Government expands conservation areas, protects watersheds and native grasslands in southern Alberta

A new land-use plan will help manage growth pressures and protect the environment in southern Alberta.

“The South Saskatchewan region is without question one of the most beautiful areas of our province with its breathtaking mountains, rolling grasslands and many lakes and rivers. Albertans are proud of the beauty of our province and the new land-use plan will manage the growth pressures in this region so our children and grandchildren will benefit from a pristine environment and a growing economy.”

~ Dave Hancock, Premier

To protect critical watersheds and habitats and to provide new recreational opportunities in the region, the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) creates:

  • Eight new or expanded conservation areas, including a new 54,588-hectare Castle Wildland Provincial Park and the 34,356-hectare Pekisko Heritage Rangeland;
  • Two new and six expanded provincial parks and recreation areas, adding 1,511 hectares; and,
  • 12 new primitive recreation areas for camping and trail access.

A regional trail system linking communities, parks and outdoor spaces will give Albertans year-round access to the activities they love – from camping and hiking to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

“Our government continues to ensure that we are planning for the future and looking at the big picture considering the cumulative impacts of all of our activities on the land. This plan was created by Albertans and strikes the right balance of recreation and economic opportunity while protecting the environment and achieving conservation goals.”

~ Robin Campbell, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

The regional plan also includes strategies for responsible energy development, sustainable farming and ranching, forest management, and nature-based tourism.

The plan takes important steps to protect Alberta’s intact native grasslands. This distinctive Alberta landscape, prized in North America, continues to exist because of the stewardship practices of local ranchers. The SSRP extends grazing leases for ranchers demonstrating strong stewardship practices from 10 to 20 years. The SSRP also includes guidelines to manage sales of public lands and minimize conversion of intact native grasslands, and will explore options for new conservation areas working with ranchers, industry and other stakeholders.

South Saskatchewan plan - mapKey to the SSRP is a new approach for managing the impacts of development on land, air, water and biodiversity. Environmental management frameworks will set strict environmental limits. This includes management frameworks for ensuring air and water quality as well as a commitment to develop a biodiversity management framework. These frameworks are intended to complement, not replace, existing policies, legislation and regulations.

More than 7,500 Albertans provided feedback on the plan which covers an 83,764 square kilometre area that stretches from the Canada-U.S. border to Crossfield, and is home to nearly half the province’s population.

Developed with a 50-year outlook in mind, the plan will go into effect on September 1. Estimated cost for SSRP implementation in year one is $4.5 million for operation and $1.2 million in capital costs.

Alberta’s Land-use Framework offers approaches for managing land and natural resources in seven regions across the province. The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan was the first regional plan to be introduced in 2012. Consultation on the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan is underway.

Under the Building Alberta Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta’s resources to ensure we’re able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.