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

OPINION: Jason Kenney won by portraying himself as the Guardian of Alberta

How did Kenney do it? He never considered himself an opposition leader and didn’t pretend to be one.

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

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

Nixon elected according to Global News

Nixon surges ahead in 15 ridings

Alberta’s Notley talks pipelines, energy on last day of election campaign

Noteley toured a pipe fabrication yard in Calgary, a key battleground in Tuesday’s election

Homeless activists outside Notre Dame demand ‘a roof too’

Wealthy people have donated millions to effort to rebuild cathedral after devastating fire

Early data suggests no post-legalization spike in drug-impaired driving charges

Many police departments are prioritizing investigations related to drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine

Robbery in Leduc County estimated at $40,000

Leduc RCMP investigate break and enter and theft of firearms

Singh says childhood abuse steeled him for scrutiny and stress of politics

He recounts the assaults for the first time in his book Love & Courage

Despite five extra weeks’ parental leave in Canada, dads still face stigma: survey

One reason people said dads don’t need leave is because they can just bond with their kids at weekend

Calgary’s public school board responds to Syrian child’s suicide after bullying

Amal Alshteiwi, a newcomer to Canada from Syria, took her own life several weeks ago

Child, 11, accidentally shot in the chest at Alberta religious colony

Child taken from Hutterite colony to nearby hospital

Woman in critical condition after motorcycle crash on Edmonton highway

Police say both women were thrown from the bike, and the van continued forward, hitting a Nissan Altima

Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

Many of those who helped that day — first responders and Good Samaritans alike — still affected

Most Read