Presentation encourages sustainable recreation
Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 06:00 am
Alberta is home to some of the world’s best landscapes for recreation.
As the province’s population grows, however, demand for outdoor recreation opportunities grows too. And the recreational activities people enjoy can ultimately have negative effects on the places they love most, said Katie Morrison, conservation director for CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society)’s southern Alberta chapter.
“Alberta offers a diversity of outdoor recreational opportunities which significantly contribute to our quality of life,” she said. “Certain activities can lead to displacement of wildlife, degraded waterways, damaged habitat and ongoing conflict. We can literally love our parks and wilderness areas to death if we don’t have a plan for sustainable use for the future.”
In an effort to gain a better understanding of the public’s behaviour, attitudes and opinions related to outdoor recreation and use of public lands, CPAWS’ southern and northern Alberta chapters commissioned a survey in 2015. Participants represented the province’s seven land use framework regions – the Lower Peace, Upper Peace, Lower Athabasca, Upper Athabasca, North Saskatchewan, Red Deer and South Saskatchewan, to which the Bow Valley belongs.
Results showed that 76 per cent of adult Albertans participate in some form of outdoor recreation, with 88 per cent expressing high levels of appreciation and concern for preservation of wilderness areas. In all, 86 per cent prefer non-motorized recreation in wilderness areas over motorized recreation such as OHVs, motorbikes and motor boats, while 98 per cent said they want protection of water to take priority over industrial development.
“The survey results clearly show Albertans are active outdoors, value resources like water over recreation or industrial development and want more wilderness protected,” Morrison said.
“Recreation has not historically been prioritized in land use decisions in Alberta and we have seen the character of many wild areas changed as industry or motorized recreation move in. What Albertans overwhelmingly want for the landscape is quite different than what they get on the ground, which can be disproportionately influenced by a few industries and recreation user groups that are vocal, but have very small membership.”
Overall, the survey showed that the wider public needs to be better incorporated into land-use decisions, Morrison said.
“We are starting to see the cumulative effects of doing whatever we want anywhere, anytime on the land and water and this is not sustainable over the long term,” Morrison said. “Those of us who get outside to escape our busy lives and connect with majestic landscapes have a role to play as stewards and champions of these areas, ensuring that the places we go are well managed and protected for the future.”
Morrison said her presentation will focus on the bigger picture of how Albertans manage their lands and how that can lead to better or worse recreational experiences, including backcountry activities such as mountaineering or backcountry touring. She will also speak to opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to have their voices heard on protection of wilderness in southern Alberta, and ensure quiet and backcountry recreation is considered in the Rocky Mountains.
Hosted by the Alpine Club of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Section, Morrison’s talk, Sustainable Recreation in Alberta: Conserving the Places We Play, takes place on Wednesday (March 22) at the Canmore Legion. The presentation begins at 7 p.m.