WHEREAS the Government of Alberta is moving forward with plans to implement the Bighorn Country Proposal; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta’s current consultation process has excluded key stakeholders such as municipalities and the cancellation of public information sessions has limited the ability of citizens to provide feedback; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta’s current consultation format does not foster open and effective dialogue between key stakeholders and provincial officials; and
WHEREAS the Bighorn Country Proposal has the potential to impact the oil and gas, agriculture and forestry industries, which are drivers of the Alberta economy and a source of revenue for the provision of government programs and services;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta urge the Government of Alberta to delay the Bighorn Country Proposal until an inclusive and comprehensive consultation process that includes and respects First Nations, municipalities, stakeholder groups and residents of Alberta can be developed.
The Government of Alberta announced the Bighorn Country Proposal on November 23, 2018. Any previous consultation on provincial planning in the Bighorn Country had occurred in relation to the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan consultation which stakeholders had not listed as a priority. Brazeau County has heard the concerns of many residents and questions are being asked about the implementation of the Bighorn Country Proposal and the impacts it will have on industry and future development, which is vital to the Province of Alberta.
On January 5, 2019, Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips released a statement that a public information session scheduled to be held in Drayton Valley on January 7th had been cancelled.
In support of the concerns expressed from Albertans regarding the consultation process the Government of Alberta has been utilizing for the Bighorn Country Proposal, and the cancellation of the public input sessions, it is of the utmost importance that the RMA consider urging the Government of Alberta to delay the proposal until such a time that a comprehensive consultation occurs. The recently announced telephone townhalls are not suitable replacements.
A comprehensive consultation process for all Albertans is necessary on this and future proposals to ensure the responsible development of public lands in a balanced approach with economic and environmental sustainability.
On January 5, after the cancellation of the January 7 public information session, Brazeau County issued the following statement:
“The exclusion of municipalities from the formal consultation process is a disturbing precedent and Brazeau County would like to see the Province of Alberta develop a revised consultation process for this and all future proposals.”
On November 26, 2018, Brazeau County Council passed the following Resolution:
Bighorn Country Tourism Situational Awareness Session
1201/18-11-26 Moved by M. Gressler that Council oppose the Bighorn Country
Tourism proposal as presented by the Minister.
Additionally, on January 5, 2019, Brazeau County Council issued a statement in response to the cancellation of the public input sessions, and that statement is attached as Appendix A.
Bighorn Country Proposal Consulation
Statement Issued by Brazeau County on January 5, 2019
Brazeau County’s Response to the Cancellation of the Public Input Sessions for Bighorn Country.
On behalf of Brazeau County Council I wish to express our extreme disappointment in Minister Phillips’s statement and her Ministry’s decision to cancel the Public Input Sessions scheduled. Brazeau County has taken great pride in the equal balance of stewardship and economic development of our lands including those proposed to fall within the Bighorn Country Public Land Use Zone proposal. While Brazeau County Council maintains our position that we wish to be removed from the proposal, we are more deeply saddened to be proven correct in so much as this government has not carried out significant nor effective public consultation; the amount of material released in various locations by the dual ministries of Environment and Parks and Tourism, has led to onerous and time consuming research that is discourteous to peoples times and lives. Cancellation of the public input session, specifically the one for Drayton Valley scheduled for January 7th is further entrenching our Council’s opinion that the Ministry of Parks is unwilling to listen to face to face local opposition or suggestions for the Bighorn Country Proposal.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment and Parks
Alberta Environment and Parks engaged with more than 74,000 Albertans during consultation on the Bighorn Country proposal. This consultation included representatives from industry, municipalities, Indigenous communities, stakeholder groups, and those who currently use the land for their livelihoods or for recreation. The Government of Alberta will not be proceeding with the previously proposed iteration of the Bighorn Country Proposal.
Future land use planning decisions, including recreation and conservation planning in the Bighorn area, will be dealt with through the North Saskatchewan regional planning process under the Land-use Framework. We will be considering the comments and perspectives Albertans have already shared. We will be listening closely to local people, municipalities, Indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders, so we can determine how to best manage the headwaters area of the North Saskatchewan region. This input includes ideas for use of the area and problems that need to be solved.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that they will not be proceeding with the previous government’s proposed plan for protected areas in Bighorn Country. The Minister of Environment and Parks has stated that residents, municipal officials and First Nations groups have raised concerns about how the proposal might affect oil and gas explorations and off-road vehicle use, and that economic and environmental concerns were not adequately answered through the initial consultation process. The Government of Alberta response indicates that future land use planning decisions will be dealt with through the North Saskatchewan regional planning process under the Land-use Framework. RMA appreciates that under the North Saskatchewan regional planning process, the government will consult with local residents, municipalities, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders to determine how best to manage the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan region. However, since the new consultation process has not begun, RMA assigns this resolution a status of Accepted in Principle, and will re-evaluate the resolution based on the progress of further consultation.