Southern Alta. land use council named

The Alberta government has named the second of seven regional councils meant to advise the province on its development of a regional land-use plan, this one for a region that includes about half the province’s population.

The new South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council (RAC), named in a release Wednesday, is meant to look at key issues such as water, land use and population growth.

The council’s region ranges from the town of Crossfield in the north to the Montana border in the south, and from the B.C. border to Saskatchewan. Cities in the region include Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.

“Rapid population growth and water use are the key issues before the South Saskatchewan RAC,” Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton said in the release. “We have to be smarter about our future growth. Now is the time to manage the impact on our landscapes and watersheds.”

The new council so far includes 18 members representing municipal and provincial bodies, industry and environmental perspectives, the province said. A seat is being held for an as-yet unnamed RAC member from Treaty 7 First Nations.

Rob Penny, an Alberta Environment assistant deputy minister, will chair the council.

Out of seven planned RACs, five remain to be phased in by the end of 2011. The Lower Athabasca council was announced in December 2008.

“Once approved, the regional plans will provide the direction for land and natural resource use in all of the regions and help Alberta better balance its economic development with social and environmental values,” the province said.

Notables among the 18 southern RAC members appointed so far include Lundbreck rancher and former Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Hugh Lynch Staunton; Jay Bartsch, former southern field operations manager for Ducks Unlimited Canada, from Brooks; Georgina Knitel, president of Rowland Seeds International at Lethbridge; Ron McMullin, executive director of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association at Lethbridge; and municipal councilors Ralph Nelson of the M.D. of Foothills and Greg Sekura of the M.D. of Taber.

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