Alta. municipalities focus on well reclamation, cougars

Addressing predatory cougars, ensuring reclamation of oil and gas wells, enabling high-speed internet, and improving wetland restoration will all be part of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta’s advocacy efforts as it heads into 2019.

Representatives of the organization passed all 24 resolutions during its recent fall convention in Edmonton. Here are some of the key issues it plans to lobby the provincial government on next year:

  • Cougar control:

Delegates passed a resolution that calls on the province to change regulations that would allow hunting allowances of cougars on private land.

There have been more cases of cougar sightings by humans on private property, but there are no clear rules in place for killing the animals when landowners are faced with danger.

According to regulations, landowners who might be inexperienced in dealing with predators can’t legally have a neighbour who is experienced assist with killing a cougar. Only the owner of the land can kill a cougar.

With black bears and wolves, however, neighbours can come to an owner’s property and assist with killing. Delegates want these same rules in place for cougars.

  • Oil well reclamation:

Delegates passed a resolution that calls on the Orphan Well Association to prioritize the reclamation of abandoned oil and gas wells.

Priorities should be based on health and safety, environmental needs, agricultural land and then all other lands.

Many oil companies have declared bankruptcy, resulting in abandoned wells, which leaves landowners with the mess. Current laws can’t force companies to clean up, though that’s currently being challenged at the Supreme Court of Canada.

As well, the Orphan Well Association has been short of funds to clean up all the abandoned wells. Prioritizing which ones need clean-up first would allow funds to be used effectively, delegates said.

  • Enabling high speed internet:

Delegates passed a resolution that calls on the Alberta government to deliver a rural broadband strategy that allows all residents to have good internet service.

Strong internet access generally comes with economic, social and educational benefits, but many places in rural Alberta are without high-speed service due to a lack of broadband infrastructure.

The province is slated to unveil a rural broadband strategy in the next few months.

Delegates voted that any strategy should include the efficient deployment of infrastructure and that the province or municipalities should partner with private industry.

  • Wetland restoration:

Delegates voted to get the Department of Environment and Parks to follow through with a new wetland management directive.

The directive allows wetlands to be enhanced or constructed through a land service program or through the construction of storm-water ponds, but the municipalities can’t yet take advantage of it because it hasn’t gone forward.

They would like the directive to go forward so they can adopt programs to effectively enhance or construct wetlands.

  • Scrap metal, copper theft:

Delegates voted to call on the province to proclaim the Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act.

The act would require scrap metal dealers or recyclers purchasing or recycling scrap metal to record transaction information and the identity of the person selling.

They could also be reported to authorities if they sell metal in amounts that are larger than what is regulated.

The act hasn’t yet totally passed even though a bill was tabled in 2013.

With an increase in rural crime, more scrap metal thefts are occurring in communities and is costly for electrical, telecommunications and industrial companies.

Delegates believe proclaiming the act could potentially deter more thefts from happening because potential thieves would have their information recorded and potentially be reported to authorities.

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