Alberta Environment and Parks map

MLA Jason Nixon speaks on province’s Bighorn Country proposal

The MLA suggests more discussion is needed related to the proposal and its future

Discussion over what to do with the province’s West Country Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ, or Bighorn Country)over the land has opponents requesting more time for consultation.

That’s one of the key takeaways Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon has voiced. Ponoka News reached out to Nixon seeking a response to comments Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) Minister Shannon Phillips made during a recent telephone town hall.

For Nixon’s part, the big point that’s being missed is the need for consultation.

He suggests that municipalities in the west country are concerned that the proposal excludes their concerns. While he agrees something needs to be done in the area, the speed in which it’s being proposed may be too fast.

Read More: Alberta proposes $40 million investment into Bighorn Country over five years

PHOTOS: Ponoka News readers send in their Bighorn Country photos

The regional advisory council for the PLUZ, which is quite a big area, has been working on this for some years, but Nixon says municipalities want to be included. “Our communities want this process slowed down and we want to do this right.”

Another issue the MLA has heard is the question of the Provincial Parks Act legislation and how that would work in the PLUZ. One question is on the use of helicopters; Nixon says the Parks Act does not allow for helicopters use.

The AEP responded to questions from Ponoka News related to Nixon’s concerns. The province met with municipalities on Dec. 11. Councils with the Town of Rocky Mountain House, Clearwater County, the Village of Caroline and the Summer Village of Burnstick Lake spoke with the minister.

At Rocky Mountain House’s Jan. 15 meeting, council did discuss the proposal and voiced some need to look into what emergency services would look like if tourism increases, which is one goal of the proposal.

According to the AEP, if the PLUZ is approved, there would be no immediate changes, however, the province would establish a larger stakeholder process and that includes affected municipalities.

“In addition to leveraging the expertise and input of a steering committee (specific to the West Country PLUZ and planning areas within), the planning process would include another round of public consultation opportunities on specific priority projects and areas within the PLUZ itself.”

The province estimates the entire process will take five or more years to complete.

As for the Parks Act, the ministry states that the PLUZ is not governed by the Provincial Parks Act. The whole proposal is to better manage the area, states the email.

“In terms of the questions specific to the parks area of the proposal and impact on helicopter usage, there is a requirement for permits only for landing in a park. Our government is consulting on the proposal and is open to making changes to ensure businesses, including those involving helicopter flights, are well supported.”

Research into the Bighorn County shows that discussions have been ongoing for quite a few years. The current action is based on recommendations from a 116-page report by the North Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council.

Of note is the membership on this advisory council, which includes representation from the Clearwater County Reeve, EPCOR, ranchers and farmers in the area, as well as representation from First Nations represetnatives and planners.

One group advocating the need for the PLUZ is the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA), which has voiced concerns about the area’s watershed. The AWA has also issued a myths fact sheet to dispel some of the rumours related to the area.

“The natural and pristine resources of this region are priceless. From secure clean water, to vibrant healthy forests and wildlife that has room to roam Bighorn Country is long overdue,” states Joanna Skrajny, AWA conservation specialist in the release. “The plan looks very much like the area proposed and shown on road maps in 1986.”



jeff.heyden-kaye@ponokanews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Kenney talks pipelines with Trudeau after election win, calls it cordial

Almost a year ago Kenney dismissed Trudeau as a dilettante and a lightweight

Sylvan Lake Youth Services receives grant for mental health programming

The Alberta Health Services grant will be put towards running the Community Helpers Project

Sylvan Lake’s Leaders of Tomorrow awards get a new look

The Youth Sparks Awards will feature six award categories on May 31

Novice Sylvan Lake Buccaneers sail to home opener win

The novice Buccaneers played in a triple-header with the bantam and midget Buccaneers on April 12

Former Sylvan Lake resident receives humanitarian award

Humanitarian efforts see Sylvan Lake native recognized for long-term contributions

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

Person airlifted to hospital after avalanche in Yoho National Park has died

The man was among a party of three involved in an avalanche Saturday afternoon

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Parents say Austrian climber missing in Banff National Park ‘lived his dream’

David Lama, Hansjorg Auer and American climber Jess Roskelley have been missing since Wednesday

Six months after legalization, high prices and supply issues boost illicit pot market

It has been six months since Canada became the first industrialized country to legalize recreational cannabis

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Most Read