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Commentary: On the right trail for Alberta

Up to date, comprehensive legislation aimed at protecting public areas vital as popularity of province's wilderness trails grows

The proposed new Alberta Trails Act represents a welcome and needed update on the management of valuable public recreation assets in the province, including in this region.

Introduced last week by Minister of Environment and Parks as well as Sundre-area MLA Jason Nixon, the legislation would modernize the trails framework and make trails safer by ensuring they are managed properly and in an environmentally sustainable way, he said.

Whether the new legislation will help alleviate or end current conflicts and reduce or prevent environmental damage to public lands over the long term remains to be seen.

What is known is that as the popularity and usage of Alberta’s wilderness trails continue to grow, it is vital that legislation aimed at protecting these important public areas be comprehensive and up to date.

For his part, Nixon says if passed the new legislation will do the job.

“By supporting outdoor recreation, conservation and public safety, we are ensuring that Alberta’s trails can be enjoyed by Albertans now and in the future,” said Nixon. 

“Trails are such an important part of Alberta’s history and identity, helping us lead healthy lives and providing huge economic benefits through travel and tourism, and they are more popular than ever before.”

Applying to vacant public land currently managed under the Public Lands Act, the new Trails Act would cost around $4.5 million a year to implement and will see Alberta Environment and Parks distribute funding to recreation organizations and volunteer groups through partnership agreements, helping to build and maintain trails and supporting emergency response.

The Alberta Snowmobile Association has come out in support of the Trails Act; the Alberta Wilderness Association against it.

Trail use by ATV riders, snowmobile operators, equestrians, hikers and others along the Eastern Slopes brings visitors and business to the district throughout the year.

As such, protecting the valuable trail system in the district and across the province is in the best interest of the community-at-large — and hopefully something this new legislation will help to achieve.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.

Dan Singleton

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