March 14 2019

United Conservatives announce Common Sense Conservation Plan for environmental stewardship

13-point plan will protect Alberta’s environment today and for future generations,

continuing Alberta’s proud tradition of environmental stewardship

Canmore, AB (March 14, 2019): United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney announced that, if elected, a United Conservative government would implement a 13-point conservation plan for environmental stewardship.

“Albertans across our province value our great outdoors and rightfully want to see it conserved and protected for their children and grandchildren,” Kenney said. “Our Common Sense Conservation Plan will take a balanced approach to environmental stewardship, recognizing that recreation, economic use and conservation can and should support each other.” 

“The NDP government has too often taken a different approach, setting Albertans against one another, and using environmental policies as a political wedge rather than an opportunity to bring Albertans together on common ground.

Under the Common Sense Conservation Plan, a United Conservative government would:

  1. Introduce the Alberta Trails Act to protect trails for today’s generations and future generations.
  2. Increase funding for the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program by 50% to further help establish and administer conservation projects, while also preserving other priority policies and programs, such as the Alberta Wetland Policy and Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program, at existing funding levels.
  3. Protect Creeks and Streams on the Eastern Slopes by increasing funding by $1 million to the Alberta Riparian Habitat Protection Society’s “Cows and Fish” Program, works with ranchers to keep livestock from damaging creeks, streams and the critical riparian areas that border them. A UCP government would also seek matching private sector funds.
  4. Create a dedicated fund for restoring and creating trails, preventing damage to Alberta’s great outdoors and hiring additional enforcement officers. The fund would be paid for by applying a modest $30 annual trail permit fee to Off-Highway Vehicles and random camping trailers
  5. Implement a balanced (back country) land use plan to ensure all Albertans can enjoy public lands and appreciate the wilderness.
  6. Review Alberta Environment and Parks Acts in regards to parks and public land. Many significant issues facing Alberta parks today were not contemplated with the legislation was last reviewed.
  7. Improve data collection to improve environmental outcomes relating to parks and public land to ensure they meet the needs of Albertans in the 21st century in environmentally sustainable ways.
  8. Ensure that more department staff work in the outdoors and with local stakeholders, including facilitating visitor enjoyment of the back country, conducting environmental monitoring, continued by-law enforcement.
  9. Strengthen Partnerships with Park Societies: Not for profit park societies across Alberta do important work to maintain and improve parks. A UCP government would set aside $2 million over four years to pilot an expanded role with park societies.
  10. Ensure that all major economic development proposals continue to be subject to mandatory environmental impact assessments.
  11. Ensure that in the future, all major environmental protection proposals will be subject to mandatory social-economic impact assessments, so as to allow the government to strike the appropriate balance between economic growth and environmental protection.
  12. Encourage and increase the use of development credits and conservation offsets in provincial development policy. 
  13. Deal with illegal drainage of wetlands by creating statutory tort action for adversely affected downstream private landowners. 

“Albertans, and people from across Canada and around the world, come here to enjoy the scenic beauty of our outdoors and the many recreational opportunities it offers,” Kenney said. “We understand that our land and water resources are finite, and that’s why we’re announcing today that a United Conservative government would implement a long-term plan continuing Alberta’s proud tradition of environmental stewardship.”

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For more information contact:

media@unitedconservative.ca


Alberta’s tradition of environmental stewardship

BACKGROUNDER

Conservation is a key principle of conservatism.

Conservatives believe, in the words of Edmund Burke, that “history is a pact between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn.” 

That means we have a responsibility to be stewards of institutions, customs, and our natural environment, to ensure that it is passed on to future generations for their enjoyment, recreation, and use.

Alberta has a brilliant history of environmental stewardship, thanks in large part to the efforts of civil society.  Tens of thousands of volunteers across Alberta do work every day to protect our natural environment, together making Alberta a world leader in conservation. 

Groups like the Alberta Conservation Society and their conservation offsets program, the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Program, Ducks Unlimited, the Alberta Riparian Habitat Protection Society, and hundreds of others do remarkable work to preserve our natural environment, often with little or no government funding.

A future United Conservative government will be committed to supporting and expanding this tradition of conservation to protect our magnificent natural environment for future generations. 

We will do so by taking a balanced approach which recognizes that recreation, economic use and conservation can and should support each other.

Unfortunately, the NDP government has too often taken a different approach, setting Albertans against one another, and using environmental policies as a political wedge rather than an opportunity to bring Albertans together on common ground.

Common-Sense Conservation Plan

To strengthen protection of our natural environment, a United Conservative government will implement the following plan.

  1. Introducing an Alberta Trails Act
    • Recognizing the contribution of trails to the quality of life of Albertans, in its first term, a United Conservative government would introduce legislation to increase awareness about and encourage the sustainable use of trails; enhance trails and trail experiences; and protect trails for today’s generations and future generations.
  2. Increase funding by 50% to the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program[1] and preserve other program and policy priorities 
    • The Alberta Land Trust Grant Program (ALTGP) conserves ecologically important areas. ALTGP grants are currently made available to eligible land trust organizations. A United Conservative government would increase its funding by 50 per cent, moving from $10 million to $15 million per year.
    • Other program and policy priorities include the Alberta Wetland Policy, Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program, Alberta Land Stewardship Act and Regional Plans. Funding for these programs will be frozen at existing levels
  3. Protect Creeks and Streams on the Eastern Slopes
    • Increase funding by $1 million per year to the Alberta Riparian Habitat Protection Society’s “Cows and Fish” Program, while seeking matching funding from the private sector.
    • “Cows and Fish” works with ranchers to help keep livestock from damaging creeks, streams and the critical riparian areas that border them.[2]  
  4. Apply mandatory trail permit fees to Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) and random camping trailers for dedicated fund to restore and create OHV trails and prevent damage in Alberta’s great outdoors, and the hiring of additional enforcement officers. 
    • The dedicated funding, derived from an annual $30 fee per vehicle or camping trailer, will also be directed to hiking trail development, horse trails and other outdoor activities related to trails and trailheads.
    • This will make OHV and camping trailer owners partners with hunters and fishermen in self-funding the protection and preservation of Alberta’s great outdoors. Off Highway Vehicle trail access fees for public land access will be available at the same outlets that now sell fishing and hunting licenses.
    • The funds raised from OHV and random camping trailer fees will be used to:
      • Provide funds money for enforcement and education in regards to trails and random camping;
      • Create new trails that are sustainable and environmentally sound; and repairing damaged trails.
      • Provide a better environmental and trail experience;
      • Provide support for local municipalities on needed wilderness help for Albertans on matters such as fire prevention and suppression
      • Search and rescue. At present, most of the search and rescue and fire work in these areas is performed by volunteer municipal organizations who have an increased responsibility because of their proximity to the Alberta public lands.
    • UCP government will work with municipalities, land use framework staff, Off Highway Vehicle organizations, horse, hiking and other organizations and volunteers on the design and development of trails and trail heads. We estimate that trail access licenses, at $30 each, purchased by 100,000 OHV and 50,000 trailers annually, will result in $4.5 million annually for trail and trailhead fund purposes.
      • For comparison, trail pass fees in Quebec range from $65 for a one-day permit to $400 for an annual permit if purchased in advance to $575 if bough on-trail.[3] In New Brunswick, the trail pass fee ranged from $15 daily to $96 annually.[4]
  5. Implement a balanced back country land use plan to ensure all Albertans can enjoy public lands and appreciate the wilderness.
    • A United Conservative government will implement a recreational activities regime which maximizes access for recreation, teaching and scientific research, and uses licensing and fees to fund remediation and infrastructure maintenance (based on “best practices” in other jurisdictions).
  6. Review the Provincial Parks Act
    • Many significant issues facing Alberta parks today were not contemplated with previous legislation and regulation. A United Conservative government would consult broadly to inform a modernization of legislation and regulation to accommodate the variety of modern needs on public lands in an environmentally sustainable way.
  7. Improve data collection to improve environmental outcomes
    • Increase baseline data collection of air, surface and ground water quality, stream flow, forest health (fire risk), weather and air temperature, wild-life counts, and other necessary measurement to better monitor, track and support improved environmental outcomes.
  8. Ensure that more department staff work in the outdoors and with local stakeholders
    • This includes facilitating visitor enjoyment of the back country, conducting environmental monitoring, continued by-law enforcement.
  9. Strengthen Partnerships with Park Societies
    • Not for profit park societies across Alberta do important work to maintain and improve parks, offer interpretive programs for visitors, provide tours, and so much more.
    • Many park societies have Cooperating Agreements with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), but would like to do more to than currently permitted to maintain vibrant parks.
    • A United Conservative government will set aside $2 million over four years to pilot an expanded role with park societies. The pilot program’s goal will be to determine whether park societies could effectively be contracted to assume all park management responsibilities from AEP, with the exception of enforcement.
    • The Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society, with over 200 volunteers and 800 members, will be offered the first opportunity to pilot this new, expanded relationship with EAP.
  10. Ensure that all major economic development proposals continue to be subject to mandatory environmental impact assessments.
    • A UCP government will be committed to environmental conservation and protection.
  11. Ensure that in the future, all major environmental protection proposals will be subject to mandatory social-economic impact assessments, so as to allow the government to strike the appropriate balance between economic growth and environmental protection.
    • Energy and environmental regulatory legislation will be amended to incorporate this requirement.
    • All major environmental projects will be subject to economic impact assessments to ensure balance with existing environmental impact assessment norms.
  12. Encourage and increase the use of development credits and conservation offsets in provincial development policy.
    • “Transfer of Development Credits” and “Conservation Offsets” are both policy tools authorized by Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) and are supported by conservationists and also many energy companies and home builders. A UCP government will promote the increased use of both types of credits.
    • “Transfer of Development Credits” mitigate urban sprawl by concentrating rural residential development in “clusters” leaving more land in existing agricultural use. The credits also eliminate the “winners/losers” syndrome for landowners. Instead, proceeds from the sale of agricultural lands are shared proportionally by adjacent landowners. An example is the new community in Springbank adjacent to Glenbow Park/Bow River.
  13. Deal with illegal drainage of wetlands by creating statutory tort action for adversely affected downstream private landowners.
    • This will address landowners whose property/crops are flooded/damaged because a neighbour’s or government’s illegal drainage of adjacent wetlands; and enforce actions against “trespass farming”, i.e., protect 66-foot-wide public right of ways against conversion to crops or drainage of ditches next to rural roads.

Cost of proposal

The total annual incremental cost of this proposal is $6.25 million: 
  • $5 million increase for the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program
  • $250,000 per anum to pilot an expanded role with park societies.
  • $1 million to the Alberta Riparian Habitat Protection Society’s “Cows and Fish” Program, while seeking matching funding from the private sector.
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