Public input into new land-use regime critical

 

Public input into new land-use regime critical

5/23/2008

Published in the Edmonton Journal, May 23, 2008
By Jodie Hierlmeier, Staff Counsel, Environmental Law Centre

The province’s land-use framework signals a dramatic shift away from the current laissez-faire approach to planning towards a regime that will set firm limits on development and land-uses. Public input is necessary to ensure the framework reflects Albertans’ visions for the future of our province.

The scope of this proposed change cannot be understated. Our current approach to development was designed for a province with a small population, abundant resources and virtually limitless land. Development could basically occur anywhere, at any time, and multiple demands on the land base could be managed.

But times have changed. Rapid industrial and population growth have increased pressure on our land and resources. There is literally not enough land or water in Alberta for every sector, company and individual to pursue infinite development. We cannot continually grow our cities, oil and gas sector, forestry sector and agricultural sector at the same time. It is simply not possible. Trade-offs and difficult policy choices have to be made.

If properly implemented, a provincial land-use framework will create a new approach to land and resource management in Alberta. It will apply to all private and public lands in Alberta (except federal lands such as national parks and Indian reserves). It will guide decision-makers at local, regional and provincial levels as they face the tough choices necessary to manage our province in the face of a rapidly growing economy and population.

For these reasons, it is critical that every Albertan learns about the land-use framework and provides their comments to the government.

Work on the land-use framework began in 2006. Public sessions were held throughout the province last May, but only 3,000 Albertans submitted comments via the government’s “workbook”. That means only 0.001 % of the province’s three million or so residents provided feedback into a regime that will affect everything from recreational land uses, to residential development, to oil and gas drilling.

It is clear that we will need public support in order to change our province’s focus on short-term economic gain to broader measures of success related to long-term sustainability of our land and resources. Public input is critical because these decisions involve public land and publicly owned resources. If you care about our province’s future, get informed and provide your input.

* The original letter is shown here; published versions may vary.

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