Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Province’s plan for Porcupine Hills/Livingstone Range well-received by group of rural Albertans

Porcupine Hills Coalition - A group of diverse stakeholders gathered in Lethbridge this Tuesday April 10 to express their excitement for recently released land plans for the Porcupine Hills and Livingstone regions. The Porcupine Hills Coalition formed to address concerns about land use and overuse of public lands in Southwest Alberta. Members joined together to congratulate the government on the release of the comprehensive Land Footprint Plan and Recreation Management plan drafts.
One member present was Carol Thibert, who has experience in ranching, recreation planning, hiking and skiing in the area. She said over the last few decades attitudes towards land use and recreation have taken a turn: “There is a tendency to believe that if no one stops us then what we’re doing is okay. But evidence in our headwaters indicates otherwise. Our activities are having a negative impact.” Both plans put sensible limits on linear disturbances, which have a serious impact on water quality, species diversity and vegetation.

Biologist Lorne Fitch, heralds the plan as a long awaited solution to a out of control situation: “The impact from motorized recreation on sensitive watersheds has been clearly documented. The snowball effect of negative impacts from motorized recreation are putting our environment and headwaters at risk.” said Fitch. The plans set limits on roads and trails based on scientific research that indicates levels at which sensitive species like grizzly bear and elk start to avoid habitat, and levels at which stream health and native fish starts to suffer. Currently existing roads and trails, exceed these thresholds by a factor of 4-5 times.“I am pleased to see the government has acknowledged the need for management, and thoroughly consulted with stakeholders to produce a plan that will balance vital environmental protections and important recreational traditions.” said Fitch.

Another local recreationist, Carol Ostrom, acknowledges that regulation of recreation on public lands will make some people feel uncomfortable, but says it is necessary to afford equal opportunities to all recreationists. “I have had 50 years of playing in the Crowsnest Hills with an unappreciated freedom. I know now that my use, like everyone else needs to be assessed and if need to be regulated.” The LFP and RMP draft plans were developed after a comprehensive and robust public consultation period. “Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or not, the government is planning for your public lands, your wildlife , your water source. You have an opportunity to have your say.” said Ostrom.

Due to restrictions on intense motorized recreation in sensitive areas, the plans are being met with opposition from the Off Highway Vehicle community, accounting for 6% of all Albertans (The Praxis Group, 2015). “The sensible management of our public lands, has been distorted into a controversial issue. We are here today to emphasize that Albertans of all walks of life support this plan for our critically important landscapes in Southern Alberta.” said Ted Smith, local landowner and rancher. “We are very happy that these plans have finally been drafted, and we ask all Albertans who support public input and reasonable environmental regulation to stand with us; stand with us as ranchers, landowners, recreationists, scientists, hunters, anglers, and as Southern Albertans and tell the government that they support these plans.”

The public comment period for feedback on the draft Land Footprint and Recreation Management Plans closes April 26th. The Porcupine Hills Coalition is encouraging everyone who supports the plans to give the government their feedback, through this survey (click here).

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