Friday, November 23, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Marketing Alberta's vanishing heritage landscapes

David McIntyre, Letter to the Editor

Travel Alberta recently hosted a tourism marketing meeting at Pincher Creek's Heritage Inn. On the opposite side of the divided room, the Government of Alberta hosted a stakeholder session in an attempt to, among other goals, save from further degradation the product Travel Alberta is marketing. On the table was this: the future of the South Saskatchewan Watershed.

The irony: that the two groups—one created to sell Alberta's landscape virtues, the other formed to prevent ongoing landscape abuses from destroying the marketed product—should meet on the same day, at the same time, in the same room, in the same community. The only thing that divided the two groups: a thin, collapsable wall.

It's telling that the Gov. of Alberta knows rampant and overlapping uses are consuming priceless heritage headwaters virtues. What isn't clear is the government's resolve to protect the landscapes that are being needlessly destroyed by wanton abuses and a litany of degrading cumulative effects.

As the province struggles to stop entrenched problems, its leaders recognize that the game plan, to be successful, must address a future in which six million people will call this province home.

Here in southwestern Alberta, we're fortunate to look out at the priceless Crown of the Continent landscape, as the geotourism authors of Pathways to Prosperity did when they—on the opposite side of the room-dividing wall—wrote this:
Our natural amenities and small-town character are every bit as critical to our economic future as are our roads, hospitals, schools and airports. As with all types of infrastructure, this Rocky Mountain setting requires care, attention and investment. To fully capitalize on our exceptional lifestyle means maintaining and enhancing these invaluable assets—ensuring that our wild lands stay wild, our rivers flow clean, and our communities sustain their traditional roots even as we move into a new economy. This is not a matter of implementing expensive economic development programs—this is simply safeguarding and leveraging the unique wealth we have inherited.
Could the authors of these Crown of the Continent words have given the Government of Alberta a stronger vision, a purer ideal? Is there a more powerful representation of what an investment in natural capital represents to southwestern Alberta's world-class, drop-dead-gorgeous views and the economic future of the South Saskatchewan Watershed? I don't think so.

David McIntyre

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