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Alta. names MLAs to land-use committee

Long-term tasks outlined in Alberta’s new Land-Use Framework will be spearheaded by a new committee of MLAs, the provincial government announced Tuesday.

Evan Berger, the MLA for Livingstone-Macleod, parliamentary assistant for sustainable resource development and a former reeve of the M.D. of Willow Creek, will chair the committee.

The committee’s other MLA members are Jonathan Denis (Calgary-Egmont), Janice Sarich (Edmonton-Decore and parliamentary assistant to the minister of education) and Jeff Johnson (Athabasca-Redwater).

The committee is expected to work on a variety of projects, including supporting the development of transportation and utility corridors strategy and a recreation strategy, reviewing the Surface Rights Act and Expropriation Act and linking implementation of the Land-Use Framework to initiatives undertaken through the provincial Capital Region Plan.

Berger, who has previously worked in the farming and ranching sectors, will report to Ted Morton, minister of sustainable resource development.

“Work has already begun on some of the immediate planning priorities and this committee will help ensure the different interests are represented and engaged,” said Morton in a release Tuesday. “Their work will help us meet our goal of developing priority provincial strategies and regional plans by 2010.”

The framework proposes six new land-use regions (north, northeast, north-central, northwest, south-central, south), each of which would have to develop a regional land-use plan, overseen by the province, working with new regional advisory councils that would include government, industry, non-governmental and aboriginal representation.

Among the “immediate” planning priorities under the framework are to complete the southern and northeastern regional plans. Southern Alberta, for example, contains over half of Alberta’s total population but has the least water, the province observed when the draft Land-Use Framework was unveiled in May.

Wheat, barley and canola production, cattle feedlots, coal-bed methane, roads and rail lines are also concentrated in the south, which depends on the ecological integrity of the eastern slopes for its water supply, the province said at the time.

The framework released in May also proposes that the province plan to “determine more effective approaches to reduce the fragmentation and conversion of agricultural land.”

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