New report to focus on bringing sustainable economy to southwest Alberta

·3 min read

A report on sustainable economic growth, produced by Canadian social science firm Stormy Lake Consulting in partnership with the environmental non-profit Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, or Y2Y, will feature policy development plans from local First Nations and input from locals living in communities in southwest Alberta.

The report will examine how sustainable industries can become an economic driver within the region, helping bring in money while simultaneously preserving the region’s water, wilderness and wildlife.

“We do believe that economies can be developed and sustained that are nature-positive,” says Patty Richards, Alberta program advisor for Y2Y.

The research phase for the report is well underway. The first stage, which examined economic demographics relating to local industries and employment, has already been completed, says Richards, and Y2Y has moved on to the second, which involves discussions with community members and stakeholders.

On Nov. 8, Y2Y hosted a virtual discussion for residents of southwestern Alberta, to hear their opinions, ideas and concerns about sustainable development in the area. To come are a series of individual one-on-one interviews with partners.

Municipal development plans from Piikani and Kainai First Nation, and other local communities, will also be consulted and the final report will be distributed to them, although Richards says Y2Y has not yet figured out what this process will look like.

“This is really about recognizing the work the community’s already doing and amplifying areas that possibly can go further or new ideas,” she adds.

“We’re really not sure what will come out of it. When we say we don’t have a determined outcome, we really mean it. It’s really trying to listen to the community and see what’s out there.”

Stormy Lake Consulting is producing the final report, but Y2Y is helping gather the data and conduct discussion with locals.

Y2Y has been working with other environmentally focused non-profits in the area for a few years, including Waterton Biosphere, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Livingstone Landowners Group and Southwest Alberta Sustainability Community Initiative.

It is dedicated to the preservation of habitats ranging from Yellowstone National Park in the United States to arctic habitats in the Yukon. In Alberta, the southwest is of particular interest, as the region has a higher level of biodiversity than other areas of the province. Y2Y’s goal is to find economic activities that don’t threaten the environment, finding alternatives to practices like mining.

Adam North Peigan, chairman of Piikani Mountain Child Valley Society, attended the virtual discussion Nov. 8, out of concern for the Grassy Mountain mining project appeal.

Piikani residents, he says, are concerned about their lack of input on the matter, as he says Chief Stanley Grier declared support for the mine without consulting the greater community.

North Peigan adds that he would like to see Piikani support renewable energy projects, rather than coal, as an economic driver.

“Piikani First Nation, we are going to have to deal with the environmental impacts and it is going to follow us for many generations to come from here on in, with the toxicity to the air, with the desecration of our natural land, with the selenium that’s going to impact our water supply,” he says.

He says he would consider using Y2Y’s final report as an educational resource for the community, but adds he would like to see the report first to ensure it has a similar community vision.

Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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