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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

PC Parks Policy Great for Edmonton But Could Have More New Parks and a Focus on Wildlife Habitat

Great to see Ed Stelmach put up $50m to kick start the River Valley Alliance Park in the Edmonton region. This is a magnificent project that will help ring the regional consciousness together. A large urban park is a welcome addition to the Capital Region and a plus for Edmonton.

The rest of the parks policy is pretty vague when it states a renewing our commitment to Alberta Provincial Parks. What does that mean? Conservation is only mentioned in terms of land banking public lands and selling “surplus” urban lands for conservation. What examples are being considered to meet these objectives? Are we talking large land masses being preserved to offset the impact of the oil sands development? What constitutes conservation? Is it and activitist habitat protection for flora and fauna? That is want is needed.

Ensuring eastern slope protection by updated regulations for industry and recreation use is fine but what about wildlife habitat protection too. The way things are going the dirty little secret is extensive human development on the landscape is about to extinguish up to three of our caribou herds and is really threaten the survival of grizzly bears all over the province. We need to be very proactive in matters of habitat protection and this policy is pretty vague and almost silent about this growing concern.

I have been working with a diverse group of interest groups for a few months now to establish the Andy Russell Park on the north end of Waterton Lakes National Park. This park proposal has support from the local municipalities, stakeholders and Shell Oil, who hold energy leases in the region, has also warmed to this park proposal. Many letters have already been sent to you Mr. Premier, and more are coming, to confirm this support for the Andy Russell Park.

I know this as a result of the exposure I have had and the “education” I have received about the current state of parks and parks policy in Alberta. There is such opportunity during this election campaign to release the long over due Alberta Plan for Parks. There could have been the announcement and the establishment of up to three new parks – Andy Russell, Bighorn Country and Mountain Park. All three parks have already been recommended by previous hearings or review processes and they are known to be key for endangered species recovery and protecting water sources.

The conservation commitment in this announcement did well to acknowledge the watershed concerns. It could have gone a step further and embraced a conservation concern for wildlife habitat too. To sign, seal and deliver the three new parks that have been approved and awaiting confirmation. That would be a positive step and a great example of forward thinking about the future generations of Albertans too.

Good work on the River Valley Alliance Park announcement Mr. Premier. With a bit more focus and without stretching the budget or launching into any new territory, a bold new approach could have and should have be taken on a provincial parks policy. It is not too late to clarify the habitat issue and to confirm the three new parks as a reality during this election campaign Ed.