About Southwest Alberta

Photo © James Van Leeuwen

Southwest Alberta is a diverse landscape encompassing prairie, foothill, and mountain ecosystems, within which a wide range of land and resource uses are carried out by individuals and companies, residents and visitors.  In addition to town and country residential uses, the landscape currently supports agriculture, conventional and renewable energy development, mineral exploration and development, forestry, tourism, recreation, and commerce.  The area is rich in biodiversity and natural capital. 

While the region was one of the earliest settled in Alberta, and the descendants of pioneer families still live and work in the area, there are many new arrivals, including retirees, so-called urban refugees, and amenity migrants, as well as new businesses and industry players.  As the level of activity on the landscape increases, so does the potential for conflict between competing land and resource uses, and between old and new ways of life. 

Today, our community – and by this we mean ‘community’ in a broad sense, encompassing towns and hamlets, Municipal Districts and Counties, the Piikani First Nation, and stakeholders throughout the southwest region of Alberta – is undergoing rapid environmental, social, and economic change.  Awareness of, and concern regarding, the cumulative effects of development and other activity on the landscape is growing.  Ranchers, farmers, and foresters have struggled with soft markets and trade barriers in recent years.  Main Street businesses are closing in the face of competition from urban centres and big box stores.  The recession has exacerbated economic challenges in the region.  The population of many municipalities is declining, and the median age of the population is increasing, as young people move away, seeking education and employment opportunities, and older people move into the area. 

In response to and anticipation of these emerging trends, the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative (SASCI) was established in 2002 to foster community sustainability by improving the community’s knowledge and building engagement, collaboration, and decision-making capacity.