This release was issued under a previous government.

Alberta’s first regional plan sets strong environmental limits, conserves sensitive lands, provides certainty to industry, diversifies the economy and offers numerous recreational opportunities in the Lower Athabasca region.

More than 10,000 Albertans, including individuals, aboriginals, industry, municipalities, environmental organizations and other stakeholder groups, have been engaged in land-use planning - including three years and three rounds of consultation on the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP).

LARP is a comprehensive, forward-thinking and legally binding roadmap that enhances the Alberta government’s environmental management, addresses growth pressures and supports economic development. It is the first of seven regional plans committed to under Alberta’s innovative Land-use Framework, which is unprecedented in Canada.

“Alberta has every advantage - abundant resources in a beautiful and diverse natural landscape - but in our busy province, we need to make smart choices about the way we grow,” said Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen. “Responsible and long-term planning in this dynamic region will mean vibrant and healthy communities for families to live, work and play.”

The regional plan considers the cumulative effects of all activities on air, water and biodiversity. It establishes new environmental frameworks with limits to protect air and surface water quality and increases the total conserved land within the region to more than two million hectares three times the size of Banff National Park.

“As Albertans, we are fortunate to have good job opportunities, live in vibrant communities and enjoy a clean and healthy environment,” said Melissa Blake, Mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. “I see this plan as a blueprint for dealing with present challenges and opportunities, as well as one that will ensure this important and sensitive region continues to thrive well into the future.” 

LARP, which takes effect Sept. 1, sets the stage for the next 50 years, concentrating on environmental, economic and social actions by:

  • Immediately setting regional environmental limits for air and surface water quality and regional groundwater management framework with interim triggers;
  • Establishing six new conservation areas, bringing the total conserved land in the region to two million hectares, or 22 per cent of the region;
  • Changing the Dillon River Conservation Area from a Public Land-use Zone to a Wildland Provincial Park and increasing the size by 27,245 hectares to 191,544 hectares, thus securing a larger tract of important caribou habitat;
  • Addressing infrastructure challenges and new strategies to plan for urban development around Fort McMurray;
  • Providing year-round tourism and recreational opportunities through the creation of nine new provincial recreational areas, which will have access to campsites, trails and boat docks;
  • Committing to a regional trail system plan;
  • Committing to the development of tailings management, biodiversity, and surface water quantity frameworks;
  • Committing to engage and work with aboriginal communities on initiatives to incorporate traditional knowledge into environmental planning;
  • Identifying opportunities to engage with aboriginal communities on initiatives to support tourism development;
  • Providing certainty for industry in development of the oil sands; and
  • Supporting diversification of the regional economy - recognizes tourism and recreational opportunities, the potential for further responsible development of energy, minerals, coal, surface materials, forestry and agriculture.

Stakeholders said the following:

“The Alberta government consulted extensively on land use in the Lower Athabasca,” said Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers vice-president David Pryce. “Releasing this plan is a significant step as LARP recognizes the importance of the oil sands as an economic driver while assuring environmentally responsible development of the oil sands resource.”

“The Wood Buffalo Environmental Association’s science-based monitoring activities will contribute significantly to the successful implementation of LARP,” said Executive Director Kevin Percy, PhD.  “WBEA looks forward to working with government - and all stakeholders - to ensure that the best, most accurate monitoring information is available to support informed environmental decisions.”

Alberta Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac) believes the LARP is a significant step in an ongoing land-use planning process that seeks to balance economic, environmental and social outcomes,  including values such as caribou conservation,” says Bob Nichol, vice president, woodlands.

“Biodiversity is fundamentally important to the health of our economy, communities and to the stewardship of our environment,” says Kirk Andries, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute executive director. “This plan represents a significant step forward in proactively managing the health of living resources in one of the busiest regions in our province. We look forward to applying our scientific expertise to support regional planning in the Lower Athabasca.’’ 

LARP is a major component of the province’s efforts to advance world-leading resource stewardship. Since October 2011, Alberta has provided more openness and transparency to environmental oil sands data through the delivery of the Oil Sands Information Portal; improved engagement with Albertans on property rights issues for land impacted by industrial development; and introduced the joint Alberta-Canada oil sands monitoring program, the most progressive and comprehensive plan of its kind in the world. 

Soon, Alberta will announce plans for the governance of a province-wide environmental monitoring system and will move to implement a new single regulator that eliminates overlap and duplication of regulatory functions, while enhancing Alberta’s high standards for environmental management, public safety and health, and resource conservation.

These initiatives are part of the Alberta government’s plan to better coordinate natural resource management in the province for the economic, environmental and social benefit of all Albertans.

For more information on the regional plan, visit www.landuse.alberta.ca

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Backgrounder: Summary of LARP and regional planning in Alberta

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Mark Cooper
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
780-984-0434
mark.cooper@gov.ab.ca
http://twitter.com/#!/Coop_MB

Andy Weiler
Director of Communications
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
780-427-8122
andy.weiler@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.

Backgrounder

Summary of LARP and regional planning in Alberta

Under Alberta’s Land-use Framework, regional plans set out a new approach to managing our lands and natural resources to achieve our province’s long-term environmental, economic and social goals.

In part a response to growth pressures in a busy province with increased activity on the landscape, the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) sets the stage for robust growth, vibrant communities and a healthy environment within the region over the next 50 years.

Highlights of land-use planning

Regional planning supports three provincial outcomes under the Land-use Framework:

  1. Healthy economy supported by our land and natural resources
  2. Healthy ecosystems and environment
  3. People-friendly communities with ample recreational and cultural opportunities

Consulting with Albertans

The plan was developed based on advice from a Regional Advisory Council and the input and feedback of thousands of Albertans, stakeholder groups, aboriginals and municipalities through three consultation phases:
Phase 1 - input on the issues in the region (winter 2009)
Phase 2 - feedback on advice from the Regional Advisory Council (spring 2010); and
Phase 3 - feedback on draft regional plan (spring 2011).

Regional Advisory Council

The Lower Athabasca Regional Advisory Council (RAC) was established Dec. 16, 2008. It completed its mandate in March 2010 by providing its advice to government. The RAC met 13 times in communities across the region and in Edmonton. The 17-member RAC included a cross-section of interests, including municipal, industry (forestry, energy), Aboriginal groups and environmental. Members from Treaty 6, Treaty 8 and the Métis Settlements also sat on the RAC.

Public, stakeholder sessions/workbooks


The government conducted more than 80 public and stakeholder sessions held across the region, in communities located in adjoining Land-use Framework regions and in Edmonton and Calgary. Sessions were held in 15 different cities and communities, including Fort McMurray and Fort Smith, Lac La Biche, Cold Lake and St. Paul. More than 1,000 consultation workbooks and other submissions were received online or in hard copy.

Aboriginal consultation

Aboriginal consultation was critical to the development of the draft regional plan. The government conducted more than 100 meetings with 21 First Nations and eight Métis groups.

2011 Alberta Land Stewardship Act amendments

Amendments to the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, passed by the government in May of 2011, require public consultation before regional plans and amendments to these plans are made. The amendments also require that a draft regional plan be provided to the Legislative Assembly prior to its approval by Cabinet.

Lower Athabasca Regional Plan implementation timeline

The Government of Alberta will implement initiatives under the regional plan according to the following timeline:

  • September 1, 2012 - Implement Air Quality Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca Region
  • September 1, 2012 - Implement Surface Water Quality Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River
  • September 1, 2012 - Implement Regional Groundwater Management Framework with interim triggers. (Work on finalizing the groundwater management framework will continue as monitoring data becomes available.)
  • September, 2012 - Interim protection in place for all proposed conservation and provincial recreation areas
  • December 31, 2012 - Complete an updated Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River
  • December 31, 2012 - Implement enhanced environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting system
  • March 31, 2013 - Establish conservation areas:
  • Birch Mountain Provincial Wildland Park expansion, Kazan Wildland Park
  • March 31, 2013 - Establish provincial recreation areas:
  • Andrew Lake, Christina Crossing, Gregoire Lake, Goodwin Lake, Slave River Rapids
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Media inquiries may be directed to:

Mark Cooper
Press Secretary, Office of the Minister
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
780-984-0434
mark.cooper@gov.ab.ca
http://twitter.com/#!/Coop_MB

Andy Weiler
Director of Communications
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
780-427-8122
andy.weiler@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.