Alberta’s Crown Land Vision released, but groups call for more clarity
December 1, 2020
Last week the Government of Alberta released “Alberta’s Crown Land Vision”. The Alberta Crown Land Vision appears to be a precursor to changes in two key areas of legislation: updating parks and public land legislation, and introducing new recreation legislation (Alberta Trails Act) focused on the creation of a recreation user-based fee framework.
While there is little detail in the Vision, CPAWS Southern and Northern Alberta appreciate that it recognizes that there are areas of Crown land where “conservation will be the top priority.” However, the Vision also seems to indicate that the government intends to change parks legislation, which, if not done carefully, could weaken our parks system. Strong, dedicated parks legislation is an essential part of safeguarding our protected areas over the long term, and meeting international protected area standards that Alberta has committed to.
We look forward to clarity on the Alberta Crown Land Vision and confirmation that it will increase protected areas in the province, maintain strong legislated protections for our parks system, and strengthen conservation of unprotected public lands.
Besides the introduction of user fees, details of changes to recreation management are also unclear. Outdoor recreation plays an important role in our quality of life and is a key aspect to economic diversification and public land management. Wholistic recreation management is needed to ensure a high quality recreation experience for all Albertans while maintaining and improving conservation of our lands and waters. We hope that a Trails Act will include comprehensive planning and management approaches, not just a focus on fees and infrastructure.
There is a need to develop increased and sustained funding for recreation, conservation and land management, and for investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure to support healthy communities and healthy economies. Funding mechanisms should not rely solely on a user-pay model. Our public lands and waters contribute to our quality of life; they provide shared value and should be a shared cost. Additional fees could hinder the ability for Albertans to enjoy these areas, particularly while Albertans are already struggling through the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, and are turning to the outdoors to maintain or improve their physical and mental health.
It is also important to acknowledge that some types of recreation have a heavy impact on recreational and conservation values, and present high environmental and economic costs to the public. We look forward to engagement on creative funding models to support trail management and conservation initiatives in the province. As such, funds generated should be directed towards sustainable trail planning and management, environmental restoration, and conservation initiatives, not just the expansion of trail networks in the absence of comprehensive recreation plans.
We strongly recommend a strategy to ensure any funding mechanism is not a hindrance to low-income Albertans and respects Indigenous Peoples traditional land rights.
CPAWS Northern and Southern Alberta chapters will be looking more closely at the Crown Lands Vision and the recreational fees survey, and will be preparing more detailed recommendations in the near future.
To see the government documents and survey visit: https://www.alberta.ca/alberta-crown-land-vision.aspx
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the biodiversity within them. Over the last 50+ years, CPAWS has played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than the entire Yukon Territory. Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land and water so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.
CPAWS has chapters in almost every province and territory across Canada, and two chapters here in Alberta – a Southern Alberta chapter located in Calgary and a Northern Alberta chapter located in Edmonton. As a collaborative organization, CPAWS works closely with government of all levels, industry representatives, and communities to manage our impact on a shared landscape. We also advocate for the creation of parks and protected areas for the benefit of both current and future generations of Canadians.