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Southern Foothills group will host public forums

The Southern Foothills Community Stewardship Initiative is holding public forums this week so people can share their views and concerns on foothills landscapes and watersheds.
Scheduled meetings are at the Nanton Community Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m. and at the Cowley Village Hall on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.
Two forums earlier this week were held in Turner Valley and High River.
“The larger focus is to explore what is important to local people about the landscape and watersheds of the southern Foothills, and what issues they see,” Southern Foothills project manager Carole Stark explained.
The Southern Foothills Initiative focuses on the area from Highway 22X south to Highway 3, and west of Highway 2.
“The forums are open to all — young and old, town residents and land owners, and those living, working and playing up and down the watersheds,” Stark said. “Those who participate should come ready to share their views and knowledge of the area, and to engage in dynamic discussions and mapping activities.”
A second set of forums in the same four communities, to be held at the end of February, will engage participants in follow-up discussions based on the results of the first forums.
A clear statement of priorities and recommendations based on the local input along with current scientific studies will then be developed.
The findings will be put in the hands of the province and other land use policy decision makers.
“This initiative supports the goals of the Land Use Framework, and Alberta’s Water for Life Strategy,” Stark said. “The information gained is meant to inform the development and implementation of these government policies.”
Conclusions will also be available to the public.
The forums also serve an important role in public education on land use and watershed issues, Stark added.
“Essentially, we begin the public education component as part of the forums. Throughout the planning of this initiative we have consistently received positive feedback and a recognition that this initiative is timely and important. The need to engage the public in these discussions has been acknowledged by many people.”
Stark is also pleased with government support of the stewardship initiative.
“We have received positive feedback from the province in a number of ways — through the interest and support of local MLAs, and support and offers of assistance by government officials to help promote the initiative or share information and resources. The starting point of this present initiative, the 2006-’07 Southern Foothills Study, was viewed by the Alberta government as an important foundation or catalyst for further land use planning efforts in the province that are based on cumulative effects modeling.”
Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger confirmed the province’s interest in the stewardship initiative, and anticipates forum findings will be helpful in the decision making process.
“It would be good input into the up-coming consultation round on the advice that has been submitted to the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan,” Berger said. “I am supportive of the forums and the information sharing advanced by these initiatives. We are all dependent on the watersheds, which is why the land use regions are based on watersheds. More information is always welcome.”
The Pekisko Group and the Chinook Institute for Community Stewardship partnered to deliver the Southern Foothills Initiative, an eight-month project winding up in July, 2011.
For further information on the community forums and the project visit www.pekisko.ca or call Jacquie Nelson at 403-652-7477.

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