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Land Use

Recent Land Use Scenarios for The Great Sand Hills

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.

  1. 1991 Land Use Strategy:

    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)
  2. 1994 Planning Commission Zoning Freeze (and gas development freeze)

    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)
  3. 1998 Planning Commission Plan

    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)

    Notes on Oil and Gas Leases (changes from 1994 to 1998):

    • 691 of the original 974 sections of ES lands (1994) contained mineral leases
    • 490 sections with mineral (gas) leases were re-zoned to ES1 or ES2 in 1998
    • 201 sections of land remained in ES2 zoning with active mineral leases in 1998.
  4. 2003/ 2004 Review of 1991 Land Use Strategy

    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.