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Grande Prairie urged to weigh in on draft caribou plan

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Provincial officials are encouraging anyone with concerns or thoughts about the Alberta’s draft plan to protect caribou to speak up. The document was released in December 2017, and it was noted in it that MD of Greenview, County and City of Grande Prairie, and Town of Grande Cache could be both negatively and positively impacted as they are highly dependent on natural resources.

County Reeve Leanne Beaupre says they are worried about the impact the plan could have, as some of the affected businesses operate within their municipalities and employ a large number of families. She adds that it isn’t just the caribou plan that is a risk to their livelihood.

“It’s the whole Species At Risk legislation that’s a federal legislation because there’s multiple layers and multiple species that live in this area, so they could be overlaid one on top of each other in the future.”

Speaking at the Growing the North Conference Grande Prairie Wednesday, Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous told the crowd he knew people are feeling anxious and nervous about the plan. He stresses the province is trying to find the right balance between protecting jobs and caribou before it’s too late.

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“The federal government could impose a protection order or other groups could apply, and so we want to make sure that we are moving this forward; we’re not unnecessarily dragging our feet.”

All nine provinces with caribou populations missed the federal government’s October 5, 2017 deadline to come up with their own strategies. Bilous says they share some of Alberta’s concerns, as B.C. is also reliant on its forestry sector and Saskatchewan on oil and gas.

Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley MLA and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd says the province’s draft plan was created with the input of those industries, which directly lead to some of the recommendations.

“I think people can have comfort in that we just didn’t invent this ourselves; we did it in consultation with industry. Rather than just signing a petition, give us pointed feedback as to where we might look or maybe something hasn’t been considered… it’s important to be very specific with suggestions.”

McCuaig-Boyd adds that it’s important for people with feedback to give it both to the provincial government and the federal one, as that’s who’s mandating the framework. Bilous echoes her sentiment, and urges people to weigh in.

An information meeting will be held at the Grande Prairie Elks Lodge from 3 to 8 p.m. on March 8th.

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