The Alberta government released its Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) today extolling the province’s efforts to protect lands from industrial development – except it turns out the claims more closely resemble greenwash than fact. Not only are the areas set aside for protection much smaller than originally recommended by the province’s Regional Advisory Council, but they also appear to have been chosen for their total lack of potential value to the oil and gas or commercial forestry industries.
In fact, 85 percent of the newly protected areas lack any commercially viable oil, gas and timber. The areas set aside for conservation are largely located in the rocky north of the province, and are not representative of the rich forest ecosystems found in the southern Athabasca region – the lands impacted the most by industrial timber and tar sands exploitation.
While the government claims 16.17 percent of the lands are newly protected conservation areas, in fact only 10.6 percent are truly protected. The remaining 5.57 percent of the conservation areas allow “ecosystem forestry,” a greenwashing term for business as usual that allows industrial logging on these ‘protected’ lands.
Back in March when the prospect of a majority NDP government in Alberta was still a twinkle in Rachely Notley’s eye, the to-be premier...