Gateway Gazette

Survey: 88% of Alberta’s South Saskatchewan Area Residents Want More Wilderness Protected

Residents are active outdoors 155 days per year

(Calgary, Alberta) — A province-wide survey of Albertans’ outdoor activities and values toward recreation and wilderness shows that 75% of adults in the South Saskatchewan region participate in outdoor recreation, and 88% of adults in the South Saskatchewan region want governments to set aside more wilderness where human activity is minimal.

The survey captures what Albertans are doing for outdoor recreation and their values about wilderness, public lands and recreation. The survey is representative of Alberta’s entire adult population and is designed to inform the land use and recreation planning process throughout Alberta. It was commissioned by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Southern and Northern Alberta chapters.

The phone survey was done in April/May of 2015, and interviewed 1300 adults in all areas of Alberta. One hundred of those were residents of the South Saskatchewan region (MD of Bighorn, Rockyview County, Wheatland County, County of Newell, Cypress County, County of Forty Mile, MD of Taber, Vulcan County, MD of Foothills, County of Lethbridge, County of Warner, Cardston County, MD of Pincher Cree, MD of Willow Creek, MD of Ranchland, MD of Crowsnest and Kananaskis Improvement District).

Key Findings for South Saskatchewan

• 75% of adults in the South Saskatchewan region participate in outdoor recreation.
• 88% of adults in the South Saskatchewan want governments to set aside more wilderness where human activity is minimal
• 91% of adults believe it is important to protect wilderness because these areas contribute to better air and water quality.
• 83% want wilderness areas protected and left in their natural condition, even if these areas are never visited by, or benefit, humans.
• 94% want wilderness protected because these areas help preserve plant and animal species.
• 33% feel there are too many places for motorized recreation (such OHVs, ATVs, motorbikes).
• 32% feel there are not enough places for motorized recreation such as boating and waterskiing.
• 33% feel there are too many places for on-land motorized recreation such as ATVs, offhighway vehicles (OHVs), motorbikes, etc.
• Adults in the South Saskatchewan engage in some form of outdoor recreation 155 days per year.
• The most popular summer/fall recreation activities are hiking, bicycling, walking and camping.
• The most popular winter/spring recreation activities are hiking, walking, skiing/snowboarding, bicycling and snowshoeing.

Key Findings for all of Alberta

• 76% of all adult Albertans participate in some form of outdoor recreation.
• 88% of all adult Albertans want governments to set aside more wilderness where human activities are minimal.
• 94% believe that protecting water, plants and animals should be a priority over industrial or resource development in wilderness areas.
• 86% prioritize non-motorized recreation in wilderness areas over motorized recreation such as off-highway vehicles (OHVs), ATVs, dirt bikes or motorboats.
• 90% prefer to recreate with family or friends.
• Only 17% of recreationalists belong to an outdoor recreation group or club.
• 83% want wilderness areas protected and left in their natural condition, even if these areas are never visited by, or benefit, humans.
• 29% feel that there are not enough places to camp.
• Almost one third believe there are not enough places for non-motorized water recreation.
• More than half (53%) of Albertans support the need to fund recreational development on Crown Land, with the majority indicating the funding should be through user fees, not general taxation.

The survey also reveals where Albertans are recreating on land and water; what our most popular recreational activities are; how age, income, education and geographic location influence our outdoor activities; and our values about wilderness.

10395854_969433846404676_2926677900001805776_n“This study builds on what we have seen in other surveys, that Albertans love to recreate outdoors and almost 90% of them want wilderness protected from development and degradation, even if that protection means limited or no access by humans,” says Richard Roberts, President of The Praxis Group. “Albertans’ affinity for nature is also seen in the types of recreation they prefer. The vast majority of Albertans practice non-motorized recreation such as hiking, cycling and paddling.”

This information can be used in Alberta’s land-use planning process that is rolling out across the province over the next several years in both recreation planning and designation of protected areas.

“The survey results clearly point to wilderness protection and will be valuable to the Province, land-use planners, recreationalists and conservation groups all over the South Saskatchewan region,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director of CPAWS Southern Alberta. “We see that what Albertans overwhelmingly want for the landscape is quite different than what they get from the land-use planning processes which can rely disproportionately on a few industries and recreation user groups that are vocal but have very small membership. This tells us that the values of the wider public need to be better incorporated into land-use decisions, these decisions need to be enforced, and municipalities need to be given the authority and tools to enforce these plans.”

The survey breaks down data by all seven of Alberta’s Land Use Framework (LUF) regions:

• Lower Peace
• Upper Peace
• Lower Athabasca
• Upper Athabasca
• North Saskatchewan
• Red Deer
• South Saskatchewan

View the full survey at www.cpaws-southernalberta.org and www.cpaws-northernalberta.org.

The findings are part of CPAWS’ mission to promote awareness and understanding of ecological principles and the inherent values of wilderness through education, appreciation and experience. The survey results inform our goal of giving Albertans actionable insight with which they can implement environmentally responsible land use planning policies that help conserve Alberta wilderness, ecosystems and communities.

The random telephone survey was conducted by The Praxis Group with 1300 adult Albertans from April 27 – May 5, 2015, with a margin of error of +/- 2.71% 19 times out of 20. The margin of error for the 100 residents of the South Saskatchewan region is +/- 9.8%.

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Source CPAWS

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