Survey: Albertans want more wilderness protected

(Calgary, Alberta) — A first-ever survey of Albertans' outdoor activities and values toward recreation and wilderness shows that 76% of adult Albertans regularly participate in outdoor recreation, 86% of adult Albertans would prioritize non-motorized recreation in wilderness areas (vs. motorized recreation, such as ATVs, off-highway vehicles, dirt bikes and motorboats) and88% of Albertans want government to set aside more wilderness where human activity is minimal.

The survey captures what Albertans are doing for outdoor recreation and their valuesabout wilderness, public lands and recreation. The survey is representative of Alberta's entire adult population, and is designed to inform the land use and recreation planning process throughout Alberta. It was commissioned by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Southern and Northern Alberta Chapters. 

Key Findings

  • 76% of all adult Albertans participate in some form of outdoor recreation.
  • 88% of all adult Albertans want governments to set aside more wilderness where human activities are minimal.
  • 94% believe that wilderness areas are important because they help preserve plant and animals species.
  • 86% would prioritize non-motorized recreation in wilderness areas over motorized recreation such as off-highway vehicles (OHVs), ATVs, dirt bikes or motorboats.
  • 90% prefer to recreate with family or friends.
  • Only 17% of recreationalists belong to an outdoor recreation group or club.
  • 83% want wilderness protected and left in their natural condition, even if these areas are never visited by, or benefit, humans.
  • 29% feel that there are not enough places to camp.
  • Almost one third believe there are not enough places for non-motorized water recreation.
  • 53% are in favour of funding recreational development in wilderness, and the majority of these prefer that the funding come from user fees, not general taxation.

The survey also reveals where Albertans are recreating on land and water; what our most popular recreational activities are; how age, income, education and geographic location influence our outdoor activities; and our values about wilderness.

“This study builds on what we have seen in other surveys, that Albertans love to recreate outdoors and almost 90% of them want wilderness protected from development and degradation, even if that protection means limited or no access by humans,” says Richard Roberts, President of The Praxis Group. “Albertans’ affinity for nature is also seen in the types of recreation they prefer. The vast majority of Albertans practice non-motorized recreation such as hiking, cycling and paddling.”

This information can be used in Alberta’s land-use planning process that is rolling out across the province over the next several years in both recreation planning and designation of protected areas.

“The survey results clearly point to wilderness protection and will be valuable to the Province, land-use planners, recreationalists and conservation groups all over Alberta,” says Katie Morrison, Conservation Director of CPAWS Southern Alberta. “We see that what Albertans overwhelmingly want for the landscape is quite different than what they get from the land-use planning processes which can rely disproportionately on a few industries and recreation user groups that are vocal but have very small membership. This tells us that the values of the wider public need to be better incorporated into land-use decisions, these decisions need to be enforced, and municipalities need to be given the authority and tools to enforce these plans.”

The survey breaks down data by all seven of Alberta’s Land Use Framework (LUF) regions: Lower Peace, Upper Peace, Lower Athabasca, Upper Athabasca, North Saskatchewan, Red Deer, South Saskatchewan.

The random telephone survey was conducted by The Praxis Group with 1300 adult Albertans from April 27 – May 5, 2015. The margin of error is +/- 2.71%, 19 times out of 20.

The findings are part of CPAWS’ mission to promote awareness and understanding of ecological principles and the inherent values of wilderness through education, appreciation and experience. The survey results inform our goal of giving Albertans actionable insight with which they can implement environmentally responsible land use planning policies that help conserve Alberta wilderness, ecosystems and communities.

- 30 -

For interviews with CPAWS, contact:

Katie Morrison
Conservation Director
CPAWS Southern Alberta
[email protected]

Blair Cosgrove                                                                 
The Message Parlour communications                      
[email protected]