We are all so fortunate to live in northwest Alberta, a picturesque landscape full of natural beauty, bestowed with many resources that sustain our communities and allow families to live work and play here.
We share this landscape with many animals and species, and we take seriously their well being, alongside ours – because a healthy environment means a strong and prosperous economy as well.
We are municipal councilors from Mackenzie County, the County of Northern Lights, the Town of High Level, the Town of Rainbow Lake, the Town of Manning and Clear Hills County.
We came together to form the Northwest Species at Risk (NWSAR) Committee over a year ago in response to the Alberta Government announcing that they were considering creating another provincial park in our area to protect the Woodland Caribou – effectively sterilizing our resources and devastating our region.
We have come along way since then and are happy to report back that we have made much progress on this file.
After many miles on the road and talks in boardrooms to kitchen tables, we decided to “do it ourselves” and create are own suggestions for caribou recovery for the government to consider.
Fast forward to June 2017, after extensive stakeholder feedback, scientific research and socio-economic analysis we submitted a robust report with several recommendations to government.
Our recommendations to government take the approach that caribou recovery should be balanced with the environment and the economy going hand-in-hand.
We firmly believe that caribou recovery can be done in a sustainable way, that doesn’t hurt our communities and protects our jobs.
Now, we are waiting to formally hear back from the provincial government with their caribou recovery plans for all our citizens to have the opportunity to review and provide feedback.
As we wait to hear back from the government we wanted to update you on the progress we have made and some positive reassurances we have heard from the government…
- They have officially put out a request to conduct a socio-economic analysis of the region, and the impacts that any caribou recovery plans will have, therefore ensuring that any impacts to our livelihoods are considered;
- The government has committed to not creating a provincial park that would sterilize the area’s resources and not effectively recover the caribou;
- The government will release its plans to the public for input before they finalize them;
- The government has committed to creating balanced caribou recovery plans that protect the region’s environment and economy;
- Local stakeholder groups, with expertise in the region’s landscape will be engaged to help finalize caribou recovery plans; and
- Forestry and oil and gas tenures that are currently in place will remain.
However, we are concerned about future oil and gas and forestry reserves, as no firm commitment has been made by government to protect these assets when caribou recovery plans are implemented.
But we have been keeping the pressure up. Meeting with people across the province at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Alberta Forest Products Association and engaging with oil and gas associations and companies and environmental groups – just to name a few.
We have also been carrying our message forward to government, keeping lines of communication open and being updated on their progress.
When the government releases its plans this winter our Committee will have achieved many of the goals we set. So we have lots to celebrate but we aren’t done until the caribou herds are sustainable, our communities have guarantees that our jobs are safe and all levels of government have collaborated on a multi-species landscape approach to environmental and resource planning in northwest Alberta.
We are optimistic that a balanced approach will be brought forward by government and we look forward to updating you in the near future.
The Alberta Northwest Species at Risk Committee
Lisa Wardley, Chair of the Northwest Species at Risk Committee and Deputy Reeve of Mackenzie County.