Three major land use and ecosystem protection scenarios have been developed for the Great Sand Hills over the past 12 years. All of these were necessitated by the pressure of natural gas development on the remaining native grasslands.
This strategy looked to protect mainly the 4 largest areas of open active sand dunes, with undetermined areas of protection for 3 other areas based on flora and fauna, to be based on further studies which were never undertaken.
|Prime Protection||Yakowan area||3108 ha (7,680 ac./ 12 sec.)|
|Rastad area||5,439 ha (13,440 ac/ 21 sec)|
|Wachiwan area||194 ha (480 ac/ 0.75 sec|
|Special Use||Straw Road||777 ha (1,920 ac/ 3 sec)|
|Cottonwood||undetermined - no guarantees|
|Crane Lake||undetermined - no guarantees|
|Skull Creek||undetermined - no guarantees|
|Total||All areas||9,518 ha (23,520 ac/ 36.75 sec)|
The Planning Commission was formed under the provincial Planning and Development Act, as a result of recommendations in the 1991 Land Use Strategy, and comprised the four RM's in the sand hills ares. The Great Sand Hills Planning District Commission began its work by designating the area considered "environmentally sensitive"as frozen to oil and gas development. It was recognized that this initial study area erred on the side of "safety" in designating areas environmentally sensitive until further study could be done.
|Prime Protection||ES zone||252,266 ha (623,361 ac/ 974 sec)|
Following several years of work by a Task Force that included representatives of (or consultation with) the Planning Commission, Rural Municipalities, oil and gas industry, environmental groups, and the three involved provincial departments: Environment, Energy and Mines, and Municipal Affairs, zoning was enacted through joint adoption of a common Development Plan and Zoning By-laws by the four RM's, and confirmation and agreement by the Province.
|Prime Protection (no gas wells)||ES1 zone||117,845 ha (291,200 ac/ 455 sec)|
|Special Use (gas with restrictions)||ES2 zone||79,254 ha (195,840 ac/ 306 sections)|
|TOTAL||All areas||197,099 ha (487,040 ac/ 761 sec)|
This review is based on the 1991 provincial strategy and not the 1998 Development Plan and Zoning Bylaws. Therefore it starts with the smaller land area identified for protection as a base for analysis, and neglects the important decisions and precedents that occurred during the creation of the Planning Commission Development Plan and Zoning By-laws. The Final Report of this review issued in June 2004 recommended more protected areas.