By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 20, 2020.
Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks
There have been a number of false claims and misinformation circulating about the Alberta government’s commitment to conservation recently. Albertans can and should have a debate on government policies, but that debate ought to be based on truth.
For example, I recently saw an opinion piece in a major daily newspaper suggesting that government is somehow failing to protect our natural landscapes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
From day one, Alberta’s government has undertaken significant conservation work to protect Alberta’s land, water and air. This includes responsible Crown land management and supporting stewardship initiatives on private lands. Here’s some facts: roughly 147,000 acres have been conserved through the land trust grant program.
And $7 million has been allocated for the 2019-21 Watershed Resiliency Restoration Program, which helps communities prepare for and rebuild after flooding. That’s on top of the $43 million we are spending to improve our parks. We’re also working with our Indigenous partners and job creators on restoration of caribou habitat and water crossings.
All of this is on top of the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction regulation, something that is already helping large emitters reduce their impact on the environment.
Protecting the riparian areas in the Eastern Slopes is another important priority – these are important headwaters for all Albertans and home to many important fish species, including our native trout. We’re working with and funding conservation groups such as Cows and Fish, who work to protect this key habitat. There is no question that Alberta’s government is committed to protecting ecologically sensitive areas across our province.
There is also misinformation about the changes to some definitions for our protected lands. What was once called “category 1” land will continue to be protected from development, including coal leasing and exploration, full stop. We will continue to protect critical watersheds, biodiversity, species at risk, as well as recreation and tourism activities along the Eastern Slopes.
As minister, and an avid outdoorsman, I am committed to helping protect and conserve Alberta’s public lands. These lands belong to Albertans. They’re for everyone to enjoy, safely and responsibly.
That’s why our policies and regulatory processes will guide the same kind of metallurgical coal development that we see in British Columbia, while protecting Alberta’s important environmental and recreational areas.
Alberta’s government is taking strong, co-ordinated action to keep our province’s backyard beautiful and accessible to all.
Due to the pandemic, most Albertans are enjoying staycations this summer. This is true in jurisdictions around the world, and Albertans are taking advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us.
And who can blame them! But, we need folks to treat the slopes like their own backyards and be responsible stewards of these lands.
Sadly, not everyone acts responsibly. That’s why I took action on July 31 to get more Fish and Wildlife officers on the ground to make sure folks are following the rules, and not leaving a mess behind. We’re also working with RCMP and other first responders to support the increase in visitors and launched a social media campaign educating Albertans on how to better respect the land. On the Eastern Slopes, specifically, we’ve added more garbage bins at 11 major entrances and more portable washrooms along the Highway 11 corridor.
We’re already seeing results. Most Albertans are doing their part and respecting the land. We will continue share information about responsible behaviour on Alberta’s public land. Albertans can rest assured that our government is committed to protecting what makes Alberta the greatest place in the world – our picturesque slopes, our irreplaceable environmental beauty, and park sites. Albertans should always engage in conversations about how to best do that, but let’s make sure that conversation is based in reality.