorities: Protecting the natural environment, conserving and protecting water resources, practicing sustainable agriculture, and maintaining natural wildlife and fish populations.4

They also rated the following environmental values most highly: maintaining healthy and fully functioning ecosystems; conserving ecological diversity; sustaining wildlife habitat; saving native fescues and grasslands; maintaining the productivity and viability of the land; and protecting water resources.5

Albertans across the province also value these areas to connect with our amazing landscapes. 76% of all Albertans participate in some form of outdoor recreation. 94% of all adult Albertans believe that wilderness areas are important because they help to preserve plant and animal species. Additionally, 89% of South Saskatchewan residents prefer non- motorized to motorized recreation on public lands. Only 6% of all Albertans participate in summer off-highway vehicle use.6

How does land-use planning uphold these values?

Land footprint and recreation management planning will ensure that all Albertans can sustainably participate in recreation for generations. “Regional plans … establish a long-term vision for the region, set the desired economic, environmental and social outcomes and objectives for the region using a cumulative effects management approach, and align provincial policy at the regional level to balance Alberta’s outcomes.” 7 These plans have been developed with Albertans, for Albertans and will ensure the future of sustainable land-use in our province.

~

Fact Sheet 1: The Science of Roads and Trails. References

  1. Heather Sinton and Rob Simieritsch. Porcupine Hills Recreation Management Plan Development, Alberta Environment and Parks. 2016.
  2. Dan Farr, Andrew Braid, Arnold Janz, Brett Sarchuk, Simon Slater, Agnieszka Sztaba, David Barrett, Gordon Stenhouse, Andrea Morehouse, Matthew Wheatley. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. Government of Alberta, Environmental Monitoring and Science Division. 2017.
  3. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. 2017.
  4. Ryan van der Marel. Update on Land Footprint Management Planning Livingstone-Porcupine Hills. Alberta Environment and Parks. 2016.
  5. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. 2017.
  6. Update on Land Footprint Management Planning. 2016.
  7. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. 2017.
  8. Update on Land Footprint Planning. 2016.
  9. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. 2017.
  10. Cardille, J.A., Ventura, S.J., Turner, M.G .Environmental and social factors influencing wildfires in the Upper Midwest, United States. Ecological applications. 2001.

Prestemon, J.P., Pye, J.M., Butry, D.T., Holmes, T.P., Mercer, D.E. Understanding broadscale wildfire risks in a human-dominated landscape. Forest Science. 2002.

Guyette, R.P., Spetich, M.A. Fire history of oak-pine forests in the Lower Boston Mountains, Arkansas, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 2003.

In Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. 2017.

Fact Sheet 2: Motorized Recreation and Trails. References

  1. Dan Farr, Andrew Braid, Arnold Janz, Brett Sarchuk, Simon Slater, Agnieszka Sztaba, David Barrett, Gordon Stenhouse, Andrea Morehouse, Matthew Wheatley. Ecological Response toHuman Activities in Southwestern Alberta: Scientific Assessment and Synthesis. Government of Alberta, Environmental Monitoring and Science Division. 2017.
  2. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta. 2017.
  3. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta. 2017.
  4. Crisfield, V., MacDonald, S., Gould, A. Effects of recreational traffic on alpine plant communities in the northern Canadian Rockies. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 2012. van Vierssen Trip, N, Wiersma, Y.F. A comparison of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail impacts on boreal habitats across scales. Natural Areas Journal. 2015. In Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta. 2017.
  5. Praxis Group. Albertans’ Values and Attitudes toward Recreation and Wilderness. Prepared for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern and Northern Alberta chapters. 2015.
  6. Ecological Response to Human Activities in Southwestern Alberta. 2017.
  7.  Webb, R and H.G. Wiltshire, Editors. Springer-Verlag Publishers. Environmental Effects of Off-Highway Vehicles. W.J. Knockelman, ‘Management Concepts.’ 1983.
  8. Kil, N., Holland, S.M. and Stein, T.V. Identifying differences between off-highway vehicle (OHV) and non-OHV user groups for recreation resource planning. Environmental Management. 2012.  Ouren et al., Environmental Effects of Off-Highway Vehicles on Bureau of Land Management Lands: A Literature Synthesis, Annotated Bibliographies, Extensive Bibliographies, and Internet Resources. 2007.
  9. Ouren et al., Environmental Effects of Off-Highway Vehicles on Bureau of Land Management Lands: A Literature Synthesis, Annotated Bibliographies, Extensive Bibliographies, and Internet Resources. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica, The Decibel Scale. 2018. Webb, Chris. OHV Noise Issues Are You Next? Motorcycle USA. 2005.
  10. Alberta Energy Regulator. Directive 038: Noise Control. 2007.
  11. Heather Sinton and Rob Simieritsch. Porcupine Hills Recreation Management Plan Development, Alberta Environment and Parks. 2016.

Fact Sheet 3: The Land Use Planning Process. References

  1. Alberta Environment and Parks, Land-Use Planning Progress Report, 2014.
  2. Alberta Environment and Parks, Land-Use Planning Progress Report, 2014.
  3. Engagement Summary, Livingstone-Porcupine Hills Land Footprint Management Plan & Porcupine Hills Recreation Management Plan. Alberta Environment and Parks. 2016.
  4. Engagement Summary. 2016.
  5. Southern Advisory Regional Group. Planning it Right, Albertans Collaborate on Public Lands Stewardship. 2017.

Fact Sheet 4: What do Southern Albertans Value. References

  1. Government of Alberta. South Saskatchewan Regional Plan Workbook Results. Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. 2010. Southern Foothills Community Stewardship Initiative (SFCSI). Values and Voices: Stewardship Priorities for the Southern Alberta Foothills. Report of the Southern Foothills Community Stewardship Initiative. 2011. Southern Foothills Study (SFS). The Changing Landscape of the Southern Alberta Foothills: Report of the Southern Foothills Study Business as Usual Scenario and Public Survey. 2007. The Miistakis Institute. MD Ranchland – Community & Conservation Values Mapping Project – Phase III Report. Prepared for Municipal District of Ranchland No.66. 2011.  Water Matters Society of Alberta. Source to Tap: Community Conversations on Headwaters Health and Stewardship in the Oldman River Basin: Summary of Community Dialogues. Prepared for the Oldman Watershed Council. 2013.
  2. Praxis Group. Community Values Assessment for the M.D. of Pincher Creek No. 9. For: The Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative and Municipal District of Pincher Creek. 2012.
  3. Community Values Assessment. 2012.
  4. Community Values Assessment. 2012.
  5. Community Values Assessment. 2012.
  6. Praxis Group. Albertans’ Values and Attitudes toward Recreation and Wilderness. Prepared for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Southern and Northern Alberta chapters. 2015.
  7. Alberta Environment and Parks. Land-Use Planning Progress Report. 2014.

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